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Tuned to the violin

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S.R. Rajasree. PHOTO: S. GOPAKUMAR
S.R. Rajasree. PHOTO: S. GOPAKUMAR

S .R. Rajasree, an A-grade artist, is one of the few female violinists from Kerala who has made a mark in the Carnatic music field. The eldest daughter of veteran violinist Subramania Sarma, Rajasree, along with her younger brother, S.R. Mahadeva Sharma, did her father proud by winning accolades and awards as a violin duo. The two have mesmerised audiences in India and the U.S. with their speed, dexterity and talent. Rajasree says her life has always been tuned to the violin.

Musical atmosphere at home…

As my father was a violinist, we would wake up, eat, read and sleep to my father's playing. My mother, Renuka, is a trained singer. My brother and I learnt vocal music. My father was particular that unless we showed some talent, he would not force us to take up the violin. When I was eight, my father was convinced that I was serious about the violin and he began teaching me. He would sing and we had to reproduce that on the violin. So, both of us learnt to make the violin sing, literally. Similarly, my father would play a raga and he expected us to expand on that. He believes that one has to listen and grasp instead of blindly follow the notations.

Sibling revelry…

Fortunately, there has been no sibling rivalry between us. My brother and I used to compete with each other and invariably the top two prizes would be shared by us. Usually, Mahadevan would bag the first prize and I would get the second prize. I managed to win the first prize only once.

My brother constantly encourages and motivates me to play for concerts. Sometimes, I find it difficult to travel to distant places for concerts. But Mahadevan insists that I should not turn down concerts for that reason.

All in the family…

Practising for so many years together has helped us be in tune with each other. Our first duet in Chennai was for Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 1992. During a duet, intuitively one of us takes the lead and the other follows. We also perform as a trio, along with my father. My husband, V. Ganesh, is a music buff who is now learning the violin from my father. The family's support is important for an artist to blossom.

Practice makes one perfect…

This is true of all art but especially so in the case of the violin. That is why I decided to stop my formal education with a diploma and concentrate on my playing. If I don't practise even for a day, it shows when I play the next day. That is the reason why the violin is a difficult instrument to play if you are looking for perfection. My role model is my brother. The violinists I revere are my father, MSG, Lalgudi Jayaraman and T.N. Krishnan.

The art of accompaniment…

I have accompanied several stalwarts such as K.J. Yesudas, Hyderabad Sisters and Mala Chandrasekhar. I was nervous when I had to accompany Yesudas sir during his concert in Chennai. But, later, he called my brother and complimented my playing. It is true that certain vocalists prefer male accompanists. But these prejudices are fading away. Accompaniment is an art in itself and one has to learn how to support the vocalist. Some vocalists are supportive and give space to the accompanists as well. But some get irritated if they feel the accompanists are overshadowing them. I hope to keep improving constantly. That is the challenge of being a violinist.

Saraswathy Nagarajan

The family's support is important for an artist to blossom and concentrate on her art.


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