Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Rajeev Mukundan

Young voices
(Conversations with emerging artists)

By Sushma Somasekharan

Rajeev Mukundan, violinist A Kanyakumari’s student, is a web application developer by day who takes the Carnatic music world by storm in the evening. At 22, he is a highly sought-after accompanist who has performed with many leading artists. His talent, sense of humour and easy-going personality make him one of the Carnatic music fraternity’s favourite artists.  He recently spoke to Sushma Somasekharan. Excerpts:

First December concert experience in Chennai

My first December concert was with singer Hari Charan at Vani Mahal. We were all part of Ramhji’s Isai Mazhalai group and we had the opportunity to perform in the junior slot at the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha. I performed very badly. Charan sang Varali and at that time, gurus tended not to teach their students Varali. My knowledge of Varali was whatever I had picked up from listening to recordings. I remember playing so many ‘apaswarams’. It was a total disaster! I lost confidence after that concert. My second concert that same season was with Vidya Kalyanaraman. I performed well and that restored my faith as a performer again.
 
First big concert
 
During my second year of college, I went to Hyderabad to perform with Kanya Mami in a double violin concert. I also performed with the Malladi Brothers in the same series. I was so nervous before both concerts. Malladi Brothers concerts are like dynamite: full of energy and excitement. Playing for them was completely different from what I had experienced until then. It was also a pleasant surprise when they called me back to play in a few more concerts for them.
 
The next day, I performed with my guru. This was a bigger disaster than my first concert experience in Chennai! My guru played at great speed and I was just unable to keep up. But Kanya Mami was so encouraging and would smile at me every time I made a mistake. It eased the atmosphere on stage and only motivated me to work harder for the next concert.  I am truly fortunate to have the support of my guru and to explore such performing opportunities at an early stage in my career.

Kanyakumari’s teaching style
 
Kanya Mami gives her students a lot of freedom. She sings the song to be taught and we play based on the swarams she has sung. She does not play the song for us and make us follow it as she has always emphasized on honing our swara gyanam. Following her singing forces the students to pay keen attention to the swarams sung and for us to replicate it with the exact gamakams on the violin. Kanya Mami only teaches students seeking advanced training. As such, all of us may have slightly different fingering or bowing techniques imbibed during the initial years of learning, but the way she teaches us brings us all together as her students. More often than not, when you hear Kanya Mami’s students on stage, it is easy to distinguish and identify them.
 
Being a professional violinist and pursuing another profession as well
 
I am a professional violinist. I do not think someone is a professional artist only if he dedicates all his time to pursuing that art. I believe I do full justice to my talent. I am constantly improving my skills through vigorous practice and am getting opportunities to perform with artists of high calibre. This stands testament to my standing as a professional violinist. I am still pursuing my corporate job, as I want to explore my different facets outside being a musician. I personally think the different dimension to my life is important to enable me to understand the importance of music.
 
Favourite concert recording
 
It would have to be a live recording by Sri Palghat KV Narayanaswamy with Sri TN Krishnan on the violin and Sri Palghat Raghu on the mridangam. If I recall correctly, it is a recording from 1974. Just thinking about the song Hecharika in the ragam Yadukulakambhoji from that recording gives me goosebumps now. They performed swarams in three speeds for that song. Just that rendition alone was enough to make me go back to listen to that recording repeatedly.
 
Most memorable concert

Undoubtedly my first concert at the Music Academy in 2011. Needless to say I was nervous. I accompanied Ramakrishnan Murthy who sang one of the best Kambhojis I have heard till date. That concert is so fresh in my memory that I can hear Kambhoji still ringing in my ears. I went on to receive the Best Violinist award for the junior time slot that year.
 
Early memories of Carnatic music and musical inspiration

Until I joined Kanya Mami, I was not serious about playing the violin at all as I did not understand Carnatic music. I had not understood the nuances of this genre of music and just learnt it as a hobby. I used to attend concerts with my parents who were fascinated by Kanya Mami’s music. And as a young child, I was fascinated by her concerts not because of her music (I was unable to understand her brilliant music at that young age) but because she owned a white violin!
 
And after that, I discovered my biggest violin inspiration, Sri T.N Krishnan Sir. His playing is so precise I aspire to emulate that as a violinist.

(Sushma Somasekharan is a young Carnatic vocalist)

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