Her parents are music aficionados. Their passion and the musically-charged environment at home kindled in their little daughter Mahalaxmi a spark since the age of three. Today, Mahalaxmi Shenoy is a name to reckon with in the field of Hindustani classical music. The prodigy from a small town, Karkala, is scaling new heights with the music that has its roots in the north.
Her parents recognised her inclination in her childhood and let her pursue her passion. Little Mahalaxmi began her musical journey by learning Carnatic music. However, a concert by Mohan Veena exponent Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt at Karkala, under the aegis of the local Shastreeya Sangeet Sabha in 1997 (the driving force of which is her father Dr Prakash Shenoy a cardiologist), held her in awe about Hindustani music.
As an 11-year-old, she had found her calling.
Hence she switched to Hindustani music. After the initial training at her hometown, she came under the tutelage of Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, a recipient of Padma Bhushan and Grammy Award. She travelled to Jaipur during her vacations and her learning with him continued. The nuances learnt from him has made her what she is today. She is also a Sangeet Visharad from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. “Impressed by a bhajan sung by me as a three-and-a half-year-old girl, my guru, the late Sri Sudheendra Theertha of Kashi Math had foreseen a bright future for me in the field,” reminisces the vocalist. She believes it is his blessing that has led her so far.
Family of music
A Kirana Gharana singer, she is open to the positive aspects of all gharanas. She is an admirer of Begum Parveen Sultana of Patiala Gharana, the queen of classical vocal.
Mahalaxmi’s pure voice, intonation and agile rendition catapulted her to different platforms. The child prodigy’s concert odyssey started with a performance in 1999, and she has given more than 1,500 concerts since.
Equally proficient in light and devotional music, she sings Kannada, Konkani songs with élan, apart from Meera bhajans and Marathi abhangs. She has composed music for over 1,000 songs.
Her rendition of a Konkani song of light music genre, ‘Yore pora amgele ghara’, penned by R D Kamath and composed by Pt Vasanth Kanakapure, has turned out to be her USP over the years, albeit inadvertently.
Mahalaxmi’s music is synonymous with this song on kid Krishna set in Raaga Ahir Bhairav. “Many memories keep gushing when I think of the song. It has a spellbinding impact on all,” she chuckles.
Sitar maestro Pt Ravishankar, the guru of Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, had attended one of her 20 concerts in the US. Despite wheelchair-bound then, he wanted to listen to the disciple of his disciple. “I had the huge responsibility of upholding the reputation of my guru. It was a real test for me. Panditji’s words of encouragement put me at ease,” says Mahalaxmi of the incident.
Her performance at Kundagol, at the Wade of Sawai Gandharva, an all-time doyen of Hindustani music, to a gathering of seasoned artistes and connoisseurs of music was a “divine experience beyond words.” But she does not forget to add that each performance is unique.
Best of everything
She has to her credit many albums in Konkani, Kannada, Hindi and Marathi such as ‘Anagha’, ‘Guru Guna Gana’, ‘Eddu Baro Ranga’, ‘Krishnarpana’, ‘Yore Badarayana’, ‘Meera’, ‘Vasudeva Ganamala’ and ‘Guru Namana’.
Though firmly rooted in the classical tradition, Mahalaxmi is not averse to experiments. She has recently come up with a presentation with an ensemble of young instrumental artistes of both Hindustani and Carnatic genres with her vocals. It’s going from the higher altar of classical music to patriotic song, with variations like light music, folk song, movie song in-between. Doesn’t she feel complacent? Mahalaxmi admits, “My achievement is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to fathom.” Music is the heart and soul of this double postgraduate in Social Work as well as Counselling and Psychotherapy.