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Winning over the Alien

ishwarya Shankar was only two-and-a-half-years old when her rendition of ‘Himagiri Thanaye’ caught her father’s attention. A veena student himself, he took her to Indira Ranganathan, an association that laid a strong vocal foundation in the next fourteen years.

“I was equally interested in academics. But after completing school, I decided to pursue music,” says Aishwarya. Exposed to the stage through Kolkata’s Tyagaraja utsavams and a small church concert in London, Chennai’s sabha culture was alien to her. She entered the Sangeetha Sri music competition organised by Tiruchi’s R.R. Sabha and emerged winner. At this stage, her teacher decided that she could go in for advanced training under Suguna Varadachari.

A boon

Concurrently receiving admission to the Bachelor of Music course at Queen Mary’s proved a boon. But the winning spree continued with Aishwarya sweeping the competitions at the Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha and the Mylapore Fine Arts Club. She thanks Guru Suguna Varadachari for all the success.

“Learning from her has been a blessing,” says Aishwarya. It taught her the value of self-worth, discipline and intense practice. She felt rewarded when the veteran gave her the opportunity to accompany her at the Music Academy concert in 2010. With this performance Aishwarya made her Margazhi debut.

“Although it wasn’t my solo debut, it was the perfect way to enter the December Season.” There has been no looking back since.

Presenting her first solo Season’s concert at Ragasudha Hall in 2011, Aishwarya continued to grow both as a performing and academic musician.

Competitions continued to challenge her. She composed, presented, and won Carnatica’s first Pallavi Darbar competition held last year. Aishwarya is pursuing a doctorate in music at Queen Mary’s College.

According to Aishwarya, the potential of the art form is limitless, both for those who have studied it for years and for those who have just got started.

“As students, we have to learn as well as contribute in whatever way possible. Personally, I feel that the best way to contribute is to offer a platform to youngsters — people like me who came to Chennai with music as the only aim,” says Aishwarya.

As a part of the Indira Ranganathan Trust, she takes on the role of an organiser as well — arranging concerts for the Trust’s music series, Sunaadalahiri. For Aishwarya, it is a salutation to the teacher who initiated her into the art, groomed her and showed her the path ahead.


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