NRI Pulse


Flutist Shashank Subramanyam: From child prodigy to maestro

Photos by Suresh Byagathvalli 

Atlanta, GA, September 6, 2018: “Music is perhaps my best-spoken languages. It has been my life, an extension of my body and soul,” says Grammy nominated exponent of the Bamboo flute, child prodigy turned maestro Shashank Subramanyam. Foraying into the music world at the age of six in 1984, Subramanyam has never looked back, having performed in the top concert circuit for over three decades. In Atlanta as part of book release tour of The Heartfulness Way, Subramanyam shared his views and experiences along his musical journey and his association with Heartfulness in an exclusive interview with NRI Pulse.

A popular name among Carnatic music aficionados, Subramanyam’s zest for music began early. He was the youngest musician to have been invited by The Music Academy, Chennai to perform at its senior most slot, at the age of 12.

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“I was introduced to music by age one by my father and Guru. I began learning vocal music at age three and by the age of six, started playing the flute in concerts, and by age 11, I was in the professional circuit,” reminisces Subramanyam.

A fine testament to his dedication to music are the many awards and records he stakes claim to, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award by the Government of India for the year 2017,  a Grammy Nomination for the album Floating Point with John McLaughlin in 2009, the ’Kalaimamani’ state award / title from the Tamil Nadu Government in  2001, performance in the senior most performance slot “SADAS concert” at The Music Academy, Chennai in 1991, a record yet to be broken, an A” Grade ranking in All India Radio and Doordashan (TV) at age 13, just to name a few.

Shashank’s signature technique of multi-flute transposed fingering to merge flutes of different frequencies to the tonic note, producing a deep bass to the shrill sounds elevated flute to another level in the Indian music circuit and garnered accolades across the globe.

So, how did the maestro master his art? “These techniques are quite incidental. They came from different challenges that I faced in producing the music, in reproducing the musical knowledge I had acquired from Palaghat K.V.Narayanaswami, R.K. Srikantan and Pandit Jasraj ji. Translating this knowledge on to my instrument is the main reason these techniques came into picture. Also, since I had the wonderful opportunity to interact with so many different kinds of musicians, music, situations, concerts led me to develop this unique technique. Sometimes it was not even intentional,” he explains.

Most the techniques Shashank has created have helped in translating the human voice, music and bringing different effects that are otherwise very hard to produce on the flute.

Shashank Subramanyam with Pandit Jasraj.

‘It was a pleasant accident,” he says, about his introduction to Heartfulness. Seeing Chari ji surrounded by many followers including some Frenchman aroused Shashank’s curiosity and he inquired with the follower. The follower had incidentally purchased one of Shashank’s CD’s earlier in the day and Chari Ji being a huge fan of the flute led to the heartful association. “It’s truly been an honor to perform for Chari ji, Daaji and fellow followers around the world,” he says.

“Artists must pursue art at a very intense level,” notes Shashank from his observation of talented youngsters losing interest in practicing the art to the highest level, distracted by popularity.

“If someone asks them what their contribution is, they should be able to list it,” he adds.

“Strive for the best. Put in diligent hours learning how to get better. Pay attention to what you need to get better at and how to do it scientifically,” is Shashank’s advice to aspiring artists.

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