Anyone who heard this young disciple of Sanjay Subrahmanyan a few years ago would have been highly impressed by his talent and expected him to progress soon to the senior ranks. If his pleasant vocalisation combined well with a sharp intelligence and keen appreciation of the nuances of the composed and manodharma elements of Carnatic music, he also showed a keen awareness of how the sum exceeds the parts. This holistic approach to his art and his understanding of the uniqueness of his guru’s ways promised to make Swarna Rethas one of the stars of the future. Along with his gurubhai Sandeep Narayan, he threatened to take the Carnatic music world by storm—especially when they performed as a duo, sounding like Sanjay clones at times, but also showing glimpses of originality. Rethas seemed well on the way to making the kind of impact on the concert scene the leaders of the Sanjay Subrahmanyan generation did in their youth.
Swarna Rethas’s musical career has however not taken off as rapidly as many of us anticipated, even though the quality of his music has registered steady if not spectacular progress. Concert opportunities have not been plentiful despite his consistent showing. To us at Sruti, this remains a mystery.
Rethas has spent the last 12 years as a student of Sanjay Subrahmanyan, after his early training since the age of six with AIR artist Geetha Sridhar, and later with Indira Ramanathan. He also has a strong foundation in the laya aspect of music with seven years spent learning the mridangam from the late MN Kandaswami Pillai.
Academically highly qualified—with a masters in mathematics—Swarna Rethas works in a software firm in an environment that allows him the room to pursue music unfettered; he brings intelligence and systematic training to his practice of music, and that has only helped to build on the natural advantage of growing up in a supportive family. A B-High grade artist of All India Radio, Swarna Rethas has won a number of prizes including the best concert and Swarna Venkatesa Dikshitar Endowment prizes from The Music Academy and the Musiri Subramania Iyer Endowment prize from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.
With a voice brimming with potential and his abundant skills in the more intellectual aspects of Carnatic music, Swarna Rethas has it in him to reach greater heights in Carnatic music than he has so far. The next couple of years should be crucial to his development and growth as a musician. Like other talented musicians waiting in the wings, he needs the right breaks at the right time.