Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Generation Next

By KS Kalidas

N.J. Nandini

Why should Chennai(ites) have all the fun: why not Bengaluru, Mysuru, Hyderabad and Tiruvanantapuram share some of it? This question is one that musicians outside Chennai are bound to ask sooner or later. And with good reason too.

Chennai being the happening place for Carnatic music, it is difficult for outstation artists to get attention here. Even so, there is no dearth of effort by these artists to get musical mileage and one of them is 21-year old vocalist N.J. Nandini from Tiruvanantapuram who has been making waves in Kerala.

Nandini’s family background in music is indeed formidable. A great grandfather of hers, besides being a musician of merit, was also a composer and singer of songs on Lord Ayyappa. This music was in a genre by itself and had both classical and bhajana elements. Nandini’s great uncle Vechur Hariharasubramaniam, a respected musician in Tiruvanantapuram, was a senior disciple of Semmangudi. He worked as a lecturer in the Swati Tirunal College of Music when his guru was its principal. Her father’s brother, Vechur C. Sankar, is also a senior musician. Her parents had both trained in music although they did not take to performing. They devoted all their energies in the musical development of their children Nandagopal and Nandini. The former, three years older, is a good mridanga player and Nandini’s constant practice with him has helped her to gain a good grip on laya as well as to plan her concert pattern. As Nandagopal has also undergone training in vocal music, the siblings presented a number of concerts as a duo when they were in their teens.

Nandini started learning music at the age of five from Dr. Bhagyalekshmi, a senior disciple of Dr. S. Ramanathan, and continued with her for ten years. Thereafter, for the past six years, she has trained under the grand old dame of Carnatic music in Tiruvanantapuram – Parassala Ponnammal. Simultaneously she has also been learning from Prof. Kumarakerala Varma and Dr. M.N. Moorthy.

Nandini’s USP is her honeyed voice which affords mobility and traverses effortlessly over three octaves; this is not to belittle the musical content in her concerts. Her stock of compositions, of all kinds, approximates 500 and is still growing; like most youngsters, she has learnt a fair number from recordings. Apart from the compositions of the music trinity, her stock includes a considerable number by Kerala composers, Muthiah Bhagavatar, Sivan and others. She has participated in many music competitions and won a bagful of prizes. She has won awards and titles in various television channels including Ragaratnam, Vivel Carnatic Music Idol, and Musician of Peoples’ Choice. The year 2009 saw her win the competition conducted by All India Radio, automatically becoming a graded artist. She is also a recipient of the CCRT scholarship from 2002. Some of the titles she has received from sabha-s include Sangeeta Sri, Yuva Sangeeta Pratishtha Puraskar, the Muthiah Bhagavatar Award, and MLV-Srividya Award. The latest feather in her cap is that she has been adjudged the ‘best vocal artist (female)’ in the Spirit of Youth competition organised at the Music Academy in 2012.

Till date she has given about 400 concerts, of which the majority have been in Kerala and neighbouring places in Tamil Nadu. Chennai and Mumbai occupy the second and third place respectively. She has sung in other parts of India too.

Her sense of laya is very good. At the age of fifteen, she sang a pallavi in four raga-s – Sankarabharanam, Todi, Kalyani and Darbar – the one made famous by Ariyakudi. Nandini’s stage presence and deportment are pleasant. A final year student of B.Com., she plans to pursue Masters and Doctorate in music in due course. This young musician from Tiruvanantapuram has the potential to go places.

(Reproduced from Sruti 336, September 2012)

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