That Avasarala Kanyakumari was nominated by both Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh governments for Padma Shri reflects the greatness of this musician. The first ever South Indian woman to receive this honour in the field of Violin.
An elated Kanyakumari shared her thoughts on her musical journey, filled with rare achievements. Speaking of her creation of new ragas, she says that she had always entertained the idea of creating something new. “Once after I had the darshan of the Lord, I got the idea of creating ‘Saptadri ragas’. First I took Arohana-Avarohana notes that would suit the divine mood and something new with ‘rakti’. None did that in those scales. These were taken from the janya ragas. “As to the Saptagiri ragas, these might have resemblance of either their own Janaka Raga or any other Janya raga. For instance this Raga ‘Seshadri’ might sound closer to ‘Madhuvanti’, but still they are different in ascending and descending notes and bear its own uniqueness,” she says. “I hope these ragas conceived by me also will find a place among the already existing Janya ragas. The Arohana-Avarohana for each of these other six ragas, framed by me would surely exist forever; for I referred to many books and other resources, including musicologists and scholars before I got down to compose. I am happy to say Saptgiri ragas are first of their kind to be created as a group,” she explains.
Kanyakumari was the first woman violinist to visit the US in 1976, and continues to do so even now. Speaking about fusion music, Kanyakumari says, “Even there I have my footprint, for I presented a programme titled Pancha Bhootas (five elements) for which I followed the performance styles of great musicians like MLV, Balamurali, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Ravishankar, Pattammal and Mali. Their styles sounded symbolic of the characteristics of these elements. I took a pallavi in a raga and played the way they presented in ragamalika,” she explains.
As to the styles that bore a stamp, Kanyakumari too joins such greats as Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu, M.S Gopalakrishnan and others. She says hers is vocal bani.
She was the product of Vijayeswara Rao School known for swara sudham akin to MLV for whom she was violin accompanist for a long time.
Kanyakumari has a large number of students in India and abroad, whom she’s been teaching free. She even specially got DVDs made with lessons from fundamentals to kacheri status. She says DVDs helps the students to recast their learning.
Having accompanied varied vocalists and instrumentalist (mandolin, saxophone, and flute), Kanyakumari informs that quite often she had to change her technique according to the main instrumentalist’s approach or that of a vocalist. She has earned a lot of goodwill because of her attempts at attaining compatibility in different combinations to keep the main artiste in comfort zone.
“It is easy to play for a vocalist but difficult to follow instrumentalists as they follow a different technique. God has blessed me with that gift,” she smiles.
Vijayanagar Fine Arts celebrated its Silver jubilee last week with an inaugural concert by violinist Kanyakumari at Telugu University auditorium. She was accompanied by Anuthama Murali on second violin and Satishkumar on mridangam.
Kanayakumari opened her concert with Sri Ganesha Saranam in Tilang of Papanasam Sivan that set right pace for the concert. Dikshitar’s chaturdasa ragamalika kriti Viswanatham Bhajeham she played later was a treat. She then played Annamacharya kirtana in the raga Narayanadri Raga, one of the ragas she created named after one of the hills of Tirumala of the same name. This was followed with her sub-main number Hiranmayim Lakshmim in Lalitha. She expanded the raga with soothing effects and the swarakalpana was neat and compact.
The main number of Kanyakumari’s concert was Kapi for Inta Sowkhyamani of Thyagaraja. On the request of audience she also presented ragas Kambhoji, Mohana Kalyani, Thodi, Kalyana Vasantham and Karnaranjani as ragamalika before she went for composition. The swarakalpna she presented matched the tempo of this major number. In the end she presented a tillana in Sindhubhairavi, her own composition, which was brisk and beautiful. She continued playing Purandaradasa composition Bhagyadalakshmi Baramma in Sriragam. The tani avartanam by Patri Satishkumar elevated the concert’s appeal.
The event also witnessed the all-time greats Hyderabad Brothers, T.V Sankara Narayana and Mala Chandrasekhar perform to an attentive audience.