CHENNAI: As she ricochets her bow onto the strings of her violin, the sound of magical chords are sure to make heads turn. Using her violin as a canvas to spread music, Jyotsna Srikanth is today Europe’s foremost Indian violinist. She comes from a traditional family of musicians in Bengaluru; her mother Rathna is a classical vocalist and her grandmother was a veena player. Jyotsna performed at IndiEarth XChange 2017 on Friday, and she talked to CE talks about her passions, performances and future projects. Excerpts follow.
You were just nine when you gave your first solo concert. Tell us about your training?
I was made to listen to many Indian music concerts since my childhood. During summer, we had Rama Navami music festival and my mother made sure I attended at least 25 concerts. Even during school, I had to practice two hours every day, and attend concerts during weekends. My mother made me memorise compositions!
You shifted from Carnatic to Western classical. How challenging was this shift?
The challenges were plenty. In Western, we stand and perform, and getting this balance was tricky for a Carnatic violinist. Tuning is different too. Carnatic violinists are used to tuning the strings to fit with the tone and use dominant notes as open strings. But in western violin, it is tuned to EADG. But later, I got so used to it that I could play a varnam in different pitches on a single violin tuned to EADG, without retuning it. To interpret the western notes as Indian notes took me 10 years!
You have worked along with musicians and music directors like Hamsalekha, Ilayaraaja, Simon Thacker, Eduardo Niebla, etc. What did you learn from them?
Indian film music is pre-composed and I needed to play exactly what the music director wanted me to. Playing with a jazz musician like Eduardo was different as they play to complex time signatures like 13, 17 and 19. My recent challenge was to collaborate with the Bollywood Brass Band, a 12-member band in the UK, where I had to match one violin to 12 brass instruments.
While collaborating, what’s the most important thing?
My collaborations aren’t just jam sessions like most Indian musicians do. Here I improvise, they improvise and then we both end with a tihayi/mukthayi. I read western music notes, I get into their music. For example, to perform with Nordic Raga, my collaboration with the Swedish Folk musicians, I had to read their notes, and learn Nordic style of bowing. It definitely adds to the quality.
What is your take on the music of today — considering the evolving genres, lyrics, etc?
I think cross cultural/genre collaborations will be the future. Pure forms of music will always survive and there is a niche audience for that but collaborations brings cultures, musicians and music together. Also, contemporary style of presentation of the pure forms of music definitely wins as it reaches more music lovers.
You were a practicing pathologist till 2008? Why did you quit?
I couldn’t have legs in two different boats. I had to omit one of my three passions — music, medicine and family. So I decided to quit medicine, but I did practice for 10 years and was a consultant when I decided to take up music as my profession.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
Next year, I am collaborating with a Romanian gypsy band called ‘She Koyokh’ and also with ‘Ranagri,’ a contemporary English folk band. Next June at the Songlines Encounters Festival at the King’s Place, London, I am excited to present the UK premiere of my violin concerto Raga Seasons with the Ligeti String Quartet: six movements depicting the six seasons of the Hindu calendar.
The sixth edition of the IndiEarth XChange is being conducted till Nov 26 at The Park. For details, call: 42676000