THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When he is not singing, G Abhilash is the quintessential fifteen-year-old. Jubilant that the interview was postponed to Sunday evening from the balmy afternoon of a Saturday, he tried his best to sound as energetic as a sleepy kid can afford. When we did find time for a chat, his endearing way of answering every query with the earnestness of taking an exam at school came as a surprise.
For, the ease with which he traversed the nuances of ragas Poorvi Kalyani, Saveri, Dwijavanthi and Dhanasree at the Swathi Sangeethotsavam 2012 had been evocative of the serene cadences of a master musician’s cruise on the high seas of melody.
Yet, here was a sprightly teenager, still starry-eyed and excited about his stellar debut in the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. The Chennai boy was invited to hold a vocal concert on the final day of the Swathi Sangeethotsavam held in January, the annual festival of Carnatic music in honour of the musician prince of Travancore, Swathi Thirunal. “It was really a dream debut for me in Kerala. The ambiance at Kuthiramalika was so graceful and the eclectic crowd of music lovers was also very encouraging. The accompanying artists were seasoned performers and I felt lucky to be singing in their company,” says Abhilash, his expressive voice passing on the euphoria. “The prince (Prince Rama Varma, descendant of Swathi Thirunal and the organiser of the festival) was so unlike what I imagined royalty to be. He was very supportive and we were taken care of from the time of our from arrival to departure,” he adds.
The little master had cast his spell over the audience with his soulful rendering of Swathi kritis Devadeva Kalayamite (Mayamalavagowla), Deva deva (Poorvi Kalyani), Anjaneya (Saveri) and Tillana in Dhanasree. Owing to the stipulation that only Swathi kritis are to be rendered at the festival, Abhilash had undertaken a rigorous training to learn some of the choicest compositions.
“It was a great learning experience for me and I was glad I came across so many beautiful compositions which I may not have learned otherwise,” says Abhilash who has been taking lessons in music since he was five years old. One of my favourite Swathi kritis is ‘Bhaja Bhaja Manasa’ in Sindhu Bhairavi,” he says.
Prince Rama Varma had spotted the wonder kid at a concert in Chennai last year. He was then already a familiar face at music festivals and concerts in Chennai city and had won the Pogo Amazing Kid award in 2008. Little dazed by the laurels, Abhilash would rather call his music a journey of revelation than an amazing occurrence of chance. “I was just enrolled for a regular music class like most children will be and my parents Giri Prasad and Sreelatha were both ardent music lovers. It was only after my first concert at a temple near my home in Pozhichallur as a nine-year-old that I began taking music seriously,” he confesses. Abhilash has since trained under vocalists A S Murali and P S Narayana Swamy and Srimushnam Raja Rao.
The meticulous learner travels for one-and-half hours to and fro on all weekdays for his music lessons at T-Nagar. “I start after school hours and reach home at about 9.30 in the night. And I also have to forgo classes and examinations quite often to for my concerts. But the school and my teachers have been very helpful. They even schedule separate examinations for my convenience,” he says. And no wonder people are willing to help him. Abhilash has always stood first in his class despite the packed schedule he has chosen to juggle.
A plus one student of VELS Vidyashram, Pallavaram, Abhilash has philately for hobby. He also collects coins during his trips to other countries for music concerts. I have coins from Malaysia, Singapore and have also collected old Indian coins from various places,” he says enthusiastically.
Abhilash has a 11-year old sister Abinaya who learns Violin and Carnatic vocal. “I help her with the practise and give tips when she does concerts. We are yet to perform together,” he says with a smile.