‘Music is not any instant food item’

‘Music is not any instant food item’

The fifth edition of Udaipur World Music Festival will be held from February 7 to 9 this year at three picturesque venues — Amber at Amet Haveli, Ambrai Ghat, Fateh Sagar Paal and Gandhi Ground. Organised by SEHER, it will have ‘We are the World: Unity in Diversity’ as its theme this year. The impressive lineup includes Ginni Mahi, Sudha Raghuraman, music bands When Chai Met Toast and Thaikkudam Bridge, NoJazz (France), Oques Grasses (Spain) and many others. 
We speak to Raghuraman, a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar, to know more about the legacy of music in her family, and her advice to budding artists. Excerpts:
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You were trained under your grandfather Sangeetha Bhushanam O V Subramanyam, your father O S Sridhar and paternal uncles O S Thiagarajan and O S Arun. What role does the legacy play in your life? 
Being born in a musical family may seem a shortcut to stage, but it’s actually not the case. The pressure is higher, the discipline stronger. Of course they encouraged me to pursue music. But thankfully, they were very critical of my singing. They only allowed me on stage when they thought I was ready. All that discipline has really helped me throughout my journey. To be dedicated, to be prepared, laid a very strong foundation. I feel we lack this today. 

I have been exposed to more forms of music, because I was born and raised in Delhi. I am associated with many renowned musicians from different genres, who have added to my understanding of music. I can say I have synthesised from everything that I am inspired by.

As an artist, what do you enjoy the most — singing or playing violin?
Singing. You see, when I sing, I also get to engage with the sahitya (literature) which is special, because it comes with meaning, also bhava (essence) and swaras (the melody). So many layers, right? You can connect directly with the divine; and you reach out to people too for they can understand lyrics. Of course, from the violin I gained impeccable swarajnanam (knowledge of the melody).

What can the audience expect in your performance at the festival?
I am presenting a thematic concert based on the compositions of Adi Shankaracharya. Although Carnatic music doesn’t adhere to time-bound ragas, I will choose some ragas sung during the morning in the Hindustani tradition and present them.

How does it feel to perform at this fest where the city audience have an inclination towards folk music? 
Udaipur is not new for me. This is my second time in the World Music Festival, thanks to Sanjeev Bhargavaji. And I keep working on Meera, hear a lot of Sufi, Rajasthani folk. I am used to the music traditions of Rajasthan and am familiar with its audience. With the current theme of the fest, I hope to intersperse these ideologies in my presentation.

As a sadhaka in music, what is more important for you -- the goals or the journey ?
I am still a student. Learning can never stop. I have a very personal connection with my music apart from all these concerts. If you have such connection, you automatically achieve the goals you set for yourself.

As a performer, do you experience moments where you feel a divine connection? How will you explain such moments?
Many, many times. As life experiences increase, emotions increase. There is more bhava when you have so much time with your family and spirituality. Let me also tell you, the more temples you visit — Guruvayur, Ujjain, Kashi, Tirupati -- the more you approach the compositions differently, the imagery joins in. I was asked to sing Bhavayami Gopalabalam once in front of the utsavamurthy in Tirupati, and now, whenever I sing the song, I only remember that. Experiences count a lot. 

What is your advice to the budding artists? 
You should have self-belief and conviction. There’s no shortcut; so practise, practise and practise. Very importantly: no concerts before you’re very well trained. Don’t be in a rush. Music is not an instant food item. 
One more thing: you have your guru’s name, family’s name. But you can’t live on that, can you? 

How important is taking diksha from the guru in the age of technology? 
I was very blessed to have one-to-one sessions with my gurus. Back then, gurus weren’t in a hurry too. I had to perfect the piece and only then move on. There was step-by-step learning and there’s merit in it. As for the concept of guru-shishya itself, the bonding really helps. Just by looking at the guru, their encouragement and scolding, their lessons to other students, you can learn so much. The fine nuances of music cannot be taught by ‘Guru Google’.

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