Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ananya Ashok

Young voices
(Conversations with emerging artists)

By Sushma Somasekharan

Carnatic vocalist Ananya Ashok is a student of renowned violinist Anuradha Sridhar, who resides in California, U.S.A. Hailing from a musical family, Ananya is also trained in Hindustani music besides being an accomplished vainika. An undergraduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, Ananya has now moved to Chennai to hone her musical skills. She recently spoke to Sruti.

How did you get initiated into Carnatic music? Do you belong to a musical family?

I began learning the veena from LalithaVenkataraman, a former Professor of Veena of Mysore University when I was about ten years old, and continued with Srikanth Chary, who has nurtured me to become the vainika I am today. Seeing my aptitude for vocal music, my parents put me under the tutelage of P.V. Natarajan, father of musician Raji Gopalakrishnan. I was 18 when started learning vocal music from Anuradha Sridhar, who has been my inspiration and guru since then.

Music runs in the family. On my father’s side, both of my grand-uncles K.R. Kumaraswamy and K.R. Kedaranathan were respected music gurus. My father and grandmother are gifted musicians. On my mother’s side, my great grandmother was a direct disciple of Ramalinga Bhagavatar. My life was filled with Carnatic music from childhood — at home, in the car, during trips.
What is the state of your learning now?

My gurus Anuradha Sridhar and Srikanth Chary continue to guide me in vocal and veena respectively. It has been an enriching and rewarding experience. After I finished college, I literally stayed with Anu Aunty for a few years; that she insists on dedication and demands perfection has helped me to shape my musical performance and skills.

What difference do you find between the music scenes in the USA and India?

Whether it is the US or India, it is musically inclined families and parents that try to instil the love for Indian classical music in their children. I find however, that, in the US the number of youngsters attending concerts is larger. Unlike Chennai, where a concert or cultural event is happening somewhere all the time, the opportunities to listen to classical music are far fewer in the US, though in recent years, a growing number of organisations host concerts. As for the level of appreciation, I think people enjoy good soulful music wherever they may be.

Do you think Chennai is the place to be, to be able to pursue music professionally and to become an established name in this industry?

Though it should not be so, Chennai has been accepted as the Kasi of Carnatic music, a place for aspiring Carnatic musicians just like New York is the place for aspiring theatre actors. The opportunities here are boundless as sabhas across Chennai and India hold concerts throughout the year. You can learn so much about Carnatic music by being in Chennai and in the company of the musically enlightened.

However, I think making a name is something very different. Contributing to the field, as I like to say is something that comes from years of searching within. This searching can be done from anywhere. As long as you pursue your art with intelligence and integrity, your work will not go in vain and you will most certainly make a mark, regardless of where you are.

How is your listening experience different between yesteryear and current artists?

We’ve all grown up listening to musicians of the past and present. At some level, we have our preferences and sometimes even get influenced by certain musicians we listen to. Past masters inspire me the most. I believe that their music was at a different level. Most of them never had access to recordings or other tools as we do today. Sheer practice and devotion for music allowed the maestros of that generation to create their own unique styles of singing or playing.

Do you think the focus in our music has shifted over the years?

Many are focused on preserving the Carnatic music tradition. Musicians learning under specific banis are a good example. The accessibility rate of Carnatic music is tremendous in my generation. Musicians are reviving previously presented memorable compositions by presenting them in their concerts and bringing new compositions to light. All of this work is available on the Internet, and there is a never-ending database for music students to work with. I don’t know what the future holds but I see this as an opportunity for people to delve deeper into this art form.

Which is the most memorable recording you’ve heard?

Definitely Lalgudi sir and Srimathi Brahmanandam mami’s Naa jeevadhara. It is a constant reminder about my goal - perfection in the very first shot.

What does Carnatic music mean to you? What about it moves you?

Carnatic music is my jeeva and I cannot choose between the melody and the words. Melody brings tears and lyrics uplift. They are so inseparably intertwined.


  1. On the few occasions that I have had to listen to Anaya's Carnatic singing, what struck me was, besides the talent that one simply cannot miss, the maturity in her music. I am so glad to observe the same maturity in this interview which I read only today. The last question and answer do credit both to the interviewer and the interviewee. Ananya has captured the inseparability of melody and lyrics in Carnatic music with deep feeling.

    A.L.Narasimhan, Mumbai, India

  2. I am very impressed with Ananya. I think we have a star in the making. Her laya shuddhi stands out.

  3. Malini Sundararaman2 March 2017 at 20:14

    Her Music is so much full of divinity and purity. God bless Sow Ananya Ashok!

  4. The dedication and involvement with which she sings i have no words to appreciate. I wish her all the best in her pursuits of keeping carnatic music lively.