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‘Music is perfect harmony of the heart and mind’

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R. Suryaprakash
R. Suryaprakash

I would rate Chennai as the Wimbledon of carnatic music and the season concerts are something very special to me.

Many musicians who show promise of making it big when they are young fade away for reasons only best known to them. Suryaprakash has kept up the promise he showed as a school boy with his high-sruti voice and is striding up the competitive Carnatic field at a steady pace. He talks about his musical journey so far...

Introduction to music...

I was born in a family of musical aficionados and started learning from my uncle Rajamani when I was seven years old. It was during his 60th birthday celebrations that I gave my maiden performance and I was twelve then. By then he had imparted enough training for me to get a grasp of the system.

Further listening to music and rasikathvam was there in the family even though there were no performers. Vidwans who attended my first concert gave words of encouragement that inspired me to go forward.

Training under T.V. Sankaranarayanan...

My uncle then thought that I should be trained by a professional and put me under T.V. Sankaranarayanan. It was almost a decade that I have been with him. It was from him that I imbibed the Madurai Mani Iyer bhani in all its intensity, particularly the art of sarva laghu swaraprasthara and the feel for lyrics.

My guru always used to advocate purity of sruti and full throated articulations. I also received advice from eminent musicologists on the grammar of music. All these made me realise that ideal music is perfect harmony of the heart and the mind.

Lakshiyam and lakshanam are like two horses and we have to ride on them it in a balanced manner to achieve a judicious output. TVS never planned for any concert and it was always spontaneous. It has been an enriching experience being with him.

Forays into vintage Tamil film music with Carnatic base…

I was fascinated by the voices of MKT, M.S., P.U. Chinnappa and S.G. Kittappa when their records used to be played regularly in our house. Amazing indeed was the reach of their voice. Their vocal honesty is something incredible.

As a youth my desire was to take up these songs in a serious manner. Thus was born an album that had songs of the doyens including M.M. Dhandapani Desigar. It was an instant hit. This has encouraged me to include them in my concerts and this is being welcomed by rasikas.

Of course the selection has to be made carefully of songs that are within the classical parameter.

Your profession vs. musical career…

RBI gives a lot of encouragement just like how it encourages sportsmen. I must thank them for this. I try to adopt the Japanese style of time management. After office hours it is nothing but music and only music, by way of practice, listening to doyens and other musical researches.

Of evolving your own style...

Many would imitate their guru in the initial stages. I too began like that but was constantly contemplating about evolving a style of my own. My voice is a high pitched one generally not found in the male range.

I present my music which is essentially original but relating to musical quintessence of my guru TVS and other legends such as Madurai Mani Iyer, Madurai Somu, GNB and Semmangudi to name a few. I am also a diehard fan of Pt. Jasraj. On singing Carnatic pallavis in Hindustani ragas such as Jog and Miyan ki Malhar...

I feel there is nothing wrong in singing pallavi in Miyan ki Malhar and Jog, though they are not Carnatic ragas. Don’t people sing pallavis in Hamir Kalyani and Darbari Kanada?

I try these ragas only to give a different colour once in a way, a sort of novelty. It cannot be tried in every concert. I do agree that traditionally pallavi singing has been confined only to certain ragas in Carnatic music.

Our music is a treasure chest and is always fresh. Khambodi, Sankarabharanam or the likes of such have been in vogue for more than a century and yet rasikas throng concert halls to listen to them again and again.

What is special about our music?

I think it is something ‘Divine.’

On your tours abroad...

I have been travelling to many countries for performances and the one at the Parliament house of Canberra is an unforgettable one, for I was the first Asian to perform there. But still I would rate Chennai as the Wimbledon of carnatic music and the season concerts are something very special to me.

How do you want to take your music forward…

Manodharma and soulfulness is what music should comprise. I don’t subscribe to the fact that Carnatic music is not for entertainment. Only if it has that element will it reach a wider audience. That however has to be done within bounds of our music.

The audience should be enthralled, entertained and elevated — what I call the three ‘E’s. I also have a fascination for Tamil songs and I am in the process of taking up unknown compositions to bring them to light. Of course many others are also doing it.

V. BALASUBRAMANIAN


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