‘I love to learn'

Sriram Parasuram   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

He started learning to play the violin at the age of four and gave his first public performance at the age of eight. Since then Sriram Parasuram has given well over 2,500 violin solo concerts all over the world. An A-grade artiste of All India Radio, he is also one of India's topmost accompanists having accompanied almost all major vocalists. Excerpts from an interview with the multi-faceted musician who attended a programme on string music conducted by Sree Swathi Thirunal College of Music in Thiruvananthapuram.

Musical journey

My mother, is a classical singer and my father is devoted to the art. When my elder sister was learning the violin, I started imitating her. Her teacher told my father that I showed promise and offered to take me under his wings. My elder brother was learning Carnatic vocal and the mridangam at that time and so I started learning that too. By the time I was six, I had acquired a reasonable knowledge of music. At the age of eight, I had my first concert – a violin duet with my sister in Mumbai. I have learnt under gurus such as K.S. Narayanaswamy, Krishnamurthy Bhagavathar, T.N. Krishnan, Pandit C.R. Vyas and Pandit Rajan Misra.

The urge to learn

I love to learn. I completed my Master of Music in Western Violin Performance and did my Ph. D. in World Music in the United States. I am also a mechanical engineer and have an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. The intellectual part of me is always alive and kicking. A musician exists because of the music in him/her. How deep that meaning goes is a combination of so many things: knowledge, sadhana, the joy that you get when you play or perform, the joy you get when you see others enjoying what you play…

Fusing music

I was one of the first few to enter the fusion field in the 1980s. I had a group called Divya and we released an album called ‘Madras Café,' which was a combination of jazz music and Indian classical instruments. Our band cut a couple of albums and toured Europe. But later this format didn't motivate me enough. See, fusion today is only about jamming; there is no actual interaction with the other. The Indian musician has his ragas and all that and the Western musician has his own framework; there is no merging of the two. Only if you learn the other's music can you start a musical conversation.

Emphasis on the classics

When we talk about traditional music, we forget to mention that it is always evolving. Classical music has always been evolving in terms of repertoire, style of presentation, format, media…Though the student learns the essence of the music devotedly from the Guru, he/ she also interprets it and evolves a style of his/her own. My guru Pandit C.R. Vyas was very different from his Guru Gunidas. Palghat K.V. Naraynaswamy was very different from his guru Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, M. Balamuralikrishna's singing style is very different from his primary Guru Sri Pantulu...

Popularising classics

Classical music by its very notion is not something that will ever be large scale. The audience for classical music will always be less when compared to say, film music. However, one should not destroy the fabric and basic essential structure of classical music to popularise it. The challenge for the artiste is to lift the listeners to a higher plane and slowly let numbers increase. I am currently doing a lot of work on tuning and renditions of Kabir Padaas and Marathi Abhangs.

Teaching through media

Today we have media, something which can help popularise classical music. You can communicate to the audience through media. My wife, Anuradha, and I have a show on Doordarshan Podighai called ‘Ellame Sangeetham Thaan,' where using the raga as the basic entity, we explore how the raga is manifested in Indian cultural palate of music, be it a film song, a qawwalli, a Purandara Dasar kriti…The show has completed a 100 episodes.

Role of a teacher

I love teaching and have a few students. However, patience is one thing most students lack as they seek quick rewards. But then even the older generation wants that, we too want to see things bear fruit fast. My father emphasises that music is first and foremost a vidya, a domain of knowledge and art, and not something to be exhibited. Even today, he is not impressed by whatever kudos or awards I get. It's the holistic way in which I relate to music that brings him joy. Music should be joyful learning.

Working with Anuradha

We are different in terms of music, but then our admiration for each other is high. When we perform together or conceptualise something musical together, this mutual respect makes the collaboration explosive. Both of us are versatile in our musical backgrounds so that makes it easy. She can learn and sing anything that she hears, while my gift is that I can understand any kind of music and break it down, assimilate it, and present it.

Following destinies

There is nothing written on stone that a musician's children should carry that torch. And besides, carry for whom? I have two sons, Jayant and Lokesh. Both are talented musicians. The elder one is more focussed on cricket; he wants to be a cricketer. Anuradha and I believe that one has to live out whatever destinies there are.


We have recently come out with an album on Dikshitar's Navaratna kritis. I am working on some very different violin voice albums this year, where I'll present the tradition of both Carnatic and Hindustani in both violin and vocal tradition.

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Printable version | Jul 20, 2021 7:44:05 AM |

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