Voice of the violin :

Posted by-Kalki Team

For a young Shreya Devnath, violin and vocals were never separate. Having trained under the legendary Lalgudi G Jayaraman for more than a decade, the two were destined to come together. And, this December music season, Shreya hit the stage in two roles — as an instrumentalist, in which she has been steadily making a mark for the last few years, and as a singer.

Ask her about the efforts and the difficulty in juggling both, considering the rigour of the concert schedule. She says with a laugh, “Both are extremely demanding and the demands are entirely different. Take the Charukesi Varnam, a famous piece by my guru. I have played it so many times, but singing it at the dance recital for Bharathanatyam artiste Urmila Sathyanarayanan recently was quite another thing. The tempo, improvisation and emphasis are different. Each interpretation has to be sung accordingly.” Working with dancers like Srekala Bharath, and Narthaki Nataraj, the 2016-2017 Margazhi season saw her collaborating with Urmila on various stages.

Though excruciating, it has been certainly exciting, she adds. “Especially when you have such sensitive artistes like Urmila Akka and Narthaki tell you they want to work with you again. That adds a big boost to my efforts.”

Though she made a mark on the stage as a young violinist, it was vocals that she was initially trained in. She began training under Bombay Ramachandran, her mother Lakshmi Devnaths guru, when she was around eight. But she had to forego voice training in a few years due to a vocal cord condition, though doctors were unable to attribute it to any medical condition. She was told she could take a break and see if she could get back. However, her mother was determined to keep her associated with music and she eventually came under the tutelage of Lalgudi Jayaraman and continued training under him for more than a decade, till the latter passed away in 2013.

“The Lalgudi tradition never separated the instrument and voice. Even when I was not training in vocals, I was never out of touch with it. My guru Lalgudi sir kept asking me now and then, if my voice was okay. He often told me I had a lovely voice and should get back to singing,” she reminisces, adding, “I was lucky to have sung in front of MS Amma (MS Subbulakshmi) when I was around 10. She told me I was very talented and that I should continue practising. Back then, I was too little to understand how significant her words were.”

Building on her vocals, Shreya says that the role of a singer has been a conscious decision. “I have been building on my stamina to execute the concert for a longer duration. It took time and I have been working on my voice to express what my mind wants it to,” she says.

Over the years, Shreya has excelled as a soloist, accompanying artiste and in collaborations with different instrumentalists in violin-flute and violin-sitar concerts. Besides these, she has also been undertaking teaching sessions. Next up is a whirlwind trip between Dubai and Mumbai, where she will be seen accompanying singers Krishnakumar and Binni Krishnakumar, and collaborate with Chitravina Ganesh. Following the trip is a tour of the UK, where she will conduct workshops for violin and vocals, apart from performances at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, UK, and Oxford University, among others.

As she straddles violin and vocals, Shreya has kept her musical avenues open for everything that comes by. “I know vertical progression is important. However, I am not restricting the art to any one or two things. I am here because I want to be here and if after realising my full potential as a singer, I could explore music in a different facet, I would go for it,” she signs off.

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