Song of Surrender

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Murali Parthasarathy

Musicians in Classical dance

By Anjana Anand

An enthusiastic and talented vocalist, Murali Parthasarathy is a much sought after musician in the Bharatanatyam field. He is a sensitive musician who understands the need for music and dance to come together for the success of a programme. An asset to his field, Murali Parthasarathy speaks about the influence of his family, gurus and his decision as an MBA graduate to take the ‘road less travelled’.

What part did your family play in encouraging you in this field?

My whole family supported me in different ways. I must say that without my mother’s encouragement, I might never have taken to music full time. My brother, Madipakkam Suresh, is a mridangist. I started learning at the age of four, along with my cousin, a young girl herself. My mother woke me up at 3 am every day and made me practise. Today, I realize how much that early morning sadhakam has helped me. Parents play a vital role in an artiste’s life. Unfortunately my mother did not live long enough to see me well settled as a musician.

Who were your gurus?

I was lucky to have gurus at each stage of my learning. My first teacher was Needamangalam V.V Subramanyam. He used to teach me small songs along with my basic lessons. I started attending Tyagaraja aradhanas along with him. My next guru was Padma Veeraraghavan. My pathantaram was very extensive and I learnt music in a very methodical manner. From 1992 to 1995, I came under the tutelage of Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan while I was completing my MBA. I learnt many things from him, including how to correctly tune and play the tambura. I studied Music Pedagogy - Teachers Training at the Music Academy in 2000. In 2001, I completed my M.A in music. I learnt Hindustani music as well under Kedar Devidas and Meera Savur. I was eager to learn--be it for performance or academics – and broaden my understanding of music as a whole.

How did your entry into the Bharatanatyam field take place?

In 1994, I sang for Ranganayaki Jayaraman in a kalyana kutcheri . After that, I went back to my studies and had no touch with the world of Natyam! I took up a job but my heart was in music. With my parents blessing and support, I left my job and decided to become a full time musician. Karaikudi Mani was largely instrumental in my entry into the Bharatanatyam field. He told me that good vocalists were needed for Bharatanatyam and introduced me to Rajeswari Sainath. I sang for her for 4 years. In 2004 Adyar Gopi arranged for me to sing for an arangetram in Germany. Many good things followed. I was lucky to meet Chitra Visveswaran through her student Vijay Madhavan and I began to understand how to sing for Natyam. I also worked with Lavanya Ananth. I have been singing for Malavika Sarukkai since 2005. I worked for Dhanajayan Sir and Shanta Akka as well. That added another dimension to my singing for Bharatanatyam.

How different is singing for dance from being a mainstream vocalist? 

The technique is the same for both unlike the case of mridangam playing, where it is quite different. The only difference in singing is in how we use Carnatic music to support the dancer. This happens in the raga bhavam, voice modulation, attention to sahityam and choosing appropriate sangatis.

How do you prepare for a rehearsal or performance?

 I learn the given song from the cassette or CD if the composer is not available. Then I ask the dancer what sangatis he or she would like me to use to suit her composition. Some schools prefer particular sangatis they are used to and which are traditionally sung in their bani. For that, I do a bit of homework, notate my songs and prepare before my rehearsal. I have to keep my mind open and try to help the dancer with her visualization. I feel that by singing for natyam, the stamina in my voice has increased and I bring more bhavam to my music. Having learnt Hindustani also helped me in singing for dance productions which sometimes require a mixture of genres. 

Were you exposed much to Bharatanatyam before you started singing?

I learnt Bharatanatyam for a year! After singing in this field for many years now, I am more familiar with it now.

Looking back today, how do you feel about your choice of specialisation?

I am very happy to be in the Bharatanatyam field. I find it satisfying as a musician. I could have established myself as a concert singer but when I got the opportunity to sing for Bharatanatyam, I made a conscious decision to stay in this field as the work was to my liking. I feel that whichever field we choose to be in, we have to give it a hundred per cent. I know how much work a Bharatanatyam artiste puts in to create his or her art. There is so much involved in this performing art. The dancer has to understand the music and give it a visual form. I am amazed at the way all the streams of art come together in natyam. My job as the vocalist is to support this process. I had an opportunity to teach at the Cannanore University in Kerala many years ago but my mother felt that I should become a performer and so I did not take that job. That was the only time in my life when I was tempted to leave this field.

Some of Murali Parthasarathi's awards and honours

Music Academy- Best student of the Teachers Training College (1999-2000)

VDS Academy – Best singer award - 2008

1 comment: