Music: Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival Music

Dr L Subramaniam: Bowing to the father

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Violin virtuoso Dr L Subramaniam looks back at the glorious journey of Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival and is happy his children are carrying the rich musical legacy forward

It is a relaxed evening for Dr L Subramaniam. The calmness is palpable as we meet the violin maestro a day before the presentation of Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival (LGMF) in Hyderabad. The reasons for his state of contentment are many — LGMF is in its 29th edition and has become a stage for a wide range of international artistes to perform; this year LGMF celebrates 150th birth year of Mahatma Gandhi with a musical titled ‘Tribute to Mahatma.’His children Ambi and Bindu are clear on where they want to be in music and he sees a spark of talent in his eight-year-old granddaughter Mahati.

Dr L Subramaniam: Bowing to the father

He shares that she was just three when she expressed a wish to sing in an open air concert! “I was getting ready to perform in Chicago and Mahati said, ‘Thata, I want to sing.’ When I informed the organiser, he said ‘it is your audience; As long as they like it, go on.’ She was not at all nervous on stage,” he recollects with a smile. Since then, little Mahati has been the new member from the family participating in concerts. Besides music, the thata-pethi duo also enjoy playing badminton. “Both of us win matches,” informs Mahati diplomatically as the grandfather has a hearty laugh.

LGMF’s growth has been phenomenal. What started as a son’s musical tribute to his father (V Lakshminarayana) has evolved into a global musical movement connecting musicians across different cultures and countries. The violin virtuoso admits he never envisaged LGMF’s journey. “After my father’s death, I stopped playing and Viji (his late wife) mentioned why don’t we start a festival in his memory,” he recalls. The first concert had none other than MS Subbulakshmi lighting the lamp and singing a prayer. From then on LGMF had seen legends like Bismillah Khan and Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna gracing the stage. Considering himself fortunate, he says, “It is truly my father’s blessings. It is not just the musical greats who readily agreed to be a part of it,friends like AVM Sarvanan voluntarily made video films of the concerts and gave as a gift. We have everything documented, including MS Subbulakshmi’s prayer song.”

One of the reasons for making LGMF a global festival was to change westerners’ perception towards Indian classical music. “For the West, classical music meant only western classical music and everything else was folk and ethnic; Indian music means ‘one sits down and plays ethnic music.’

By arrangement By arrangement

By arrangement By arrangement  

Wife Kavita Krishnamurthy joins the conversation and the couple recall warm memories from their two previous LGMF presentations held in Hyderabad. “In ‘Visions of India’ at Chowmahalla Palace, we had different styles of music symbolising India. In the second concert at Necklace Road, we had a harp player too on stage. The crowd was huge and it took two hours for us to get out of the place.” Kavita says, adding she loves performing in Hyderabad where listeners are open to different genres. For her, Chowmahallah Palace signifies the secular quality of Hyderabad. “The Visions of India concert was planned so that midway, we would stop for a few minutes for the azaan. It was this adjustment that highlights the secular significance, the fantastic ambience and the beautiful blending of the the old and new in Hyderabad.”

    Dr L Subramaniam: Bowing to the father

    Third generation steps in

    Bindu Subramaniam

    Bindu Subramaniam   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

    Dr L Subramaniam: Bowing to the father

    Ambi and Bindu Subramaniam have started a band ‘SubraMania’ that blends western components with Indian classical music. While Bindu has studied song writing in Berklee College and is a song writer, the youngsters are part of Thayir Sadam that collaborate with other artists. With varied musical interests, their house reverberates with different kinds of music. The four musicians in their house visualise the same musical piece in four different ways. Ambi calls this a creative zone with different ideas, a guide to know what works and what doesn’t. “The beauty is one doesn’t necessarily have to arrive at a consensus. We have learnt everything from appa. As long as you are in a space where everyone respects each other, you are also contributing in different ways,” he says and remarks, “Thinking of the same thing is not contributing.”

    Being compared to the father, the bar is set high for these two youngsters. Is there pressure? “In this family, mediocrity is not an option and it is a kind of encouragement for us to constantly work hard,” shares Bindu. Interestingly the three siblings (Ambi, Bindu and their elder brother Narayana) started off learning Carnatic and western music (voice and violin). It has manifested differently in them. “It is important to find your own authentic voice and form of expression. It is a challenge that we do to be anything other than a diluted version of yourself.”

    Every kind of music is welcomed in the family and this encouragement has opened the siblings to experiment and create their own identity. Says Bindu, “My parents never said ‘this music is not good’. My dad might not appreciate me listening to rap at 2 in the morning but never said this is wrong. ‘Whatever kind of music, do it well.’ If you want to be a pop musician, that is not the excuse to not work hard at that.”

    Under the guidance of their father, the duo have also created SaPa (Subramaniam Arts of Performing Arts), a systematic introduction of music education to children. Says Kavita, “A lot is being done in the field of education. Subramaniam’s father (V Lakshminarayana) was a great teacher and he also taught them. Now Ambi and Bindu carry forward the legacy of music education with SaPa. It is an attempt to ensure music reaches every school child.”

    Dr Subramaniam (did his MBBS from Madras Medical College) informs that many schools have introduced this music education and he looks forward to bring this education to Telangana.

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    Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 3:00:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/friday-review-telangana/article30534843.ece

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