New York made my life: Anil Srinivasan
CHENNAI, December 30: He is a born musician. He loves to learn. And, he doesn’t hesitate to experiment. Above all, he is an enthusiastic collaborator. He has a secular view on music and pursues a classical approach to music. Meet Anil Srinivasan, a Piano player. "I play Western classics. The sensibilities that drive my music, however, are deeply rooted to the culture of Carnatic music,’’ asserts Anil Srinivasan during an interactive session with Deccan Chronicle at the Rasam Restaurant in T. Nagar, held under the auspices of Sri Krishna Sweets on December 21, 2011.
Born and brought up in Mylapore, Anil is a product of Vidya Mandir and alumni of Vivekananda College. He had brief encounter with the world of advertisement. Like many a youngster, he, too, headed for the U.S. Not just MBA and PhD, he acquired proficiency in Piano, too, while in America. "New York made my life,’’ says he, matter-of-factly. "Music is something which has become a part of me,’’ insists Anil. Trained by Meena Radhakrishnan, daugher-in-law of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Anil had advanced classes from Anna Abraham of Bethoven's lineage and belonged to the Guru-Shisya Parampara of Carl Czerny.
Leant Veena, too
As a three-year old, he started playing toy Piano made of wood. "Meena Miss heard me play on my school Piano. "Up to the age of 12, I used to go to Semmangudi Mama’s house to learn Piano from Meena Miss. What did you learn? Semmangudi Mama would ask me. I would sing something. `Very Good’, he would say,’’ recalls Anil.
"Fingerings are the most difficult and best exercise for Piano,’’ he says. Technical complexities, however, didn't daunt him. His first Piano was a gift from his father’s friend. While studying in the U.S., his professor also gifted him a Piano. "I learnt to play Veena, too, from Sitarama Sharma,’’ he points out. But the learning lasted only a short while. He had to discontinue Veena as the strings damaged his fingers. "I took initiative to learn Carnatic music on my own. My parents didn’t compel me to learn Carnatic music,’’ Anil insists.
Concert at British Council
" I played Navaraga Malika in Piano when I was just six. Every one around me encouraged me while I chose to play Piano. I played my concert this year at the British Council Library on December 19. Exactly twenty years ago (i.e. December 19, 1991) on the same day, I played there for the first time. It was just a coincidence,’’ he points out.
His parents were quite generous and gifted him with books on his birthdays. His father especially "is a great book collector’’ and "will give me money to buy books on scoring good marks.
Post-college, he even took up a job in an advertising firm in Bombay. While studying in America, "I waited tables and took up other odd jobs to earn that extra money for attending Piano classes,’’ he reveals. “New York made my life. Attending best concerts, meeting a host of Carnatic musicians – all happened there. I often met U. Shrinivas, Aruna Sairam and others there,’’ he points out. "My knowledge is what I inherited from listening and my own perception,’’ he says.
Anil insists that he is not seeking anything in the world of Carnatic music. "I have reverence for Carnatic music. I don’t seek any identity in Carnatic music. I don’t have any aspirations. Nor do I aim for any accolades,’’ he says. "I am fortunate to get the blessings of eminent artistes such as Lalgudi Jayaraman, T.N. Krishnan. Vyjayanthi Mala Bali, Malavika, Sivaraman, Mrs.YGP, who respect the traditional values,’’ he adds.
Quiz him further. He shots back, "I don’t play popular music in Piano. I play only Western classical. I enjoy being a musician, rather than a performer.’’ In fact, Lalgudi Jayaraman used to play Piano. "He even taught me to play the English notes (Ga Ma Ga Ri Ga Pa). Even M.S. Subbulakshmi had a Piano (now donated to Kalakshetra),’’ he points out. He insists that his collaborations have always been happy ones, especially the ones with vocalist Sikkil Gurucharan. Having learnt Piano from Meena Miss at Semmangudi house and English notes from Lalgudi Jayaraman, Anil is undaunted by critics. "It didn’t strike me wrong then. It doesn’t strike me wrong even now,’’ he asserts. According to Anil, who used to play cricked along side T.M. Krishna, Sanjay and the like, he "had never had a non-musical moment’’ in his life”.
According to him, he often listens to the music of Aryakudi, M.D. Ramanathan and KVN. "I cultivated a style of my own by listening to all. I composed music in opera. I try Bach again and again in which I have been least successful,’’ he points out. In 2012, he will play with a Scotland Orchestra band. "I will play my compositions based on Carnatic themes in pentatonic scales. I will do Grahabedham in Suddha Saveri. I did a project with U. Shrnivas. I do play now on a long-term basis with Sikkil Gurucharan. We played Nasikabhushani and Brindavana Saranga. He sang and I played them in Piano. I have even collaborated with Unnikrishnan,’’ he says. Well, Anil is out to express himself in his own way without let or hindrance.