It’s a matter of the heart

On the path of passion, nothing is an impediment. Not even a high profile job and all its accompanying benefits. In short, this is the story of Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath, the Carnatic vocalist from Bangalore who is making her presence felt in the bastion of music, Chennai.

Like in most middle class families of the south, Aishwarya too was initiated into Carnatic music. As a child of three, she remembers that she was taken to all the cutcheris in the neighbourhood by her grandmother. Even before Aishwarya could learn how to read, her music lessons had begun. The day she was taken to Vidushi P.S. Vasantha, staff artiste of All India Radio, Bangalore for training, she put a book before her. “I didn’t know how to read… so my teacher decided that my classes would be oral. She was a very good teacher, and a large hearted person too. When I was seven, she told me that I should start singing with her at small chamber concerts. Knowing that I was a young girl, restless and playful, she had said: ‘You can keep playing. When I start a song that you know, come and join me.’ This magnanimous gesture instilled a lot of confidence, also sowing the seeds of music permanently in me.”

M.S. Subbulakshmi’s daughter Vijaya was a dear friend of Aishwarya’s grandmother. On her advice, she was taken to the veteran musician, Seetalakshmi Venkateshan. “I went to her with great trepidation. She made me sing the Simhendra Madhyama kriti, ‘Nera Nammiti’. After listening to me, she said, ‘come for classes,’” she recalls. Under her training, Aishwarya feels that her music became more organized, planned and cutcheri oriented. “I was lucky to be trained by her. She was never strict or bad tempered, a class with her was always comfortable and pleasant. This was the period in which manodharama developed. Class meant unlimited music, plenty of stories about musicians of her times, good food and lots of affection. When I was 13, I gave my first concert.”

Aishwarya loved biotechnology, right from her childhood she fancied working with test tubes. She took up Biotechnology engineering and around the same time she began to get cutcheris as well. She also began to learn padams and javalis from the granddaughter of Veena Dhanam, Vegavahini Vijayaraghavan which gave a new dimension to her music. Also, expert classes from the renowned P.S. Narayanaswamy. “Both music and academics were extremely demanding. I did not want to compromise on either. I challenged myself to bring out the best, and worked like a monster.” Her parents of course, extended rock solid support. “My mother would wake up with me at 5 a.m. She sat through my practice. My father has driven me to all parts of Tamilnadu for concerts, sometimes with an exam the next day.” Aishwarya kept her resolve and not only did well academically but in music as well. She landed a job in Biocon and for two consecutive years, even won the Best Junior Concert prize at Music Academy. “But there came a point when I felt my job was draining me emotionally and physically. My music began to suffer. Then, I realized how crucial music was to my life..., I quit. It was a tough choice. Music as a career is different from a career in IT. Even basic things are not taken care of many times. Nevertheless if you want to do what you love to do, sacrifices are inevitable,” explains the young vocalist.

Singing in Chennai is no cakewalk. A musician has to perform before an audience that is exposed to great music. “There is enormous pressure and you know you are being judged for everything.” Aishwarya feels that introspection has to be the centre of one’s musical process. “Everything has been done before. So what we think is our original music idea, may actually not be so original. The only thing that can be really different is how you charge a musical moment with your emotions. And that cannot be explained in explicit terms,” she feels.

Aishwarya has made a mark for herself in the concert circuit. The Bangalore girl gets several concerts during the music season. Yet, she says: “Career growth may happen, but one must grow musically… and that is something a musician should never lose sight of.”

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 5:01:44 PM |

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