Violin virtuoso’s global melodies
HYDERABAD: We are all familiar with the Oscar awarded to the song Naatu Naatu from the movie RRR, and the individuals responsible for turning this song into a resounding success are certainly worth discussing.
Peri Thyagaraju, a renowned violin artist, captured the hearts of millions with his solo performance for the Oscar-winning song, bringing immense pride to the entire nation. His passion for music and tireless dedication to mastering various violin techniques make him an inspiration to many aspiring musicians. Peri Thyagaraju shares the remarkable story of his journey as a violin artist with CE.
Narrating his journey and the initiation of his violin learning, he shares, “My interest in the violin developed during my childhood. As a young boy, my grandfather took on the role of my first teacher. Observing concerts further fueled my fascination with the instrument. What stands out in this story is that, as a child, I would rhythmically tap my toes to the music on the table. Recognising my innate sense of ‘Laya,’ my grandfather discerned my potential and decided that I should pursue a career in music. Upholding our family’s tradition of preserving musical heritage, my grandfather would play various ‘jatis’ while I tapped along. This laid the foundation for my musical journey, evolving from playing with my grandfather to eventually joining my father, the revered guru Peri Srirama Murthy garu, and my grandfather, Peri Subba Rao garu. I commenced playing the violin at the age of six and began performing in live concerts at 12. It was my grandfather’s wish for me to carry on the legacy, and so I have continued on this path.”
Discussing the impact of a structured lifestyle on his musical journey, the violin artist reflects, “My upbringing was quite disciplined. Despite being a mischievous and lively child, when it came to practicing the violin, my dedication was unwavering. We adhered strictly to the timetable set by my grandfather and father; they were meticulous about it. My grandfather harboured a dream for us to play the violin alongside him, envisioning a family performance on stage. This dream materialised when I was 14 years old at Vijayanagaram. Performing live with three generations — grandfather, father, and son — was a momentous occasion. The experience was beyond words; the thrill of sharing the stage with them was a blessing. Even today, recalling that performance gives me goosebumps. It marked the beginning of my career, and since then, we have participated in over 30 concerts, a journey that started on that unforgettable day.”
Regarding the distinctions between Western Classical and Carnatic Classical music, the artist explains, “The variance lies in the style, with the primary distinction being that Carnatic Classical is steeped in devotion due to its lyrical content. Western Classical, on the other hand, emphasises harmonics. While a single person playing in classical music can create a soothing effect, Western Classical often requires a minimum of two or even a group to achieve its grandeur. The contrast is significant, and mastering both styles poses a considerable challenge.”
Reflecting on his journey in the film industry and his accomplishment of playing in over 1,000 films, he recounts, “My debut in the film industry was with the movie ‘Dhairyam’ alongside R P Patnaik in the year 2000. He was the first person who encouraged and supported me. Initially, I played in a group setting, feeling a bit tense in the film environment where everything was scripted. Adapting to the different style, following the beat, and navigating the technical aspects, which were distinct from Carnatic music, presented a challenge. Despite the shock of the differences, my desire to play in movies persisted. I’ve had the privilege of working with eminent composers like Keeravani garu, Koti garu, S A Raj Kumar garu, and many others, not only in Telugu but also in Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi. In the course of my journey, there was a hiatus until one day when Keeravani garu unexpectedly called me to play solo. The shift from group to solo was a significant leap, requiring intense practice and speed. He recorded my performance directly and was impressed, marking the beginning of my solo journey. All the film recordings I’ve been a part of since then are a result of his guidance, and I have continued to learn from him. I’ve played for movies like Baahubali, Eega, and the latest Oscar-winning film RRR, and the journey continues.”
Discussing the challenges of the film industry and solo performances, he explains, “The film industry is inherently challenging and competitive. Shifting from group performances to solo work presented its own set of challenges. During the gap year without recordings, I dedicated myself to practice, determined to prove myself at a higher level. Solo performances involve intricate beats and demand a high level of skill. Whether in recordings or live performances, the difficulty is real, and success hinges on continuous and rigorous practice.”
Talking about his first performance at Gudisambaralu, the violin artist expresses, “It was a wonderful experience, and I am grateful to Tatva Arts for providing me with the opportunity to be a part of this event. The atmosphere was truly enchanting, and I believe we should continue organising such festivals. It’s essential to provide platforms for new artists to showcase their talents and keep the artistic spirit alive.”
Offering inspiration to the younger generation and delivering a message, he emphasises, “I encourage not just the pursuit of the violin but the learning of art in general. While attending school is mandatory, we should consider art as an essential part of education and not neglect it. The younger generation possesses incredible talent, and it should not go to waste. I urge them not to squander their abilities but to embrace and cultivate them. In foreign countries, art is given precedence, but unfortunately, it doesn’t receive the same recognition in India. We, however, are comparably more talented. While job security is important, learning music is also a form of education. Knowledge knows no bounds, and by giving your best, you can reach greater heights.”
Sharing his role as a composer and his diverse compositions, he adds, “I am a composer, and I have created pieces like ‘Maha Ganpati’ in a fusion contemporary mix, incorporating my music into various genres, including rock. I am grateful to my gurus for guiding me in this journey.”
Discussing his favourites in the music industry, he reveals, “Keeravani garu is my favourite always. He is a legendary figure and one of the best. I’ve learned a great deal from him. L Shankar is also a favourite; his speed while playing was awe-inspiring. Watching L Subhramanian play during his concert at Necklace Road left me in awe, serving as a tremendous source of inspiration. Practicing for 10 hours a day is a routine inspired by these accomplished professionals. I firmly believe that even an hour of focused practice is significant.”
Regarding upcoming projects and concerts, he shares, “I have upcoming performances in the US, including various jugalbandi collaborations. Additionally, I will be in Australia and have a live performance scheduled in Raipur.”