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R.K. Srikantan turns 93 today

Ranjani Govind
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Vocalist’s schedule would leave even much younger musicians breathless

Vocalist R.K. Srikantan.— File photo
The Hindu Vocalist R.K. Srikantan.— File photo

At 93, R.K. Srikantan’s half-a-dozen concerts at Chennai’s just-concluded music season have led the media to dub him the musician’s musician.

On January 14, the vocalist celebrates his 93rd birthday, it is useful to recall one of the reviews: “Srikantan’s leisurely and expansive Thodi bears testimony to his proficiency in his chosen field, acquired through rigorous practice. He could do anything with his voice.”.

With nearly nine decades of singing behind him, what does he feel about his accomplishments?

“Given my age, isn’t it a boon to take to the dais at well-known global banners? I have not yet retired and have been able to enthral audiences with the little I know. Isn’t that the greatest boon from God? It’s perhaps my breathing exercises that help my voice control,” says the maestro, his inner peace shining through.

He had a busy 2012 concert schedule leaving even youngsters out of breath.

“I must have had about 50 cutcheris last year that includes half-a-dozen concerts in the U.S. and some awards — Sangeethasaagara by the Carnatic Music Association of North America (CMANA) and the Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival’s honour, Madhura Sangeetha Visharada.”

His workshop on Mysore Maharaja Kritis at Chembai Music College in Palakkad and on the Mysore Composers at the Government Music College in Tripunithura — both in Kerala — evoked much appreciation just as his concert and award at the Vishaka Music and Dance Academy in Visakhapatnam.

A classicist

And what is his advice to young performers and students? “The young should remember not to tamper with the rich legacy handed down by our elders. Our objective should only be to foster it and follow the sampradaya. The Vedas have never undergone a single change for thousands of years: not a single swara has been changed. Our music, which has a strong link with the Vedas, has to be fostered for posterity. To be sincere towards the composers too, I keep researching on the bhava inherent in each kriti even now. Students have to remember that even hours of practice can make one’s imagination dry up in just five minutes of a concert: that’s where focussed practice makes a difference.”

Music programme

The Vidwan R.K. Srikantan Trust, in its 18th Annual Sankranti Music Festival coinciding with the birthday celebrations, has arranged a four-day musical evening. Says vocalist Ramakanth Srikantan who steers the trust: “A CD, Tyagaraja Pancharatna Kriti Ratnamala , sung by my father [Srikantan] and me will be released at the festival.”

The festival will be inaugurated on January 14 at 5.15 p.m. at Sevasadan Hall, Malleswaram, followed by a felicitation to senior vocalist Gowri Kuppuswami and C.N. Gnaneshwara Rao Utharkar who runs a music sabha in Anantapur.

The schedule: January 15 – vocal by Aishwarya (5.15 p.m.) and veena by R.K. Raghavan (7 p.m.); January 16 – flute by Ravishankar Kulur (5.15 p.m.) and vocal by Lakshmikantha Kadaba (7 p.m.), and January 17 – vocal by Nitya and Vidya (5.15 p.m.) and vocal by Padmamurthy (7 p.m.).

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