Written by Ajinkya Kawale
The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi received a musical edge as violinist Dr Lakshminarayana Subramaniam led performances of ‘Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram’ and ‘Vaishnava Jana To’ by Castile and León Symphony Orchestra from Spain and singer Kavita Krishnamurthy in Pune this week. The theme of the concert was ‘Tribute to Mahatma’, part of the ninth edition of the Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival (LGMF), held in collaboration with Vishwakarma University at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch. The Padma Bhushan awardee spoke to The Indian Express on the sidelines of the concert. Excerpts:
The country is experiencing political turmoil and music has become a means of protest. What is the role of music in binding society?
I would not like to get into the politics of it. Music is a universal language and the only barrier to it is words. We’ll face a lyrical barrier if African or Latin music is presented as we may not understand those languages. Music achieves its goal when the audience is open and sensitive. It cuts through differences and reaches the community and audience. It is a global art and does not have any political barrier.
What was your aim in creating this global music festival?
Earlier, everyone considered western music as classical and every other form as ethnic and folk. Our music dates back to the Vedas and with Persian influences, it branched into Carnatic and Hindustani. I wanted to transform the scenario and inspire everyone to take pride in Indian classical music as well. I started using the term global music, which would have values, traditions and cultures of the globe. Gradually, we began introducing foreign artistes and it thus expanded to a global segment. We perform in Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Bengaluru. This time is special because we have planned to organise the event every year in Pune.
How was the experience of presenting this concert in Pune?
Pune is great and has a fantastic audience. They enjoy classical music and other art forms. This is the first time we are presenting a Spanish composition here. The opening musical piece is inspired by the mindset of a bullfighter.
Your instrument, the violin, has evolved and changed over time and is a standalone instrument in its own right today. What impact has the vision of your father, Prof V Laxminarayana, had on the evolution of violin as a solo performance instrument?
The violin was an important accompanying instrument. My father worked in Jaffna as a professor of music. He had the vision of the violin being performed as a solo instrument but you could not play it as a soloist in India. In order to pursue the dream, he introduced various flexible plucking techniques, changed the dynamics. Later, violin achieved the prominence that it always deserved. I am performing what he had always dreamt of.
What projects do you have for budding musicians?
We are working on programmes offering BA Hons in music, vocal and percussion with Vishwakarma University. Music is a practical form that you learn from a guru. We aim to bridge that gap between the Gurukul style of learning and the current college education system. We have a holistic syllabus with 70 per cent focus on practical and the rest on theory with north, south and global music in mind. I am preparing textbooks for the subjects as there are no particular music books. Music requires rigorous training, practice as well as equal exposure to foreign and local, Hindustani forms. One should keep a check on the student’s progress.