November Fest

An equal music

Dr. L. Subramaniam with his son Ambi.   | Photo Credit: K_Ananthan



Sometimes, God peeps at you through the details. Five times during two separate conversations with this musician couple, I hear the word ‘God’ mentioned. Although these are separate conversations, both husband and wife evoke God in exactly the same way. As in music, there seems to be something uncanny in their ability to sound in perfect unison and balance. He is one of India’s top musicians, having reached dizzying heights in his career and having collaborated with the best in the world. She was, and continues to be, one of playback singing’s best names. And yet they both sound so remarkably next-door, so beautifully grounded. Indeed, the conversation with Dr. L Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurti was like gentle rain on a summer morning, effortlessly centred on music and yet profound. I’ve known them through their prodigiously talented son Ambi, who I had the privilege of performing with some time ago, who will also be part of the performance at November Fest 2015, along with his sister Bindu and niece Mahati.



A few excerpts from the conversation:



On music and learning:



LS: I’ve been privileged to learn from my father and Guru, who made me look at the infinite possibilities of the violin. That he was a pioneer in creating a violin trio format, and his compositional and pedagogical influence is already known to you. The opportunity to play with musicians outside of our traditional sphere opened up a number of things — my own innate connection with my instrument, the ability to learn about how the violin is approached in the West, their technique and their dedication to the craft. Whether playing with a Stanley Clarke or a Jean-Pierre Rampal, it is the vision that my father fostered, and my quest in connecting with my instrument that has held me in great stead. I remember how in the 70s, when I was invited to do master classes and guest lectures at a conservatory in Germany, I was astounded by the technical control, finesse and clarity of tone that even an undergraduate student would have. They had managed to perfect the process of teaching the craft from an early age that made flawless technique an achievable goal for every student. It has since been a life of exploring and learning constantly.

KK: I came from a very simple background, a South Indian growing up in a Bengali atmosphere in Delhi. Given how we grew up, it was a relatively uncomplicated approach to music. We could [not] attend a gurukul type set-up and learn classical music to the depth and extent that my husband could. Even today, the only regret I have is not having spent enough time on the classical. I also did not have any Carnatic influences as a child, and I continue to learn from my husband and my experiences performing with musicians of high calibre. Even recently he made me record a thillana and I relished every moment of learning it, realising the depth and precision behind every single note and phrase that he guided me on. I was very lucky in the way great composers such as Laxmikant Pyarelal or R.D. Burman received me when I moved to Bombay as a child. Thanks to my aunt and her conviction, I found a footing in Bollywood early, and I do believe that life has a way of teaching us organically.



On success as a musician:



LS: I believe there are two stages in every musician’s life. The first is when you are concerned with the external — audience, concerts, publicity…. It is a heady stage and you feel stressed all the time as you chase goals that only you control, and yet do not realise how easy it is to simplify things and be more in tune with yourself. The second stage is when you get past this, and focus on the internal – growing within your music, and communing with something more profound and inherently higher than yourself. Just as you would practise music, you need to practise this mentally and try and get there. You will be amazed at how intelligent your body and mind actually is. Just a few days ago, my wife and I were asked to perform during the procession at Tirupathi Brahmotsavam. We played to the deity during the street procession, an honour usually reserved for the nagaswaram vidwans. These are the sorts of journeys you undertake as you explore within. It can be tremendously satisfying.



KK: I think every musician should believe and pray everyday. As a musician, you have been endowed with the tremendous privilege of finding a shortcut to the divine, an ability to transcend the physical world instantly. I think success is when you can live with the calm comfort of your voice, your sound, your particular way of making music. When I am sometimes called to judge musical competitions, I urge performers to find their sound, their balance, their centre. You don’t have to be everything for everybody. But you have to keep at it till you find that centre.



On performing at November Fest:



LS and KK: We look forward to performing with our children in Chennai. We will be three generations on stage together, and a lot of exciting content is planned.



(The writer is a pianist, innovator and music educator based in Chennai.)



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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 2:54:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/november-fest/dr-l-subramaniam-and-kavita-krishnamurthy-talk-to-pianist-anil-srinivasa-about-music-learning-and-success/article7792592.ece

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