Shri Gurubhyo Namaha
Seethalakshmi Venkastesan a doyen in the field of Carnatic music, was my guru till her demise in 2012. Her music was rooted in classicism and and mami’s bhajans stood out for their melodious rendition. As a teacher she was firm yet her love for her students and the music came through in the sheer effort she made. As a person she was the very essence of warmth and affection. Mami’s unique skills as a teacher was recognized by the Madras Music Academy with the Sangeeta Kala Acharya award.
I was fortunate to learn kritis from Shri V. Subrahmaniam whenever I visited Chennai from the US. A torchbearer of the Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer padantharam, Shri V. Subrahmaniam always made time for me despite the short duration of my visits. I learnt numerous gems in the best Semmangudi baani. He also taught me how the choice of kritis and their right sequencing made a big difference to the success of a concert. To my utter joy, I finally learnt Ksheenamai tiruga (Tyagaraja’s kriti in Mukhari) which had been on my wishlist for many years! (Photo: Courtesy The Hindu)
When I finally moved to Chennai to focus on my music after my college graduation, I had the good fortune of learning from Shri O.S.Thyagarajan, one of the leading luminaries of the Carnatic world. A purist in style, with an extraordinary raganubhava, from him I learnt to explore the various facets of a raga. The term raga alapana took a whole new meaning for me.
Lalgudi Smt. Rajalakshmi
In 1996, I moved to Bangalore and it was then I learnt from Rajalakshmi mami, sister of Shri. Lalgudi Jayaraman and a well-known violinist in her own right. Rajalakshmi mami took a lot of interest in her students and I was constantly encouraged to spread my wings by participating in music competitions, exams and new audio releases. She was instrumental for the release of my first commercial audio cassette Dasa Sangama with Hema Ranganathan, another AIR artiste, and mami’s student.
A well known radio artiste in Mumbai, Prema mami who continued to perform on stage periodically, took me on as one of her few students. I learnt the fundamentals of raga alapana and neraval rendition under her guidance. I learnt much more than music from mami in these first days of my college education.
One of my first gurus, Shri Chandrashekar of Mumbai, heard me sing at a navaratri kolu when I was in my early teens and decided to take me on as his student. His style was reminiscent of the Kancheepuram Nayana Pillai school and his repertoire included several rare krithis. A great teacher, he was meticulous in his approach and much to my chagrin then, insisted on taking classes even during my school exams! I am grateful for his guidance which has taught me perseverance and discipline I need even more today.