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Music makes you more sensitive, says Aruna Sairam
CHENNAI: She is contemporary, traditional and dynamic, all rolled into one. She is a fascination for the young and old alike. She has the uncanny ability to adjust her singing to suit the assorted sensibilities of multi-mood rasikas. Vocalist Aruna Sairam shared her musical experience in a chat session with Deccan Chronicle at the Rasam Restaurant in T. Nagar, held under the auspices of Sri Krishna Sweets, on December 13, 2011.

For fans across age and gender categories, her concert must necessarily have the popular “Maadu Meykum Kanna”. She can’t get away without singing that number. Thanks to her, Marathi Abhangs have become an important constituent of the December Carnatic music season in Chennai. Indeed, she is a new age artiste! What strikes one is her innate ability to connect with a wide range of audience. Aruna Sairam enjoys the adulation showered on her. Carnatic, western classic, Pop, Jazz and even the Hindi songs of Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar – Aruna loves all forms of music. Nothing is anathema for her. For her, all forms of music are divine. When comes to Carnatic music, however, she presents it only in the traditional style. In the December season especially, according to Aruna, no artiste can appeal to the connoisseurs without a Todi, a Kambodi or a Bhairavi. "A concert will appeal to the audience only if I enjoy it myself," Aruna says. For her, advance planning is a must for any concert. On occasions, however, she does change the plan as it happened once during her concert in Kolkatta. "After seeing the ambience, I had to change the whole list of prepared songs”, says Aruna. Sound-check prior to a concert has become a part of her habit. Thanks to her guru T.Brinda, Aruna has rich repertoire in her music armoury. Kritis such as Veena Pustaka Darini, Janani Ninivina, Chetasri Balakrishna and Kantimatim are rare gems and one needs maturity to project them, she points out. “It took me quite a while to internalize these kritis taught by my guru and present them in my own style,” Aruna adds.

A ten-year-old, according to her, won’t be able to do an Abinaya for the Shringara rasa. In contrast, an 18-year-old can bring this bhava to the fore. As a child, Aruna grew up in a musical environment. Bhajans and Bagavatham were routinely held at her house. She had the rare opportunity to be in proximity with Needamangalam Bhagavathar and others. Her grandmother had composed many a marriage song and the numbers such as "Maadu meykum kanna". Surely, all these have helped her to become the artiste of the stature she is today.

What is the ideal mix between creative and composed music in concerts?
According to her, each artiste has to take an independent call. "Some have the grammatical temperament. Still others have emotional temperament. Artistes will have to discover where he/she could shine. They have to build the concert around their core strength," she says. “Singing a kriti could be as musical as a raga alapana," asserts Aruna. She goes on to demonstrate it by singing her guru Brinda’s kriti “Tamara Saksha” in ati vilamba kala (slow pace). "Music is an expression of emotions," she says. "A slow piece sometimes turns out to be the soul of the concert," she points out. "I don’t do a concert without the soul piece. A concert will be a waste without the soul piece," she asserts. According to Aruna, music "should touch the soul." She goes on to add, " it should linger and stay with the listener." That is the purpose of music, she feels. "It is all about reaching out to the audience and sharing with it the inner most sensibilities. It’s a deep kind of a sharing. The rest is work-oriented," she says. "Through my music, I want to show to the world at large a new world," she says. The idea is to reach out to people in so many ways and mould the sensibilities of a whole new generation. "Music makes you more sensitive to the people around you," she points out.

Is she conscious of her brand?
“I am conscious of music and music alone. Am I expressing myself well?” she points out. "But brand has a responsibility and impacts on what I speak. So, I have to be cautious,” she adds. Has she changed over the years? “I have changed. So have the audience,” she quips. The audience is now open to so many things, she observes.

On the reality shows in television, Aruna is strongly against subjecting the children to public censure. "This will affect their personality," she points out. She is happy that the sabhas have mushroomed in Chennai. This opens up more opportunities for the modern day artistes. Aruna likens critics to an audience. `Hence, they are free to express their views," she feels. “How many will rationalize things the way I do?” asks Aruna, who has come under intense flak from critics in early days. The December music season where close to 3,000 concerts are held across the city of Chennai will look fine if it is conducted under a single banner. Why can’t we do it the way the French people conduct their music festival? We must create the buzz about the December season right from the airport, she avers. Quiz her on Indira Nooyi, the Chennai woman who has risen to the top slot at Pepsi. "I admire here. She is sensible. She is able to reach out to people," buts in Aruna. Indira is an ardent admirer of Aruna’s music.
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