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It’s a family affair as Indian violin maestro Dr L. Subramaniam performs in New York City with three generations by his side
The last time I saw Dr L. Subramaniam perform was last year at the Swan Festival of Lights, the biggest Diwali celebration in Perth. It was (and remains) a free event on the banks of the Swan that is organised by Annalakshmi Culural Centre and the Temple of Fine Arts. It was a fantastic performance and Subramaniam kept the audience enthralled with his soulful and powerful melodies.
I wasn’t going to miss a chance to watch him perform again and on 31 August I was fortunate enough to be in New York where I got to watch him in action (again performing at a free concert) at the Baruch Performing Arts Centre in Manhattan.
In New York, he was honouring the music of Sri Chinmoy in a tribute concert and was performing with his talented family, including his four-year-old granddaughter Mahati. Dr L. Subramaniam met Sri Chinmoy many times, for the last time 13 August 2006, an event his wife, Kavita Krishnamurti described as “one of the most memorable moments of my life”. Sri Chinmoy said of Dr L. Subramaniam at that meeting, “You are the divine bird flying in the sky of peace, light and bliss.”
At that time, Subramaniam’s young son, Ambi, was just beginning his career and was in New York for one of his first overseas performances. Starting violin at the age of three, he has certainly inherited his father’s talent. Back in 2006, Sri Chinmoy then hinted that Ambi may surpass his father and at the 2015 concert his maturity was obvious. The Times of India has already described him as “the new king of Indian classical violin”.
Legacy and family played an important part in Dr Subramaniam’s own growth as a musician. He began training in violin under the tutelage of his father Professor V. Lakshminarayana. His uncles and his brothers are also acclaimed musicians and he has released recordings with both. His wife Kavita Krishnamurti Subramaniam’s voice is also famous in India. Her strong grounding in Indian classical music and the unique soulful timbre of her voice has led to songs for several Indian films. She discovered her love of singing at an early age. When she was only nine, she got an opportunity to record a Tagore song in Bengali with the legendary Lata Mangeshkar under the auspices of the music composer Hemant Kumar.
Their daughter has followed her in her mother’s footsteps. Bindu Subramaniam’s voice has been described as haunting and hypnotic. Having been dubbed a ‘third-generation prodigy’ and ‘an assured young soprano’ by the press, Bindu wrote her first song at seven and has been performing since age twelve.
But it is Dr L. Subramaniam who leads the family to their musical heights. As India’s foremost violinist, Subramaniam has amassed over 200 recordings since 1973, including several historic solo albums, recording collaborations with Stéphane Grappelli and George Harrison. In 2012, he performed with Stevie Wonder at the latter’s Message of Peace concert at the United Nations. The great Yehudi Mehuhin, with whom he also collaborated with said, “I find nothing more inspiring than the music making of my very great colleague Subramaniam. Each time I listen to him, I am carried away in wonderment.”
Dr Subramaniam is well-qualified and educated in a number of fields. He has a Master’s degree in Western classical music and is even registered as a General Practitioner, but music is his real passion.
Raised in the Carnatic South Indian Classical tradition, Subramaniam is famous across the globe for the diversity of his contribution to the world of music. He is a maestro in the western classical, jazz and North Indian styles.
“Music is a vast ocean and no one can claim to know it all,” he once said. “The more you know, the more you realise how little you know. It is an eternal quest.”
The concert was sensational. For me the highlights were the duets. The devotional songs between mother and daughter, Kavita and Bindu, sent the audience into heaven. The violin duet with father and son at the helm had everyone entranced and received a standing ovation at the conclusion. The Subramaniam family is amazing and are as humble and sincere as they are talented. I hope they all come to Perth sometime soon.