Following dreams

Following dreams

Musical notes

Talented: Jyotsna Srikanth

She was invited to perform in the British House of Commons before an august audience of parliamentarians including the current British Prime Minister David Cameron and the former PM Tony Blair. “I wanted to project our traditional music, so I chose to play Carnatic classical music,” she says of her 45-minute recital.

 And Jyotsna did indeed have many options to choose from. She plays western classical, Carnatic, Indian jazz and world fusion, and contributes to film music. It might seem like a very eclectic mix, but then Jyotsna has systematically trained in everything that would count both on traditional platforms as well as the world stage.


Her initial lessons, of course, were when she could hardly spell music. Her first teacher was her mother Rathna Srikanthaiah who was herself trained in Carnatic classical. Her mother also took her to many concerts ensuring that her daughter had vast exposure to the art.

One day, after returning from renowned violinist Kunnaikudi Vaidyanthan’s concert, Jyotsna picked up two broomsticks and began to imitate the maestro playing his violin. Her mother understood the child’s inclinations immediately. And Jyotsna came under the tutelage of R R Keshavamurthy, master of the rare seven-stringed violin. She gave her first solo violin concert when she was just nine years old.

And even as a young teenager, she felt the urge to hone her music capabilities and resolved to learn western classical music “since its bowing and fingering techniques would enrich my style. So I enrolled in the Bangalore School of Music, and also studied under V S Narasimhan, the Chennai-based solo violinist for Ilayaraja.”

Soon, she was playing in the orchestra of south Indian films (about 200 in all) for music directors of all kinds, including Ilayaraja.

“My western classical background helped enormously as that is vital when playing Indian film music,” she says. And she continues to express her gratitude to all her teachers, especially V S Narasimhan. “He not only taught me music but also many human values. And he always emphasised the necessity of doing ethical musical business.”

She also appeared for and passed the exams of the Royal School of Music in London in order to further her proficiency in the field. Years later, after relocating to London because of her husband Srikanth Sharma’s move to UK, she also received a fellowship from the famed Trinity College of Music. And currently, given her dazzling track record, she has been selected to work with this college on crossover music projects.

And, it is an awesome record she has. After giving much appreciated solo violin recitals as well as accompanying leading classical musicians in India during her formative years, she also began exploring bigger avenues. The move to London in 2004 opened up many a door for her. There she began performing Indian jazz and world fusion wherein she collaborated with western musicians of high calibre.

Among these are Robert Atchison, the English classical violinist often described as UK’s national treasure; Chris Haigh, the celebrated English jazz violinist; Simon Thacker, a performer of the classical guitar; Spanish guitarist Eduardo Niebla; and European string quartets.

She has played at major global music events like WOMAD-UK, BBC, Red Violin Festival in Wales, Cleveland Music Festival in the US, East-West International Music Encounter, etc. A big and recent honour was playing for the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall –– a rare opportunity for an Indian musician. “London is a highly cosmopolitan city and it is all about global diversity. And I am tremendously grateful for the culture here in UK and western Europe which welcomes and encourages talent irrespective of the person’s background,” she says.

Branching out

Jyotsna also began scoring music for documentaries and tele-serials; and has also played background music for programmes on leading international TV channels. She also set up her own band, Fusion Dreams. She has also released eight albums.

Amidst all this, this London-based musician also finds time to be a wife, a mother to two young children, and teacher and mentor to students and aspiring musicians. Most remarkably, she remains a modest and unassuming person whose simplicity and spontaneity are the first things that strike a person who meets her.

And to think that Jyotsna actually trained to be a doctor — that is where the Dr prefix in her name comes from. After MBBS, she earned an MD (Pathology) degree. Then she was drawn to computers and became the world’s first medical doctor to earn a Sun Certification in Java and worked for a leading software company as healthcare IT consultant. Later, she realised her passion lay in the violin and made it her full-time occupation.

“Our parents might plan something for us academically and we might go along, but destiny sometimes has other plans,” she says. “Anyway, it is important for a person to recognise his passion and pursue that instead of doing something when his  heart is not in it. Take up something you love, and work hard to gain excellence in it. Following your dream is most gratifying.”

Well, that is exactly what Jyotsna herself has done and succeeded greatly.

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