Quirks & Queries: Violinist Padma Shankar

Tell us how you first decided to pick the violin as an instrument   

I was a very little girl when I started learning music. Too little to make a choice or decision. My mother, my first guru, Smt. Lakshmi Narayanan is an amazing vocalist and Vainika (Veena player). She unfortunately could not pursue her musical dreams for various reasons. So she always desired that her children take up music seriously. As a little girl my mother saw that I had the ability to decode into swaras any song she sang. This is a very important pre requisite for instrumental music. Since I has this natural ability, she thought violin would be best suited. Violin is an instrument is like Sarva vyaapi. It is an indispensable part of Indian classical music. It is there in dance music, film music and adapts beautifully into Amy fusion ensemble also. So I can’t say I chose, but the violin was chosen for me

Who has been your major influence in shaping up your musical journey?

Undoubtedly my gurus.  My mother in the beginning.  Then, I did my basic training under (late) Sri. Ramakrishna Sarma of Mumbai. After this I was extremely fortunate to have found a guru, guide, mentor all in my guru, the violin maestro Padma Bhushan Sri Lalgudi G Jayaraman.

Three artists you look up to and why?

This is a tough one. Surely, the number is much greater than 3. Each one of the artistes I have played with has influenced me in some way. I have learnt with each experience and still continue to do so. Lalgudi sir, himself was an epitome of perfection, grace and innovation. He always only gave his best and encouraged his students to do so too

If you could collaborate with an artist for your music, who would it be and why?

I have been fortunate to have collaborated with the best as well as The Who’s who in classical music. Am always looking forward to new collaborations.

How do you think the music scene has evolved or changed from the time you started?

Music is a creative art and change is definitely going to keep on happening. If it doesn’t it gets stagnant. Music has refined and changed with the times. Now artists not only pay attention to the content of music but the presentation also in terms of how well the acoustics are and so forth

What makes your music unique and stand out?

Without sounding pompous or condescending, I think it’s me who makes my music unique. My learning, understanding, practice and then presentation and of course life’s experiences all together add a special flavouring that is me and me only.

A piece of music you wish was written for violin but wasn’t 

In Indian classical music, none of the traditional pieces of music were written especially for an instrument or for that matter even for a performance. They were not composed with the intention of being a concert piece. Hence it is always vocal based. Now we have some contemporary pieces composed as instrument specific.

Tell us your proudest moment in your journey 

When I played a violin solo in front of my guru and he sat for the whole performance. Unforgettable and truly blessed,