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Singing soothing notes

Music is balm for the soul and Nithyashree wants to sing more compositions that provide a healing touch.

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast. To soften rocks or bend a knotted oak" - Congreve.

NITHYASHREE MAHADEVAN, an exponent of Carnatic music, concurs with him. "Music knows no religion. No language. It has no barriers and reaches all masses," she says.

"Classical music, once the forte of a particular community, has earned acclaim far and wide. It is now being enjoyed in countries like the US, the UK, Australia and in the Middle East. There is tremendous following among the French and the Germans," avers Nithyashree, granddaughter of the doyen of carnatic music D K Pattammal.

Is the younger generation interested in this genre of music, which seeks to invoke the divine? "Yes," asserts the 30-year-old singer. "Youngsters are coming in large numbers to learn music. There are quite a number of kids showing keen interest. When I get back home after every concert, children talk to me about raga classifications."

Nithyashree, who has stamped her class in the cine-field and tele-serials with her enchanting voice, recalls her entry into light music: "I did not have much of an exposure to light music. I was shocked when A R Rahman made the offer. I was afraid of switching over from one genre to another. But, my husband asked me to give it a try. It was worth the effort."

She says that even in films, she makes it a point to sing raga-based songs which can reach the masses. Nithyashree opines that the transition from Carnatic to light music is more difficult for women, as vocal modulations are different. From light music, the renowned singer went on to make a mark singing title tracks of tele-serials. "I was satisfied with the Chithi song." However, Nithyashree affirms that she will be rooted to Carnatic music.

The singer recalls how a concert in Berlin proved to be a humbling experience. "It was terrific performing in front of the foreigners. I presumed they would understand the simple pieces better and sang only those. But they seemed restless. Soon I was told that they wanted to hear complicated compositions. Even in Grenobel, a small village in France, the people asked me to elaborate on the ragas. Today, foreigners are also conducting research on the raga maalikas.

Born into a family of musicians, singing came naturally to Nithyashree. "Singing a patriotic song on the midnight of August 15, 1947 was a glorious moment for my grandmother. It was a joyous coincidence when I got the opportunity to sing Bharathiar's patriotic Aaduvomae Pallu Paaduvomae on the eve of the golden jubilee of Independence at Srivilliputhur. I could experience what my paati felt 50 years ago."

The gifted singer points out that she did enjoy being a celebrity quite early in life. "When I was a little girl, I used to accompany my grandmother to concerts. I enjoyed being with her. The kind of acclaim she got changed my entire life. Also, my parents, particularly my mother, played a vital role in my career."

Has she tried crooning Western music? "Yes, but nothing professional. I love humming songs like "Hello" (Lionel Richie), "I just called to say I love you" (Stevie Wonder) and "Nothing's gonna change my love for you" (George Benson)."

Can Western and Carnatic music be compared? Nithyashree says she did try that once - for an online agency. "The craze for Western music is more because it's jazzy, while Carnatic music is soothing. It acts like a balm."

The singer also dreams of opening an exclusive music school. "I have plans, but nothing in black and white."

The singer, who attends 15 concerts a month, says it is difficult juggling family life and music. "At times, it gets really difficult, but one needs to sacrifice a little to achieve goals in life. My engineer-husband is very supportive and understanding. He takes care of my travel plans and makes it a point to allot time during weekends for a programme or two. Even otherwise, I feel at home during concerts because my father accompanies me. He is a mridangam specialist and coordinates with my troupe."

Nithyashree states she wants to continue singing and "perform good kutcheris and render soothing songs. I want to spread music everywhere. However, I don't know how far I will go."



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