Meet the flautist wonder

Jun 12, 2015, 07:55 IST | Narendra Kusnur

Young Chennai-based flautist Shashank Subramanyam is set to woo Mumbai’s Carnatic music aficionados with his wizardry and talent at a music concert in the city, this Saturday

Back in 1984, flautist Shashank Subramanyam gave his first concert at the age of six. When he was 12, he became the youngest musician to perform the senior slot of the Music Academy, Chennai, — a record he still holds.

 Shashank Subramanyam
Shashank Subramanyam even worked with John McLaughlin for a Grammy Award-nominated album, Floating Point

Subramanyam is now looking forward to his Carnatic classical show at the Shanmukhananda Hall, this Saturday. Violinist Akkarai Subhalakshmi, VV Raman- amurthy on mridangam and Tripunithura Radhakrishnan on ghatam will accompany him. “Mumbai has a large South Indian music-loving community that is extremely qualitative.

Institutions like Shanmukhananda, Chembur Fine Arts Society and smaller organisations have been promoting Carnatic music concerts and teaching activities in the past 80 years,” he says, adding, “This has given an opportunity for different audiences to get an exposure to South Indian Classical music, with Mumbai becoming a melting pot of South and North Indian music and culture.”

Fluting passion
Subramanyam was attracted to the flute after watching his father practise it at home. As a child prodigy, he had to work very hard. He explains, “Given the short learning time span, the focus on one thing takes a toll on other aspects of life. I would work on music more than 10 hours a day, even as a five-year-old, and therefore, my academic achievements became a casualty.”

The flautist has no regrets. He says, “Factually, if one wants to super-specialise, the only way is to begin very young and achieve as quickly as possible, to stay put for a very long time. There are many examples of this kind of career graph from around the world in many fields including art.”

Besides pure Carnatic concerts, he has also been part of Jazz events, and has performed at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Skopje Jazz Festival in Macedonia and Delemont Festival in Switzerland. He adds, “My brief association with guitar legend John McLaughlin was a part of the Grammy Award-nominated album, Floating Point.”

Music as a career
He is, however, alarmed at the decline in interest among the youth. “This can be seen in the age group of people attending live performances,” he says. For youngsters keen to learn musical instruments and to follow music professionally, he says: “The success rate for a bright professional career in Classical music is one out of 10,000.

This is because there is little focus and committed patronage from the state and central governments. Although there are many gifted talents, parents are often haunted by the scarcity of opportunities and apprehensions. Hence children are advised to take up professions that ensure a stable livelihood.”

His suggestion to talented youngsters is to take up Arts, if they have sufficient financial support to fall back on, in case of a failure in their careers. “In spite of the uncertain future faced by Arts students, if they still wish to pursue it, it will be their extreme passion that will have to play a role immaterial of the outcome,” he concludes.

On: June 13, 6.30 pm onwards
At: Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, Sion (E). 
Call: 24044141

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