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Making music together

Sriram Parashuram and Anooradha Sriram are steeped in music. Their musical repertoire includes a unique `jugalbandhi' of Carnatic and Hindustani besides Anooradha's playback singing. Both have forayed into composing music for films with `Five Star'.



UNIQUE JUGALBANDHI: Sriram Parashuram and Anooradha Sriram share a common passion.

THEY ARE two of a kind who perform a unique jugalbandhi of Carnatic and Hindustani maintaining the purity and distinctness of each. They are none other than Sriram Parashuram and Anooradha Sriram. Steeped in music, they are strong in the theoretical front too. Sriram has a PhD in world music from Wesleyan University, U.S.A. and a Masters in western violin performance from the University of Akron, Ohio, U.S.A., while Anooradha has a master's degree in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. Their musical repertoire is not just restricted to the classical genre. Sriram, with his brothers, had brought out a pop Album - Savariya - Three brothers and a violin a few years ago, while Anooradha is a name to reckon with in the film circuit - Bollywood and the South Indian film industry. Their foray into composing for films (under the names Parasuram and Radha) materialised with Mani Rathnam's production (directed by Susi Ganesan) Five Star (released recently) which has been received well.

The duo are happy about their composing effort. Doing music in the popular domain also excites them. "In India there is nothing which comes close to films in terms of reach. So we approached Mani Ratnam. He had heard Savariya. He gave us a chance and we worked on the project for six months. The film has six songs and we are happy with the good response. It was a good experience for us," says Sriram.

More composing offers (including one from a Telugu producer) have poured in but they are still under negotiations. "In this field it's very difficult to predict how things shape up. Even if you bring out a very good product with your heart and soul it may or may not work. In the popular idiom what is paramount is that it has to work ," they add.

Both grew up in an atmosphere of music. While Sriram grew up in Mumbai learning the violin in Carnatic and Hindustani styles, Anooradha lived in Chennai learning Carnatic and then Hindustani. In both cases parental support and encouragement was instrumental in their development as musicians right from a young age. "We were able to feel the beauty of music. So there was great amount of self-motivation," says Sriram, who has been performing since the age of eight and given over 2000 violin solo concerts all over the world. "My mother used to sing for films and she felt that I should be trained in Carnatic. So I was under the tutelage of Thanjavur S. Kalyanaraman. She wanted me to learn Hindustani music as well as she felt that Hindustani musicians had a better voice culture. Since my aunt lived in Mumbai I used to go there and learn in the summer vacations," adds Anuradha, who has been giving recitals since her early teens.

The duo have evolved a unique concept of jugalbandhi where they maintain the purity of each style. How did you conceptualise it? "It's a blessing we are together. Both of us are fortunate to learn from good teachers and have good foundations. I've always shied away from mixing systems. But we definitely wanted to make our format different and yet retain the integrity of both the systems. We did not want to take up the standard expositions of Yaman-Kalyani or Hindolam-Malkauns. We do this too but we also take up ragas which are melodically united at a more deeper level," says Sriram. Anuradha chips in "Sriram used to and still gives a lot of lecture-demonstrations in the country and abroad." "Muthuswamy Dikshitar is an inspiration. At a very solid level he has studied Hindustani and tried to adapt it to Carnatic. If you take his Dwijavanti (from Jaijaiwanti) one can see how hard he has worked," says Sriram. "When he used to demonstrate Sriram would sing both in such a way each remained pure and distinct. Since the integrity of both was maintained, he thought about doing fusion concerts about two and a half years ago. That's how it evolved," adds Anooradha. "The glory of the two are sacred and we try to present them without diluting them," says Sriram.

Normally the duo choose three to four ragas in a concert. "We also want to maintain a compositional genre. We also present items like thumri-javali, thillana-tarana together. We also have a Pancharatna kriti equivalent in Hindustani - a long composition," says Sriram. Do you rehearse - "No it's very instinctive. We had the opportunity to learn under the same guru," they say in tandem.

Their explanatory note at the beginning of the concert helps the listener to understand the intricacies and nuances. How's your fusion received by the purists? "It's been received well right from Semmangudi mama (Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer) to the younger artistes. Everybody appreciates the fact that we do not mix the styles. That is inspiration enough for us to work ahead," say both.

Any more pop albums in the offing after Savariya? "Not at the moment - because the pop industry is dull. Commercially one out of ten are working. If you see those who are doing pop albums they are spending their own money doing them. A couple of companies have approached us but they are not exciting endeavours for us. We would like to do a project which will be a step-up from this - you need a lot of commitment from the production company as well," answers Sriram. "Today it is not just the music - it has to be marketed well and the reach comes only through marketing no matter how good the product is and how much people like it," adds Anooradha.

How do you think you can make the young listen to classical music especially when they are hooked on to western music? "In order to get the younger people you need to get the parents. We all owe it to our gurus and parents. It requires a great amount of selflessness - giving. In today's world, parents are caught up in their own pursuits so it becomes difficult. If you start music education early then it helps. My life experience shows me that when one learns music there is development of the brain in many aspects - in terms of organisational skills, geometry, symmetry and memory," says Sriram, vouching for the holistic method of Indian classical arts. Their family is a good example where the siblings are professionals pursuing music as well. "Commitment and belief comes from the parents," says Sriram. "Parents need to change their attitude," says Anooradha. Children too must listen to the parents. "Nowadays if you do western classical it is not necessarily fashionable. The right atmosphere has to be created. Things have to start at home and continue in school," they emphasise.

The duo have a lot of things in hand - recording their fusion concerts, composing for films and a `Violin-Voice project' (which is still in the nascent stage) besides Anooradha's film songs.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

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