A smooth transition to the virtual

A smooth transition to the virtual

Aishwarya Raghunath quit a flourishing career in biotechnology to be a musician and this ability to be a quick learner is helping her deal with the current situation.

Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath has only a few hours to go live for the HCL Concerts' series, Baithak, one among her many virtual performances in the recent weeks. A concert day is like any other day for the Bengaluru-based vocalist, but for the fact that she doesn’t venture out of her home. Her daily exercises and yoga routine keep her sane, while she has relatively lighter meals leading up to the concert. Subconsciously thinking of the musical exchanges with her co-artistes through the day, there’s no scope for anxiety at all.

Aishwarya’s tryst with music began under the tutelage of P S Vasantha at three (when she could barely read). Her learning was largely oral at that stage; it became an added advantage later, she says. “Invariably, notations are used to teach students and there’s every chance you may restrict yourself to the notation while learning. Certain gamakas in compositions can’t be expressed in the form of a notation, whereas with the oral tradition, your ears are attuned to capturing minute details. Hence, your understanding and perception of the ragas and details are very different from what you absorb by reading the notation.”

An early start helps

Starting early with music is always beneficial, she quips. “Everything you imbibe then will stay with you forever, contributing deeply to the various subconscious forces that shape you as an overall musician.” However, isn’t the anubhava in music largely shaped by experiences in adult life? Aishwarya doesn’t disagree, but feels that it all depends on how a teacher moulds you. “One of my gurus, Seethalakshmi Venkatesan, would ask me to guess the meaning of a particular word and give a reason why it is being rendered that way. With a kriti like Vandanamu, you sing the opening phrases with utmost humility because you know the meaning.”

No wonder she began giving concerts at the age of 13. “Performance is a stepping stone for any musician. I’ve wanted to be a musician since I was a child and accompanied my gurus on the stage from when I was seven. I was always taught that performance was a way of sharing your art form; it’s a transfer of joy through music. Performance after performance, you understand what you can change, improve, perceive and how you can adapt to different scenarios,” Aishwarya, who quit a flourishing career in biotechnology for a career in music, shares. It was perhaps this ability to be a quick learner that made her transition towards virtual concerts seamless.

 “The virtual concerts, minus the energy from the audience, have been a change for all of us. It’s been very different, but gratifying, because the reach is much wider than an offline concert. So many organisations have strived hard to create an ambience that matches the live experience. The rasikas get an opportunity to experience the concert at the time, location and platform of their choice. Singing to a camera is similar to singing for yourself and the level of involvement is greater, even deeper,” Aishwarya opines.

Packaging is vital

The recent months have taught Aishwarya the importance of having a good sound system in the confines of her home, dealing with outside noise and understanding several technicalities that go into making a successful endeavour. The packaging of crisp one-hour concerts for a global audience was one among them. She adds, “There’s one kriti each of the musical trinity, a padam, a Kannada and a Tamil composition in all my concerts. The number of Telugu/Tamil/Kannada compositions may alter based on the location of the offline concerts. However, for online concerts, it’s all about bringing a balance and singing numbers that anybody in the world can relate to.”

The reach of the virtual concerts is often dictated by the social media presence of the artiste and the organisers. The classical fraternity, which has been largely indifferent towards digital marketing in the pre-pandemic era, had to embrace it hurriedly to bolster their social media reach and conduct musical activities online. Aishwarya admits, “Boosting social media presence is crucial because that’s how you reach out to people, improve awareness, appreciation and connections. It’s a personal space where you can put out your music and it enables a rare, direct connection between an artiste and a rasika.”

Aishwarya is also happy that the spirit of the Margazhi music season in Chennai wasn’t dented much by the pandemic. She found it rejuvenating to perform at familiar venues in the city, even if a majority of the concerts were recorded without people. “Everybody worked towards bringing the Margazhi experience and treated connoisseurs to a huge volume of diverse music over two months. The joyous experience was still possible, despite the times being so difficult. After all, what is music for, if it doesn’t bring people together now?”