“All the action was on the cassette shelf.” That was how Ananya Ashok described her initial years listening to music all the time—whether at home or in the car with her parents. Ananya is a well known carnatic vocalist and veena player (vainika). I had invited her as a guest speaker to my Musical Traditions of India class at Ahmedabad University. In an engaging session, she spoke to my students, sang and played the saraswathi veena. Throughout the session she shared her journey that began as the child of immigrants, her stint as a student of linguistics at UCLA and straddling two worlds not just professionally but in her personal life between India and the USA. She not only spoke of ‘connecting the dots’ but demonstrated it while talking of how every facet of her life journey contributed to her musical career.
The students, mostly engineering and business majors understood the different parts of the saraswathi veena. She spoke of what being an instrumentalist taught her and how this influenced her singing. She also pointed out that lessons such as persistence and willingness to learn at every stage are also picked up from other artists. The session ended with Ananya presenting a beautiful vocal and veena rendition of the javali Sakhi Prana, a composition of Dharmapuri Subbarayar in raga Cenjurutti . Here are some clips from the session.