Imagine. Carnatic ragas seamlessly blending with French jazz. Add to it a mix of Hindustani, Western classical, orchestral sounds, some ghazals, Bollywood, folk and rock. This will probably help you understand why the Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival has the word ‘global’ in it and is today celebrating its 25th year. Before its prolific directors Dr. L Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurti take to the Chowdiah Memorial Hall’s stages to inaugurate it today, they tell us how it all came to be.
It was when Dr Subramaniam’s father passed away that they introduced the festival as a tribute to him. “In a time when the violin was played more as an accompaniment in Indian music, he turned it into an instrument worthy of solo performances,” he explains about his father, V Lakshminarayana, a professor of music from Kerala who projected Carnatic music globally, through the violin. He tells us that the festival started out ‘small’ in Chennai, but it was anything but.
Inaugurated by Bharat Ratna MS Subbulakshmi in 1992, it has since hosted some of the biggest names in music – Zakir Hussain, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan, Gangubai Hangal, George Duke, Stanley Clarke, Al-Jarreau, and Steven Seagal to name a few.
This year, the festival reaches a new zenith – it will be held in the UK and Germany for the first time, in addition to its presence in Bengaluru, San Diego, Chicago, and New York. It will also host French prodigy violinist Vadim Repin, pianist Svetlana Smolina and Norwegian cellist Audun Sandvik.
Their goal of the festival was simple – “It was also to enable people, who aren’t exposed to different forms of music, to experience it within our country,” says the acclaimed violinist. “It was also to bring international artistes, so that we can understand sounds of their culture. The understanding of music brings about a whole different kind of approach to humanity,” he notes.
And it’s this varied interest in music that makes the festival relevant even after 25 years. Like the musicians, there has been varied themes year-after-year. “This year, the first two concerts are a tribute to Lord Yehudi Menuhin and the audience can expect a lot of wonderful violin music,” says Kavita Krishnamurti, letting us in on what to expect this year. Their children, Bindu and Ambi will also be part of the world music segment like they have always been. “They help us decide the festival’s theme, the way the concert happens, and the artists who will perform each year,” she smiles warmly.
Twenty five years of the festival can’t have been an easy task. “Normally the challenges are from the financial side, because we don’t charge the audience. Right now my dream is to create a corpus for the festival,” says Dr Subramaniam.
But like they say, onwards and forward! “As a family we are doing a lot of projects in 2017. I am writing a symphony orchestra to celebrate 70 years of India’s Independence, which will be premiered in Chicago and played in all continents. Kavita and I have also started working on our first project together, which we hope to release this year,” he says, adding that it will all start tomorrow by releasing a DVD of an early morning concert that he did at The Gateway of India, dedicating it to his parents. As they say, life comes full circle.