Vasumathi Badrinathan is versatile but uncompromising in maintaining classicality.
She is not the conservative Carnatic musician you envisage; but when it comes to music or dance, she is “a no-compromising classicist to the core”— that’s how Vasumathi Badrinathan would describe herself and her artistic pursuits. “I’m a true blue Mumbaikar,” she quips, adding, “amchi Mumbai” as a refrain!
As you begin conversing with her, you will find yourself drawn more and more to the open mind-set so contrasting to her traditional music. A doctorate in French, Vasumathi has immersed herself in music though being a Bharatanatyam dancer as well. “My mother, Padma Seshadri was groomed by the then well-known Yagneswara Bhagavatar in Matunga (Mumbai). My initial lessons in music were from her. Much later, I came under the tutelage of Balamani. Matunga area in Mumbai was a Tamilian stronghold where Carnatic music thrived. I must say, my paathanthara is well grounded with no compromises worked in. My Bharatanatyam guru was Mahalingam Pillai in Mumbai. I gave a lot of performances in dance but now I’m more into conducting workshops, lecture-demonstrations, collaborative works and of course music recitals,” she gives us a peek into her earlier life.
Her academic bent of mind led her into researching, she says. Music of the Mystics is the outcome of her study of Azhwars (Vaishnava saints) while Stree gaanam is a chronologically compiled work on seven women composers across India. Her music album Naayaki is a collection of Telugu padams and her recent venture for Gandhi Jayanthi to be held at Dubai will be Mahatmarpan — a homage through music to the Father of our nation. “It is a concert that will explore Gandhiji’s ideas, philosophy, his preferences from varied dimensions,” she briefs.
Do collaborations involve concessions in classicality, considering the rigidity of the system especially our music and dance? “Not really. At least not in my case. It only requires an agile, adaptable, flexible mind where compartmentalisation is given up only to blend. For instance, my latest collaboration was with the Hindustani Drupad singing. And my counterpart was an equally traditional musician by name Prashanth Mullick. We called in ‘Swar Samvaadh’ and it was true to its nomenclature. It was a dialogue in swar (syllabic notes). It was quite a challenge. But I enjoy doing such connective activities. It gives another dimension to your art. Similarly, I collaborated with a Haiti story-teller-singer and the output was excellent,” her cosmopolitan upbringing speaks for her broad concepts in art.
A choc-a-block schedule keeps her on her toes. Right from music workshops at French universities (since she is fluent in French) which she just completed to Baku in Azerbaijan where she has been invited by the President of Azerbaijan to take part in the international humanitarian forum after her Dubai concert, Vasumathi is set to contribute to globalisation of our Carnatic music in her own exceptional way.