Sanjay grew up in a typical middle class family where every family member is a Carnatic fan. His grandparents, uncles, aunts and parents would attend most of the concerts in and around Mylapore and would do a critical dissection of each concerts with complete reviews. Different parts of his extended family are knowledgeable in different aspects of Carnatic music. His mother learnt Carnatic music and introduced a number of kritis to Sanjay even before he started learning. His father introduced him to the likes of GNB and Alathur brothers. The radio in his house always played Carnatic music. His brother and sister learnt mridangam and violin respectively, along with vocal music.
Sanjay claims that the music competitions that he attended as a student helped him with public performances by providing exposure to sing before knowledgeable judges. Competitions helped him in learning sufficiently large collection of kritis. He says his generation of singers was benefitted largely by the Youth Association for Carnatic Music (YACM) where he performed in public for the first time. Sabhas started having exclusive youth festivals, the most prominent among them is the Spirit of Youth Festival conducted by the Madras Music Academy.
Talking about the multiple skills needed for a performing musician, he emphasizes on the ability to understand a note (swara gyanam). He considers learning to play an instrument a great advantage in this regard. Sanjay spent years learning violin. He also emphasizes on having a large repertoire of kritis. Learning and practicing in a disciplined manner is necessary to achieve this. One of his gurus Smt. Rukmani Rajagopalan, stressed the importance of repeated singing of kritis at home to achieve perfection, at least fifty times before singing on stage. Students should be ready to learn music not only by repetition, but also by observation and enquiry, and sometimes even by slogging at home the performance displayed by their gurus.
He also points out that learning music is just one aspect of becoming an artist. Personal curiosity and thirst for knowledge would propel the students to seek and attain knowledge to get them ready for performances. His curiosity lead him to a wealth of published materials and new compositions.
Singing with complete lack of inhibition is an important trait of public performance. The spirit of freedom helps connect with listeners instantly. In Sanjay’s opinion nadhaswaram achieves this very well. His years of learning under nadhaswaram artist Semponarkoil SRD Vaidyanathan has taught him several intricacies about public performance.
As we see here from Sanjay’s speech, several qualities should come together to make a good performing artist. Some of them have to do with the environment and people that one grows up with, exposures to concerts, quality discussions, great gurus, disciplined learning and training, personal interest, supplemental skills, and importantly a platform to launch and thrive public performances. Hamsadhwani not only provides such a platform for aspiring artists, but also brings families and students together to listen, dissect, criticize and analyze performances. The organizers and volunteers work hard to include, in every concert, features like display for ragas, live broadcast, and audio recording for the benefit of students. Saranga, our youth festival is a yearly event that is well received by both performing artists and rasikas. Hamsadhwani also provides a wealth of concert recordings to patrons. Our hope is to kindle the interest of students and launch them to achieve new heights in public performance.