Violinist Anuradha Sridhar who has a strong music lineage believes that there is no substitute to sadhana
She holds an MBA in Finance and works as a chartered accountant in California, U.S., where she is settled for the last 27 years. Lalgudi Anuradha Sridhar, the violinist-daughter of Srimathi Brahmanandam, is pleased to be referred to as a violinist as “professionals across the globe envy me when I say I am a musician,” says Anuradha Sridhar, who was in Bangalore recently for a Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira concert. “Moreover, I feel blessed to take across the Lalgudi school, where the chastity of music and instrument is emphasised.” Mother Srimathi who shared stage with her legendary brother Lalgudi Jayaraman for two decades when Lalgudi Jayaraman was at the peak of his career, was amongst the fourth generation of professionals devoted to music in the Lalgudi family. Says Anuradha: “My mother got her B.A. in Music only 20 years ago. After all the global opportunities she was exposed to, she still yearned for an academic recognition. She differs from other ‘achievers’ who stuck to high-end performances. ‘Music gets more comprehensive when you build an academic porch to it,’ is the premise with which she widens her knowledge and advises her students to do so.”
Anuradha says that the Lalgudi family believed ‘learning more and more’ helped to ‘construct and fashion’ newer perspectives. “When my grandfather Gopala Iyer visited Chennai we would be tense as thatha would ask us to play something new all the time. ‘What have you composed of late, don’t rest your mind, it will only rust,’he would say, as he accompanied us on the violin.” Gopala Iyer was versatile; he taught vocal, violin, veena and the mridanga, and earnestly believed that every musician should take to composing for nurturing a fertile mind. Recollecting a poignant episode in association with her uncle Lalgudi Jayaraman, Anuradha says: “Six months before his death, my uncle had expressed his wish to live on. ‘I wish I had 25 years more to my life. There’s so much to do…,’ It speaks volumes of the creative passion inherent in the family.”
Srimathi has composed a host of pallavis and varnas, and tuned Annamacharya and Bharatiyar’s compositions. Her sangathis, says Anuradha, are like advanced exercises to the student of music. “It is not easy to listen to her composition and write the notation for it,” she explains. This is true of her pallavis and varnams too. They have to be attempted several times, before one begins to understand the melodic intent and the complex calculations. In the Lalgudi bani, stress is on bringing the vocal technique into the playing of the instrument. Not only that, it is a pre-requisite that the violinist knows the sahitya of the kriti. “This is the perfect way to integrate emotion and style,” says Anuradha. .
This is the kind of learning one has to be exposed to for being a qualified teacher at the Trinity Centre for Music at California where Anuradha and her mridangist-brother Sriram Brahmanandam are propagating the Lalgudi style to hundreds of students who qualify to be part of the serious Indian culture and music learning. “The challenge begins with re-creating the Indian environment. I ask my students to come in Indian dress, it starts from there,” says Anuradha. “From language orientation to Indian classical genres we guide them to get acquainted with the subject. We even demand ‘study reports’ from children on anything from pillari geethe to kritis, composers and the manodharma aspects. I disseminate the fine arts and it is a non-commercial venture,” she adds.
Anuradha’s teaching awareness perhaps started long ago when she was already a fully-established concert violinist accompanying front-ranking musicians way back in the early 1980s. She accompanied T.R. Subramaniam and Veena Doreswamy Iyengar in their lec-dem tour on Indian music, addressing students at Cambridge, Oxford and Queensland University, apart from covering several parts of the U.S. She has performed with her mother Srimathi at Australia, New Zealand, London, Canada, Malaysia and Singapore. As one of the Directors of the San Francisco Music Fest, representing Indian Music, her latest awareness mission has her working with migrant children at schools in China where she has come up with techniques to use music as an empowering tool to equip them for a better life. The ambassador of the Lalgudi school hasn’t forgotten her grandfather’s wish though. Her own composition for a dance-drama ‘Su-Samskrutam’ (on the journey of Sanskrit) based on Valmiki Ramayana was a runaway hit, earning her the prestigious Lalgudi stamp.