Improvisation keeps me fresh: Kanyakumari

Improvisation keeps me fresh: Kanyakumari

The Carnatic violinist is being honoured in Bengaluru this weekend


Kanchana Shree Lakshminarayana Music Academy trust is a non-profit trust dedicated to the propagation and promotion of Indian classical music. The institution was set up in the 1930s by veena artiste and leg harmonium player Anandalakshmi Ammal to teach music and create awareness by organising performances and training. They regularly conduct musical events throughout the year along with workshops and lecture demonstrations by prominent artistes with a special focus on promoting upcoming talent.

Their annual festival ‘Kanchanothsava’ is celebrated in Kanchana, in Dakshina Kannada district, and in Bengaluru. The award of ‘Kanchana Shree’ to an artiste of high repute and long-standing contribution in the field of music is a part of this annual event. This year the award is being conferred upon Carnatic violinist Kanyakumari. She is the first female violinist to receive the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award and is also a recipient of the Padma Shri. Metrolife spoke to her about her music style and what keeps her going after so many years. 

How did you get into music and how has your interest in it sustained for so long?

I was born into a very musical family, but initially I had no interest whatsoever. But when I was nine years old, my sisters’ guru Ivaturi Vijeswara Rao sat me down and made me learn. The violin was also picked out by him. Once I began, I was immediately engrossed. 

Now, I’ve been in the field for 55 years. And personally I think that if you are interested in music, the ambition to become better is natural.

How would you describe your style of music?

If you hear my music, you’d see that it’s very close to vocal style of music. This has been greatly influenced by my guru M L Vasanthakumari.

You’re known to be quite interactive with the audience and even change your setlist according to their requests. Why do you prefer this style of performance?

I’ve never prepared a setlist for a concert. It’s only after seeing the audience that I decide what to play. I ask them what to play; of course factors like the audio system at the venue and my mood that day also influence what I play. 

I feel like if you practise and come, then the performance will be very monotonous. Meanwhile, performing on the spot allows you to be challenged and keeps your music fresh. This also greatly helps me in coming up with more innovative and creative ragas. 

Could you tell us a little bit more about your compositions?

I am a great devotee of Lord Venkateswara and Maha Lakshmi. I frequently go to Tirupati and I get inspired when I’m there. My most recent compositions are the ragas I’ve made inspired by the seven hills of Thirumala.  The reason I wanted to do this was because not many people know the names of these hills, and I wanted to popularise it. 

You also teach budding artistes. Do you enjoy teaching?

My students are performing all over the country in this music season. I’m very proud of them. I teach so that these students can take forward my parampara and my style of playing. That’s the only thing I expect from them, I don’t take even a single paisa in fees. 

What are your plans going forward?

I have so many plans and I want to do so many things, but God should give me the strength to continue on this path. 


‘Kanchanotsava’ will see a violin concert by Kanyakumari and various other performances by acclaimed artistes. It will take place on December 7 and 8, at Aksharam, Banashakari. 
Entry is free. For more information contact 94481 40437.