Monday, January 4, 2010


Srividya Anantharaman, Srividya Akka, or just Akka to the many, many students that she has, is the face of Carnatic Music in Kolkata. In charge of Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya, the music school founded by her grandfather Brahmasri Ananthakrishna Iyer in the year 1943, she took over the reins from her father and aunt, Late A Anantharama Iyer (Sir) and Late A champakavalli (Teacher) respectively, and has been carrying forward their noble mission of upholding the tradition of Carnatic Music and particularly disseminating Dikshitar kritis to students in this part of the country.

We caught up with Srividya for a brief chat on her recent Chennai visit.

Q. It must have been quite a responsibility to take over a school which had a reputation to live up to. You have had to take a lot of care to continue the work of Sir and Teacher in much the same manner as they did. How did you cope up with this ominous task?

A. My full fledged career as a teacher started more with destiny bringing me into the profession as opposed to myself taking the initiative to plunge into it. I went into computer training as a profession for a good part of my life, but I had been teaching on and off, lending my father and aunt a helping hand, probably it was in my system. However, now I am fully engaged only in teaching carnatic music.

Q. Do take us through some of the activities of Guruguha Sangeeth Sammelan, the students wing of the Vidyalaya.

A. An important feature of our year-round programs is that they are mostly theme based; built on songs on a particular God, say Krishna, Muruga, Shiva, etc, covering all composers. For our annual Dikshitar Aradhana program also we maintain a theme. This actually started way back around the late 80s, taking up Navagraha as a theme, for example.

Q. The modern-day carnatic music Guru is very different from what people like Sir and Teacher were. What do you think has changed and what according to you has remained the same? As a corollary, how different are the students of these times from what we were?

A. Method of teaching needs to be altered a little bit keeping in mind the psyche of the students. Drawing appropriate comparisons with current events etc, goes a long way in making the student identify with what he/she is learning. They need to know the reasons for everything and if you do explain logically they are ready to take. Guru-sishya bhava has not changed but they have to be approached more as a friend. The loyalty and dedication is always there, the intent not to let the guru down; they read facial expressions, and if my smile is a pasted one and not genuine, they can guess they have not been upto the mark.

Q. Fascination and leaning towards carnatic music is not as much an automatic response for either the student or the rasika, in comparison to, say, popular music or even other forms of classical music. Do you think it is in the interest of carnatic music that we leave it as it is, to be enjoyed by a niche audience, or modify it to lend it more instantaneous appeal?

A. Modify, definitely. But within the limits of tradition.

Q. How would you define the roles and responsibilities of the student (in the context of carnatic music)?

A. Sishya's role is not only about performance, it should been seen in totality, cultural values, vinayam, devotion, hard work, consistency, all matter. It is also the responsibility of the teacher to tell the student if she or he is not ready yet. Quality should not be compromised. Parental role is important. They must take them to various programs and concerts and try to always keep the interest alive. Music should be compulsorily taught to all children. Initially it may feel like a lot of pressure but they then eventually listen to music as a relaxation even during board exams - it has that quality - at any age or stage one can listen and enjoy. Don't we sort out problems better if we listen to music.....

We wish Srividya Anantharaman health, wealth and happiness and may she continue the magnificient work she is doing for the cause of Carnatic Music for a long, long time.


B. Karthickeyan said...

I deem it a great blessing to have been a student of our revered 'SIR' and 'TEACHER' and now am a student of 'AKKA' Srividya. She is younger to me in age but I learn from her not only music but some of the best values. I only am little confused about this 'tradition' and modification without breaking the tradition. Will someone give specific examples ?


What she meant possibly was to make kutcheries more attractive, but take care not to offend the traditionalist sentiment. Satisfy the layman and the connoisseur, so to speak.