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‘Giving my best is important to me'

Sankaran Namboothiri.

He began training in Carnatic music at the age of 10 and at the age of 11 he started performing at various kutcheris. He performed before the then Indian president Zail Singh at the age of 12 and by the age of 13, he had performed at most of the major sabhas in the South of India. Despite a career low in between, the vocalist has climbed back up steadily. And now Kochi-based Sankaran Namboothiri is an A-top grade artiste of All India Radio. Excerpts from an interview.

Child prodigy

Although my father, Krishnan Namboothiri, a Kathakali artiste, introduced me to Carnatic music, it was a relative C.S. Narayanan Namboothiri who taught me the basics. I then went on to learn under maestros such as T.V. Gopalakrishnan, Mavelikkara R. Prabhakara Varma and Palakkad K.V. Narayana Swamy.

School festivals

In those days Kaloltsavams were the reality shows of the day. Participating in various school and college festivals brought you into the limelight. I used to participate in the various kaloltsavams. In fact I was a State-level winner for four consecutive years during my school days. I was the kalaprathibha in vocal music for two years during college. Being a State-level winner helped me keep a foot in the Carnatic music industry. These days, with television and its music-based reality shows, getting an exposure and a foothold in the music industry is relatively easy for youngsters.

Chennai debut

While participating in the Chembai Sangeetotsavam in Guruvayur, T.V. Gopalakrishnan (TVG) heard me sing. He liked my performance and arranged for me to perform at Vinayaka Temple, Besant Nagar, Chennai. This was followed by a performance at the Madras Music Academy. TVG sat behind me during the concert keeping talam while T.N. Krishnan played the violin. I was 13 then. An exposure at such an early age was a blessing and I was lucky to have kutcheris in which stalwarts like Palakkad Raghu, B. Sasikumar, T. N. Vaidyanathan and Umayalpuram Sivaraman accompanied me.

A perfectionist

Giving my best is important to me. The audience comes all the way to the venue to hear you and so you have to deliver no matter what mood or state you are in. I try to bring a variety to my concerts be it a new kirthana or a rare raga. I try not to sing the same kritis over and over again. I also make it a point to sing a song from each composer. While singing I try to ensure that there is bhavam and layam in my renditions.

Making a concert work

The success of a concert does not lie on the shoulders of the vocalist alone. It also lies on those who are accompanying him. The vocalist and percussionists should be in tune with the other. While agreeing to do a concert, I usually suggest the name of those I'm in sync with to the organisers. This is so the quality of the concert can be raised.

Carnatic audience

There is reduction in the number of kutcheris in other States due to the rise of television. Most people seem to prefer spending time in front of their favourite television show rather than attending a concert. That is thankfully not the case in Kerala. This could be because of our tradition of holding concerts and the like during temple festivals and other festivities and of people frequenting them. In fact quite a few Chennai musicians enjoy coming to Kerala because of this. While it is true most of the Kerala audience comprises of the elderly, there is a steady rise of youngsters attending kutcheris during these last few years. However, our audience do lack in discipline. Some of them leave during the tani and others during the Mangalam.

On record

I have sung for various cassettes and CDS. Some of the latest are ‘Jai Jai Bhairavi Carnatic Krithis,' ‘Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Sapthathi' and ‘Pranaramarmaram.' There are also a couple of albums with Akash Music: ‘Swaminaatha,' ‘Himagiri Thanaye,' ‘Alaipayuthe Kanna' and ‘Vathapi.'


I have sung a couple of songs in various movies. My first exposure as a playback singer was in ‘Vadakkumnathan' in which I did a Kathakali patham. I have since sung in movies such as ‘Madhuchandralekha,' ‘Kanakasimhasanam,' ‘Nivedyam,' ‘Romeo' and ‘Swarnam.' I have never considered turning it into a career though.


I have performed with Ramesh Narayan in a fusion concert. Although I'm not averse to the genre, I'm against people going against the tradition of their art form. Mridangams hanging around the neck or playing the violin standing up, for instance, should be avoided. A fusion concert should show both traditions of music; it should highlight both musical styles. Something similar to that of Hariharan and Leslie Lewis' ‘Colonial Cousins.'

Up coming projects

I'm working on an album on Meera bhajans and am planning an album with Kottakal Madhu which will be a fusion between Kathakali and Carnatic music. There are a couple of devotional albums lined up. I have just released a devotional album praising Lord Ayappa under Wilson Audios.


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