American pianist Billy Joel once said, “No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” If there is someone who has lived by the quote, it would be Lalitha Mohan.
She was a child prodigy who started singing at the age of five. Under the tutelage of her mother Rajalakshmi, she entered the world of music with a burning desire to excel in the field. Later, she received training from some of the finest musicians like Vidwan Kadalur Subramanya Iyer, the late Dr S Ramanathan and the late M L Vasanthakumari.
The musician, who was awarded the Sangitha Sevaratna Award from South Indian Social and Cultural Academy on Saturday, has taken Carnatic music to unlikely places like Las Palman, in the Canarian Islands in Spain.
It was one of the most enriching experiences for me as a singer and teacher, she says about her stint in the European Island that has one of the largest settlement of Sindhis only next to the native Spaniards. “I used to regularly hold bhajan programmes for the group there. In one of the sessions I held there, I discussed the Carnatic music trinity — Muthuswami Dikshitar, Saint Tyagaraja and Syama Sastri comparing them to the Western artistes like Mozart, Beethoven and Borge. The response was amazing. Everyone who loves music will be eager to know about any school of music; language is not a barrier,” she says, recounting a session when a Spanish woman who was visibly moved by the demo, thanked her profusely for introducing her to Carnatic music.
For those who attended the sessions at the Canarian Island, Carnatic music was a revelation, along with hindustani music, that the musician combined to present the vastness of Indian music.
Among her other music voyages in the Europe was the performance at London, where she sang for dance drama Sivakamiyin Sabadham at the Kalki centenary celebrations, in 1999, apart from composing and choreographing for dance drama Markandeyan staged at the London Tamil Centre, where many of her compositions were performed.
The long association with the European terrain of music fetched her Kaliyuga Meera, a title conferred on her at the International Geetha Conference in London and Nightingale of Spain by the Nadha Brahmam Music Magazine.
A well-acclaimed artiste, with numerous awards to her credit, Lalitha, however, is still a learner. “Music is an ocean. Even if you learn all your life there will be something that you are yet to learn,” she says, adding that she is undergoing training under Sangeetha Kala Acharya T R Subramanian.
She adds that she has always learnt and even today when she is teacher to a dozen students, she has a long way to go. “I trained in Spanish Flamenco music and Western Classical during my stay in Spain. I don’t think I will ever cease to be a student,” she says.