Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Nandini Sharma Anand

Musicians for classical dance

By Anjana Anand

Nandini Anand began her career with training in both the practical and theoretical aspects of music. An ‘A’ grade vocalist from All India Radio, she is at present a full time Bharatanatyam vocalist who has accompanied senior artistes in the field. She speaks to Sruti about her entry into the Bharatanatyam world and her satisfying journey to date.

Has music been a part of your life since childhood?

Yes, my parents were interested in music and my sister used to learn Carnatic music when we were in Bombay. I moved to Chennai when I was in my second standard and my exposure grew. I started going for competitions and took music more seriously. My early training was with a teacher named T. Vijayalakshmi.  By the time I finished my 12th standard, I knew that I wanted to take music up full time.

You started your career in music in the formal setting of a university. Did research interest you?

I finished my B.A in music at Queen Mary’s College and Masters at Madras University. I also completed the Junior Research Fellowship exam by UGC and had an opportunity to apply for a PhD. However, I decided not to continue in that line. Somehow, I felt I wanted to focus on my singing and research did not interest me anymore at that point in my life.

What was the turning point as regards your entry into the Bharatanatyam field?

During a series of concerts, mridangist Viswanathan, asked me whether I could sing in a recording for Dr. Nagaswamy’s production. Many dancers heard the music in that production and Revathi Ramachandran contacted me to ask me to sing for her.

Who were your music gurus?

I continued my learning with DK Pattammal. At the University, I had many teachers, Ritha Rajan, Suguna Varadachari and Karaikudi Subramaniam to name a few.  The standard of teaching was so high that I felt very confident of my foundation in music. I could feel that I had moved to another level because of that exposure. My last stint was with the late Suguna Purushothaman.

Did you find it difficult to adapt to different teaching styles?

People used to say that I had the MLV school of music in my voice and music. When I joined Pattammal, I was not conscious of styles. I just absorbed and learnt the way I was taught.  I am not a great fan of divisions based on banis and styles. I feel we should focus on the music and take the best from each teacher. Some things might be easier to adapt depending on your voice and we have to be aware of that. Of course there is a difference in pathantaram from teacher to teacher but when you learn from the best, this only gives you a wider understanding of music.  Finally, your music will only get better if you keep an open mind.

The artistes you have sung for in the Bharatanatyam field?

I have sung for Sudharani Raghupathy for many years. Singing continuously for different schools helped me because I began to understand how my music could help the dancer. In Revathi Ramachandran’s school, the music was more fixed and I noted down the repetitions, whereas in Sudharani aunty’s school, it was more fluid. I had to watch for a cue from the dancer to move to the next line of music. Recently, I have sung for Alarmel Valli, Malavika Sarukkai, students of Jayanthi Subramaniam and Roja Kannan.

From the time you started singing for Bharatanatyam, how has your music changed ?

To be honest, when I first started singing, I was not aware of the dance! Of course I loved Bharatanatyam. From a young age, I used to watch performances with great interest but perhaps it was the costumes and glamour that I was attracted to! Because even back then, I was not aware of the music being sung while the dancer performed.

When I first started singing, my focus was only on my music and about singing correctly. I would even close my eyes and sing in my own world! It took many years before I began to see the performance as a whole, where the music interacts with the dance. That was quite a learning curve for me. Today, when I sing, I feel very much part of the whole presentation. I watch the dancer very closely and I sing for the dance.

Has your music changed in any way after singing for Bharatanatyam?

The most noticeable change for me was an improvement in keeping tala. As a concert artiste, I never paid much attention to my tala as it moved naturally with the music. When I started to sing for Bharatanatyam, I had to concentrate and be very precise with the tala as there were so many cross rhythms happening simultaneously. My concept of bhava also expanded. In a kutcheri when we sing keertanams, the emphasis is on raga bhava. Once I started singing for natyam, I became more conscious of the words and bringing out the emotion the dancer was portraying.

Have you composed music?

Yes I composed music for some of the Natyarangam thematic series, like Amba- Shikhandi performed by Priya Murle. I set the music for the Pillai Tamizh choreographed by Uma Namboodiripad.

Do you continue singing in cutcheris?

I find it difficult to juggle both. Singing for Bharatanatyam takes a toll on the voice because of rehearsals. Also, now I have reached a stage where I enjoy singing in a natyam performance. There is no tension because my practice is complete and my mind is tuned to the work. To sing for cutcheris regularly, I need to practice for that specially. To be honest, I don’t see the necessity to pressurize myself and become tense by over working. I believe that music should be an unstressful part of my life!

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