If we start by mentioning the name of Lalgudi Jayaraman as he fuelled the passion in you. What do you say?
Yes. Lalgudi Sir is a musician of a lifetime. He cannot be just viewed in the capacity of a violinist alone. He was ahead of his times. The refinement, aesthetics and ability to visualize every micro note are unmatched till date. He took special interest in me, my growth as a musician and even in my personal life. Each one of his classes spanned for 4 to 5 hours and opened up a new dimension for me and rest of his students. I started looking at music beyond concerts only because of him. He breathed music every second and that is what I would like to imbibe as well
Did you have an earlier guru…..
Srirangam Krishnamurthy Rao was my first guru. My sister Vishaka Hari used to learn from him. He used to come to our house and teach. I used to be playing but subconsciously was immersed into music. Once, he just saw that I reproduced a Reethigoulai phrase with the right anuswaram, when I was about 6 without any formal learning and he was mightily impressed and wanted to take me as a student. I learnt for couple of years from him and that helped as the foundation for me to learn from the legendary Lalgudi Sir
You have software as a profession and music as a passion…am I right?
Yes. That is true. Recent researches have proved that people are successful when they focus not only on just work but opt for a work-life balance. There is a third dimension, which is passion. When you are passionate about something, you make time regardless of the challenges. Additionally, music runs in my subconscious mind all the time – be at work or sleep, thanks to the intense training from Lalgudi Sir and the interest he created in me. I am grateful to God and thankful to my family – parents, wife and in-laws who are very understanding of my pursuits and extremely supportive of me. At the work place, senior managers look at impact and not the time spent at work. In that sense, I am quite fortunate to have a flexible ecosystem at the workplace. That said, it is not easy. It is a lot of hard work. Every second counts – there have been times when I had to fly to New York officially after a concert in Mumbai or landed in the concert place in Bangalore directly from London. But the key is to ensure quality does not suffer as rasikas are not going to demand less because I work in an investment bank or my stakeholders at work are not going to demand less because I am a musician.
Your concert experience in foreign countries and here at Chennai….
The adrenaline rush is high when you have concert tours, abroad. There is excitement as well as apprehension as to how people will receive you and your music. When I performed in Sydney Music Festival, there was a huge standing ovation from the 800 plus people after a Multi raga Pallavi or in Theatre De Ville in Paris where the audience mostly comprised of French, there were whistles blown after a sedate Nilambari. It just goes to show the power and reach of our rich carnatic music paddhati, more than individual excellence. Performing in Chennai and impressing the Mylaporeans and Mambala-vasis is the biggest challenge every musician looks forward to. Being a Mylaporean myself, I know the high standards and expectations here. December is all the more special as you have rasikas flocking to Chennai from all quarters. It is extremely challenging to impress because of the heterogeneous population and their tastes. Some rasikas expect weighty Dikshithar songs like Sri Subramanyaya Namasthe while some expect to hear more Tamil songs like Kaanakankodi. The balance is the most challenging part for musicians – how we offer something for everyone – the connoisseur to the laymen, the local folk to the foreigners to the NRIs, aspiring music students, etc. I believe that a concert needs to have 3 E’s – Entertainment, Education and Elevation. Entertainment is important because there are laymen whose exposure to carnatic music is limited. Education for students – so a new raga or Pallavi or tala or kirthana or exploring a new dimension in a well known raga is essential. Elevation – Music is about reaching the soul of people, so we need to uplift the audience and take them in our journey to a different world where they will just be absorbed into the depth of music.
Support from home…..
My parents Shri Santhanam and Smt Vijaya Santhanam have sacrificed a lot in the upbringing of my sister and myself. My father relocated from Africa to Chennai after working for a decade to ensure he exposes us to Indian culture. My mother stayed with me in Bangalore for 7 years before my marriage to ensure I can carry my musical pursuit and support me with home cooked food. My sister Vishakha Hari is a phenomenon. She has revived the Sangeetha Upanyasa art which was dying a decade back. It is gratifying to see so many youngsters take to Katha and she has been a huge inspiration for all of them. Singing with her is a pleasure and a challenge – there are lots of diverse ideas coming in, which is essential for innovation and growth. Some of the pallavis that have become a huge hit in my concerts have been an amalgamation of our ideas – where I have tuned and she has set the lyrics or she germinated an idea and I took it forward. The challenge is that of Sruthi – it is easier when a male duo or a female duo sing. We dont sing in a 6.5 kattai where it sounds very jarring and music takes a backseat. We usually have a sruthi of 4 which is much more musical.
About the awards you have won…………..
Isai Peroli from Karthik Fine Arts, Sangeetha Shiromani from Shanmukhanandha Sabha, Mumbai, Vani Kala Nipuna from Vani Mahal, Kalki Krishnamurthy Award, Ramabadran award from TAG, First recipient of Yagnaraman award of excellence from Krishna Gana Sabha, Best musician from Music Academy for 3 years, Washington Sivakumar award from Brahma Gana Sabha, Best Vocalist from Indian Fine Arts and Parthasarathy Sabha, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer award, Yuva Kala Bharathi from Bharat Kalachar, Dharmathma Award, Rotary award of excellence to name a few. It is tough to pick anyone in particular but the biggest award is always when I hear rasikas come and say – you transported us to a different world or your music was very moving.