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Carnatic music, a tool to connect to Indian roots, says Dr. Thangam Parameswaran

By Our Special Correspondent
Chennai: 03-03-2020 11:40PM
Last Updated: 03-03-2020 11:40PM

Dr. Thangam Parameswaran is a physicist by profession. She came to North America in the 1960s, and has lived in Ottawa since the mid-1970s. Since then, she and her family have been involved in Carnatic music activities in Ottawa. Often times, she served on the South India Cultural Association (SICA) leadership team, hosting many visiting artistes from India. In this email response, she discusses her passion for music and the ecosystem in Canada that facilitates close connectivity of people of Indian origin. Edited excerpts:

 How do you define yourself?

In the context of music, I consider myself a singer and composer of devotional songs and bhajans. I also enjoy teaching bhajans to children.

How long have you been under the influence of music?

I have always been interested in music, in general, and Carnatic music, in particular. When I was young, I learned the basics of Carnatic music. At that time I was more focused on academic pursuits and did not undertake extensive formal training in music.

Where do you hail from originally? How did you land up in Canada?

I grew up in Secunderabad.  I went to the U.S.,  where I earned my doctoral degree in physics. Later, our professional interests prompted my family to move to Ottawa, Canada, where I worked as a government scientist for a few decades. Recently, I retired from public service.

What is the idea or objective of releasing CDs and youtube postings?

Since moving to Ottawa my family members were among the early participants and patrons of the South India Cultural Association in Ottawa. We have hosted and met with several renowned musicians who came to present concerts in Ottawa. My son Krishnan was trained in Carnatic violin in the Parur style. He is now an established violinist in the Boston area.

For the past few decades, our family has also been contributing to the devotional activities at the Hindu Temple of Ottawa.  Listening to renowned Carnatic musicians singing the devotional krithis created by Saint Thyagaraja and other great composers nurtured my interest in music. I am thankful that these activities and Divine grace inspired me to compose a number of Carnatic devotional krithis in praise of the different deities in the Ottawa Hindu temple. My early education in cosmopolitan Secunderabad enabled me to develop the lyrics in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit and Hindi.  I have presented my krithis in local composer day and other functions, and received appreciative comments about their melody and content.
A few years ago, my audio recordings of more than 30 compositions were uploaded with lyric and notation files to the website:
http://web.ncf.ca/fy322/TP_homepage.htm
Selected songs from my website were later recorded professionally by the Carnatic music singer Bhavadhaarini Anantharaaman and her team of accompanying artistes in a studio in Chennai.
Creating a CD with a musical album is an attempt to encourage performing musicians to include my compositions in their concerts and for students and music lovers to listen to them and learn them.  Bhavadhaarini, with her beautiful voice, has added further beauty and embellishment to the presentations in the CD.  The object of the youtube postings is to generate interest in these compositions from the angles of music as well as devotion.  Some of these links are:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcLD6_OHXbs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6M7HdDTG78

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLBLG6yT7gCh_Ajg6M4LBqQ

How is the Carnatic music ecosystem in Canada? What has been your effort in strengthening it there? How is the system there different from say in Indian cities such as Chennai or Hyderabad?

Carnatic music serves as an important tool to enable people of Indian origin to connect with their roots and culture.  It also prompts us to be proud of our heritage and work to cherish and promote this ancient art form.  Canada has a smaller population compared to the U.S. and certainly India. Nevertheless, in recent years, there is a surge in the number of music lovers, young and older, in Canadian cities striving to learn this type of music as can be inferred from the enthusiasm of audience observed in Carnatic concerts by skilled artistes. The environment in Canada encourages the promotion of ethnic art forms, music and heritage.

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