Music

‘Playing the violin is second nature to me’: Smitha Antony

Smitha Antony

Smitha Antony   | Photo Credit: Liza George

Australia-based violinist Smitha Antony, recipient of an award instituted in memory of musician Balabhaskar, has composed a piece that interprets his life

Growing up amongst a family of violinists, it is but natural that Smitha Antony chose the violin to express her music. “My father, MJ Antony, and his brothers were all violinists. I started learning to play the violin at the age of seven. Playing the violin is second nature to me,” says Smitha.

Based in Sydney, Australia, Smitha, a Western classical violinist, has been trained by her father, and later her uncle MJ Michael. She recalls going for orchestra practice every Sunday, performing for All India Radio and at various venues in the city. “We would play Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethovan... I miss those days as there was so much music involved.”

While compositions by the classical greats still feature in her stage performances, she now intersperses her recitals with popular numbers. “Not everyone in the audience is familiar with or enjoys Western classical. Adding the latest musical numbers such as ‘Despacito’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Chariots of Fire’ help maintain the audience’s interest,” says Smitha, an alumnus of St Mary’s School and Mar Ivanios College. The violinist has recently added Indian melodies to her concert, “but with a Western flavour.”

According to Smitha, it was the late violinist Balabhaskar’s death that led her to try her hand at fusing East and West. “I knew Balabhaskar (Balu) and was shocked to hear about the accident. He was someone who was passionate about the violin and his music. In fact, we had met a few months before his death when he was performing in Australia. Somehow the song ‘Lag ja gale’ kept haunting my mind after his death and I soon posted my adaptation of the song on Facebook,” says Smitha.

Her sister Sajani Antony, says Smitha, was the one who taught Balabhaskar to play the Western violin.

Smitha Antony

Smitha Antony   | Photo Credit: Liza George

“She met him at the Kerala University Youth Festival. While she participated in the Western classical violin competition, Balu competed in the Indian classical violin competition. Balu came up to her after she had won the competition and asked her if she could train him. I recall him coming home for classes with my sister. He won the Western classical violin competition the next year,” says Smitha.

She had directed the music for Thulli, a short film by Mehrin Shabeer on water wastage.

Smitha was in the city to receive the first Vismaya Bala Sandra Award instituted by Balabhaskar Charitable Memorial Society. Says Santhi Alen, founder of the Balabhaskar Charitable Memorial Society: “I knew Balabhaskar and have always admired his passion and dedication towards the violin. Vismaya Bala Sandra Award is for those who are as passionate and dedicated to the instrument as he was. Smitha is one such person.”

The Award was presented to Smitha yesterday (July 10) at an event at Bharat Bhavan. The violinist showcased a mix of Indian and western melodies. A highlight of the performance was a composition by Smitha, “which interprets Balu’s life.”

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 6:20:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/smitha-antony-has-composed-a-piece-that-interprets-the-late-musician-balabhaskars-life/article28345182.ece

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