Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Penchant for rare kritis
My music, I feel, should please both the pamara (uninitiated ) and panditha (knowledgeable).
Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam is a postgraduate in economics from Delhi University. Born and brought up in Delhi, she’s made Chennai her home with the sole objective of making it big on the Carnatic music circuit. Vijayalakshmy has carved a niche for herself in presenting rare gems of the Trinity. It has been a diligent effort on her part to achieve this as is evident from the conversation, in her well appointed music room with neatly arranged tamburas, and walls adorned by paintings of S. Rajam. Excerpts…
Rudiments of music…
Music runs in my family. My paternal uncle and aunt (though not formally trained) could sing well. My mother was a veena player. It was but natural that I was drawn to the art. My mother’s guru “Veena” Padmanabhan (disciple of Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar) of AIR New Delhi was my first guru. He chiselled me not only in music but also in other aspects to be noted while singing, such as decorum, posture and facial expressions. After his passing away, I came under the guidance of K. Krishnaswamy who trained me in the finer aspects of music.
As a student of Economics Honours at the University, I would frequent the Music Department during free time. I came in contact with Prof. T.R.Subramanian and enrolled myself for the part time Sangeetha Sironmani course and had the privilege of learning from him too. He was always forthcoming to teach everything he knew. I completed the course and won a few scholarships. Opportunities to perform in and around Delhi started trickling in. Having won a lot of music competitions in Delhi, I took part in music competitions conducted as a curtain raiser to the December season, in Madras. It was a worthy exposure, and winning many of them motivated me to delve more into music. Winning the AIR music competition earned me their gradation.
Learning process in Chennai…
I was married in 1985 and shifted to Madras two years later. Making a mark here was really tough, what with vidwans all around. It was providence that took me to painter-singer vidwan S. Rajam. from whom I learnt a lot of rare kritis. He laid stress on the nuances and subtleties of our music. An invaluable experience indeed! Later I also learnt from V.R.Krishnan. All my gurus shaped my music very well and each has given me his best.
A decade and more with AIR…
Working at AIR Chennai was an excellent experience. I had opportunities to interact with a variety of people. ‘Paadalum Porulum’ and ‘Isai Marabu’ were some of the programmes where I tried some innovations and made it more listener-friendly. M. Balamuralikrishna had a word of praise for it. I took special efforts to make it easier for singing compositions of contemporary composers without hassles such as copyright. Divya namasankirtana and utsava sampradaya kritis (numbering about 130) of Tyagaraja was another project I was involved in. Thirty episodes with very many vidwans participating gave me great satisfaction. Moving out of AIR I headed a private FM channel when FM licensing was at its nascent stage. Later I decided to quit and concentrate totally on music and self-development.
My first love is the Trinity, especially Syama Sastri. The sahitya sangita bhavam of their kritis is something unique. Being with Rajam Sir, vivadhi ragams and rare kritis were a natural process.
Outlook towards music…
I am drawn towards serious music. Friends do comment that my approach to concerts is too intellectual. I strongly feel that though it is easy to toe the popular line and taste success faster, a focused pursuit which may take time to help one make a mark is worth it. My thirst to present rare kritis of the Trinity in my concerts is still unquenched. I want rasikas to be exposed to the beauty of rare items too. In fact this led to my publishing the book, “Apoorva Krithi Manjari,” comprising rare compositions of the Trinity, with a two-CD pack sung by me. I lay a lot of stress on the accent of the sahityam. My music, I feel, should please both the pamara (uninitiated ) and panditha (knowledgeable). I look forward more to the criticism of the latter. Family support is essential for climbing up the ladder and thank God I have plenty of it from my husband, a student of TRS, my father-in-law a flautist.
I tour abroad quite frequently. While in the U.S. it is again the typical intellectual Mylapore crowd. In Europe the audience is different. Impressing them with music that is totally alien is quite a task. At the end of the concerts I’d find many in tears. Our music touches them. Such is its intrinsic value! The workshops on our melakartha, in which graded western musicians participate with involvement amaze me. In New Zealand, I found participants singing Mohanam and Kalyani after a two-day workshop.
Music should be taken up by all as it improves the overall performance of an individual in his respective trade. Children in particular should be taught music as it is a tool to bring out their capabilities. It needn’t be learnt with the only objective of performing.
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu