And Gen Next goes Carnatic...

They Tweet, WhatsApp and communicate on Facebook. This is the gadget-obsessed, tech savvy Gen Next. But what makes this group interesting is that they have a career that’s steeped in tradition, writes Savitha Gautam.

Updated - April 07, 2016 02:41 am IST

Published - December 01, 2014 05:34 pm IST

Sunil Gargyan

Sunil Gargyan

Yes, they are Carnatic musicians. While many are greenhorns when it comes to the grand Margazhi Season, some have already made their place in the Sabha schedules. Smart, articulate and focussed, these artists are here to stay. Here’s what a few of them have to say about the December 2014-January 2015 Season:

Sunil Gargyan (vocalist): Winner of The Hindu Saregama M.S. Subbulakshmi Award 2013, this B.Com student of Vivekananda College is going to be a sure fire presence this Season.

A protégé of Vidwan P.S. Narayanaswamy, Sunil had his first music lessons from his mother. Says Sunil, “I grew up on a heavy dose of Carnatic music. My parents love listening to the giants… Ariyakkudi, MDR, Semmangudi.”

When he was a little older, his father would take him along to concerts of stars such as Sanjay Subrahmanyam, T.M. Krishna and Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan. “I grew more and more attracted to the art.”

Winning the MS Award could not have come at a better time. “I was stunned when my name was announced,” says Sunil. “Such awards boost your confidence level and help you improve, do better.” Sunil is so fascinated and entrenched in the art form now that he has decided to go professional. “Yes, this is where my heart lies.”

Having made his December debut in 2012, Sunil is excited about the coming Season. So what’s the calendar looking like for this youngster? “I have seven concerts lined up at KGS, MFA and Naada Inbam. And my repertoire will include at least two Arutpas of Ramalinga Adigalar, which my guru PSN has tuned, besides Tiruppavai.” And yes, he will be listening to as many artists as he can fit in, including his peers, “as every kutcheri is a learning experience for me,” says this budding vocalist who found encouragement from many quarters, including C.A. Rajashekar, Padma Kumar, Narayanan and his parents.

His first concert will be on December 9, 2.15 p.m. at Vani Mahal.

Vishaal Sapuram (chitravina player ): The 24-year-old is a pro at the Season now. Having made his debut in 2001 (for Hamsadhwani’s NRI Festival and KFA), he is now a regular at most sabhas. This protégé of ‘Chitravina’ Ravikiran may have begun as a vocalist, but is today a rising star in the chitravina firmament.

“I always wanted to be immersed in music, and enjoy being stage. Being a full-time musician has helped me fulfill a part of my dreams,” says this Economics and Sanskrit graduate.

This time round, rasikas will get to listen to Vishaal on 10 occasions. “I have five solo concerts and two jugalbandis with violinist Shreya Devnath. Of course, I will accompany my guru on a couple of concerts.” Anything new? “No. I have not really thought out the repertoire. But I will most definitely be singing new ragas and kritis.”

Shreya Devnath (violinist ): “I will miss my guru terribly this Season,” says this talented student of Lalgudi Jayaraman. “He would plan the repertoire for each and every concert, and keep tabs on how my practice sessions were going. He shared the benefits of all his performing experience with me, always telling me to remain objective and evaluate myself. I shall miss his sage advice, his guiding hand.”

This youngster, who has made a name for herself as a soloist and an accompanist, has been in the Season circuit since 2009. “The first concert I went to during December was with my grandfather. I must have been six or seven. All I remember was discovering the difference between masala vadai and medhu vadai! On a serious note, my mother would teach me how to identify ragas using key phrases.” Naturally, her guru’s concerts hold a special place in Shreya’s heart.

This Season, Shreya has 18 performances lined up – solo, as an accompanist and duets with Vishaal Sapuram. “We are having a lot of fun putting together the pieces. Yes, it is a lot of hard work for nothing comes easy. But what we are trying to do is explore the USP of our individual banis and our instruments. I am really excited about the duets.”

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan (vocalist ): This star daughter was initially not too keen on a career as a Carnatic musician. “In fact, I was serious about doing my MBA. I did train under my father (Neyveli Santhanagopalan) but thought it was to be just a hobby.” All that changed once she took the stage for her first concert. “The thrill of it all, the nearly full auditorium with my friends watching, and the challenging of manodharma singing… the passion to perform overtook my MBA dream. And here I am!”

With 18 concerts line up in the coming month, Sriranjani is nearly there as far as the repertoire is concerned. “I have zeroed in on the RTPs and some rare kritis.” Besides, she will have two thematic shows – one on just Tamil songs and the other spotlighting Rama Natakam kritis.

She has indeed come a long way since her first Season concert in 2008. Her most memorable recital? “Every one of my father’s is special. Besides that, I heard Mandolin Shrinivas at The Music Academy, and was completely mesmerised.”

Akshay Ananthapadmanabhan (mridangam ): This youngster who is a disciple of vidwan T.H. Subash Chandran, began his initial training in Bombay at Shanmukhananda Hall under T.S. Nandakumar. “My parents noticed my enthusiasm to keep beat on drawers, pots and pans. In hopes of honing this energy, they registered me for classes,” says Akshay. Moving to the U.S. a few years later, he learnt from Dr. Venkat Natarajan (a disciple of Subash Chandran). “Ever since I was introduced to Subash sir, there was no looking back and finally, I moved to Chennai four years ago to pursue mridangam full-time.” Akshay has performed solo as well as an accompanist throughout North America, Europe and the UAE. He has played with veterans sych as vidwan R.K. Srikantan, Rama Ravi, O.S. Thiagarajan, ‘Chitravina’ Ravikiran and Shashank. “I have also performed in several collaborative shows with Hindustani, Latin jazz, rock and other world music genres in unique showcases of Carnatic percussion.”

About the Season, Akshay says, “It’s is simply endless music, fun and food. It’s also an opportunity to perform and listen to live concerts, while constantly finding more areas for self-improvement. Every kutcheri I have attended during the season has been a learning experience.”

Akshay has 30 concerts beginning December 7 till January 9. He says, “In the context of percussive themes, when it comes to thani avarthanams, I am hoping to perform one-nadai thanis wherever I get a chance and where it makes musical sense -- I would play the chosen nadai from beginning until the final mora and korvai. Also, I have rarely noticed sankeerna nadai being performed in kutcheris, hence I also hope to play at least one extensive round of sankeernam during a thani this season.”

An ardent admirer of mridangam vidwans such as Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramania Pillai, Palghat Raghu, T.K. Murthy, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, Tiruchi Sankaran and Karaikkudi Mani, besides his guru, Subash Chandran, Akshay to looking to constantly push the boundaries of his musicianship and “be the best at what I do.”

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