Song of the heart
For O.S. Sridhar, music is not a mere profession. It is something he cannot live without, finds ANJANA RAJAN in the series on accompanying artistes.
Photo: V. Sudershan.
O.S. Sridhar in New Delhi.
HE BELONGS to a family so well known in the music circles that it is difficult for the casual observer to differentiate the individuals. O.S. Sridhar, vocalist and son of the illustrious O.V. Subrahmanyam, is one of seven siblings, all brought up in Delhi, all proudly carrying the flag of Carnatic music.
"We are six brothers and one sister," he relates. "I was born in Thanjavur, but when I was hardly seven months old we came to Delhi and I have been here ever since. All of us studied music under our father. He was a Sangeetha Bhushanam from Annamalai University and received the Acharya Choodamani award from Chennai's Krishna Gana Sabha."Training under father wasn't a piece of cake in a traditional family. "We were not so free with him," admits Sridhar. "But once he started taking special interest in teaching us, it was all right." Also, he points out, as youngsters he and his brothers, among whom O.S. Arun and O.S. Thiagarajan are debatably the best known on the performance circuit, learnt a great deal by listening, attending not only the classes his father conducted at home but also the numerous music concerts in the city. Sridhar was more interested in singing devotional music and was a regular concert performer. Today though, he is well known as a dance accompanist. The change was unplanned and came about through Arun, who from the late 1980s created a splash singing for various dancers of the Capital before shifting base to Chennai in the 1990s.
"Initially I was not at all inclined towards singing for dance. But then, once when Arun was supposed to accompany (Bharatanatyam dancer) Jayalakshmi Easwar to the Festival of India in the USSR, he could not make it and she requested me to go. I travelled with her to the USSR and other parts of Europe." By the end of the tour, says Sridhar, the idea of dance accompaniment had caught his fancy. "It's true in a solo concert you are the boss, whereas in a dance performance you have to conform to the requirements of the dancer. But within that you can show your mettle," he feels.
Having become an integral part of Jayalakshmi Easwar's troupe - besides singing, he has composed music for a number of her ballets including `Nadopasana', `Bharatam', `Nritya Roopam' and more - he has also sung for other dancers. The illustrious list includes Yamini Krishnamurti, Kanaka Srinivasan and Leela Samson among others.Some dancers know their music. "Of course, Yamini Krishnamurti is a legend," says Sridhar. "Besides, people like Swapnasundari, Geeta Chandran... they are well versed in music. Then there are people like Professor C.V. Chandrasekhar and his daughters Manjari and Chitra who are very knowledgeable. But in Delhi, I would say there are very few who are knowledgeable. However, my job is to follow instructions, and even if I don't agree with them, I accommodate their wishes!" he laughs, adding he can always find other ways of showing his musical worth on stage rather than arguing the point.
For Sridhar, whether sitting at centre stage or at the side, music is something he cannot live without. "I was employed in a bank and took my VRS only to develop my music."Illness prevented him from plunging full-time into the circuit, though now he is getting back into the flow. "For a year when I could not sing due to poor health I was miserable. It is due to the support of my wife Seethalakshmi that I have come out of this. Music is in our blood. Right from my father to my grandson, everyone is steeped into it. My aim is not money or fame. Of course, I don't deny the monetary benefits of being an accompanist. But the reality is, I cannot be away from music. It is something that lives in my heart."
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