SHASHANK SUBRAMANYAM, young and versatile represents India’s leading musicians whose first concert was held here in Adelaide at a young age. This genius virtuoso flautist talks to Sydhwaney from India on the eve of the Swaralaya Festival of Music
1. Audiences abroad how do you find them ?
When you speak of Indians at large, they are about the same as we see witness in India. If you mean the natives of the countries, they are just as knowledgeable as the Indian community, though the way they look into the subtle aspects and appreciate the music could vary.
2. Your favorite raga ?
Like most Ragas and especially ones common to both North and South Indian systems of Music. Not a fan of very traditional ragas.
3. Your favourite song ?
Not one in particular.
4. Your favourite singer ?
Pt. Jasraj, Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Rashid Khan among many. South Indian musicians include the old masters like Semmangudi Srinivas Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan, KV Narayanaswamy, T.R. Mahalingam, S. Balachander and the likes.
4a. Your First concert ?
When I was seven years old but started full time in Adelaide, Australia followed by the major Sadas concert in Music Academy when I was 12.
5. What practices did you or do you follow before giving a concert ?
Not into any particular practice. I am a believer in a very good general preparedness and not any concert specific one.
6. In choosing pieces for a concert what are the various things that influence you in selecting those pieces ?
Much depends on the mood, audience quality, place of the concert, theme, occasion, etc. In general I concentrate on a good variety of Raga and Tala / contrast from one to the other.
7. Do you think all artists should introduce something new at Each Concert ?, If so, what are you going to do in Sydney ?
I am a great believer of the term” New”. However New should happen for the good of the Music and not just for the sake of it. We as musicians are often asked “What’s new for this year”? My answer to that would be that in Music there can’t be a something radically new from concert to concert and the change or introduction of anything “New” could just happen gradually and is often required to confine to the expected “traditional” norms, methods and idioms of any type of Music. Something new in each Carnatic concert could be introducing a rare raga, perform a composition that is rarely heard or play some nice and interesting mathematical combinations in the improvisations, etc
8. Do you still continue learning ? and how do you do it ?
Of course, learning is an everyday process and one only hopes to learn and evolve for the good. I do continue to learn but the North Indian system of Music under Guru Pandit Jasraj, the celebrated vocalist. As for Carnatic Music, I continue to explore it on my own.
9. Have you composed songs and where and how did you get inspired to do that. ?
Some and inspiration for me is something that happens spontaneously. In terms of Carnatic Music, composing songs with lyrics on traditional lines may not make much sense to listeners as instruments can’t communicate the lyrical content. I only do for special requirements wherein the Musical content / arrangement takes precedence over lyrics.
10. Your most inspiring moment ?
Many – artists life and careers are quite long and eventful. Hard to pick one in particular. However, I could say when I performed on Jan 01, 1991 at the Music Academy in front of over 500 musicians including the greats of Carnatic Music, was one my most inspiring moments.
11. What would you like your Sydney audience to remember of your concert ?
Want them to go home satisfied with a good concert lingering in their ears.
12. Future of Carnatic Music is it Carnatic Rock or … ?
Fair and could certainly be better. Depends on how musicians and the audience perceive it. Personally for me, there still is a glass ceiling when it comes to Carnatic Music being presented and appreciated by a variety of people, especially on the same lines as Hindustani Music has been nurtured and patronized. The Musicians and the music lovers have to work hard to take the classical version of the art farther than where it stands at the moment. To me Carnatic funk and similar themes don’t really interest me a whole lot, unless it is performed extremely well and is highly creative – for this you need great artists and creative minds. One Band that comes to my mind instantly is “Shakti”. The classical art form has everything in itself for the young and the old – much depends on the how the performer presents. Classical music will always remain and some of the forms as Carnatic rock, funk and the likes will more or less be temporary formats and expressions.