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Carnatic music is beyond entertainment: Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam
CHENNAI, December 8: She has a warm countenance. Her communication is smooth. As she delves deep into music, she speaks her heart out on many aspects of music, especially her research into the Kshetra Sangeetham and the positive vibes the series has triggered thus far.

In a face-to-face interaction with, Vijayalakshmy reveals her realistic outlook, and fields questions with aplomb.

For Vijayalakshmy, kshetrams aren’t just about ordinary temples. They are about combination of spirituality and energy centres. Her Kshetra Sangeetham series, according to her, is designed to take the rasikas to a trip down memory lane to former times, and into an eventual tour of kshetrams such as Kanchi, Tanjavur Chennai and others.

Listening to the compositions on temples in these Kshetras increases the spiritual strength. Giving a thematic concert on specific kshetram brings so much energy and fantastic feeling, she says.

Regular concert
It isn’t easy, however. It requires quite a lot of work – in terms of research, learning compositions specific to temples in that kshetra, tuning them, and, last but not the least, delivering them in a concert format. Places such as Tiruvarur, Srirangam and Kanchi etc. have been covered under her Kshetra Sangeetham series. Some places offer more scope in terms of sourcing compositions. Kanchi is a typical example. It has plenty of Saivite and Vaishnavite temples. Hence, Vijayalakshmy could source the works of great composers such as Dikshitar & others on Ekambareshwara temple,Varadharaja Swami temple, and the like. On many an occasion, Vijayalakshmy has to herself tune some works. She has to dip into Devarams, Tirupugazh, Divya Prabandhams, compositions of Vedanta Desikan and others to draw up a list of works relevant to her episode on `Kanchi Kshetram’.

Audience & research
Is the audience for her Kshetra Sangeetham series restrictive? Not at all, asserts Vijayalakshmy. In fact, they draw full-house audience, she points out.

"The focus of the audience is not on the religion alone. It also focuses on the melody of the concert,’’ she explains. People tend to become curious about such thematic programmes. "One has to do high quality research to present such concerts,’’ she says. While doing so, one is led to some new discoveries, and fresh learning, she argues.

Sripadaraya, who had composed songs on Srirangam, describes the temple tank as "Chandra Pushkarini’’. Discovering such observations opens up one’s knowledge base.

Vijayalakshmy has chosen to present the Kshetra Sangeetham series in a concert format - comprising regular concert features, including Javali and thillana.

Beyond entertainment
Vijayalakshmy agrees that music is entertainment. Carnatic music, however, goes beyond it, and into the realm of divinity, according to her. The devotion of composers, especially the Trinity, was the purest, she feels. "It is all about your own experience, and your ability to communicate to a large audience,’’ she points out. "Practicing at home, you can get submerged into your own music. However, you tend to be a little conscious when on stage giving a concert,’’ she says. Performing a concert in a sabha requires sophistication, and a sense of awareness overcomes her, she says. "There is so much of Manodhrama or creativity while singing ragas or swaras, and there is so much in music,’’ she explains.

Vijayalakshmy had to quit her job to take up music full time. She was a regional director at the Saregama. Nevertheless, it was a tough call for her to pick between job, music and family. "My family is always supportive,’’ she says. "Music is something different. Any job will give you satisfaction if it is done well, and it also gives a sense of fulfillment,’’ she points out.

Quiz her on the problems faced by professional musicians. "Support does not always come from the right source,’’ she avers. Judging by the number of people in an auditorium is not the right way to assess an artiste, she argues. This is sure to throw your entire scheme into disarray, she goes on to add. There is instant action and reaction in music, she says. “I have to have confidence in myself, and judge myself.” According to her, `confidence’ is the key in any profession.

She loves to listen to veteran artistes such as Parassala Ponnammal. Suguna Varadachari, Srikantan etc. She also loves to attend the lec-dems of senior artistes such as S.R. Janakiraman, B.M. Sundaram and Srikantan. Ask her about the diminishing number of Veena concerts, Vijayalakshmy has a different take on it. Veena artistes of repute such as E. Gayatri, Jayanathi Kumaresh & a few others have been performing regularly. The audience for Veena concerts may not look so huge in a sabha compared to vocal concerts she feels. How to overcome this? Chamber concerts could be the solution, she feels. In fact, she recommends more chamber concerts to popularize instrumental music.

To be a good artiste, 10,000 hours of practice is a must, she says. For that matter, this is the norm in any field, she asserts. What is her advice to aspiring musicians? "Take your training and practice seriously,’’ she says. How to make Carnatic music a popular one? For her, the answer lies in taking it to schools. "We need to make Carnatic music part of the curriculum in schools,’’ she says.
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