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Q N A with Dr L Subramaniam




"I got my first autograph from Pandit Nehru"

Unlike the instrument he plays, Dr L Subramanian performs without any strings attached. The staunchly Indian yet endearingly universal violinist had told a newspaper once that he does not plan a concert expecting the applause to reach a certain decibel level. Knowing that the violin "produces different sounds, depending on how one is feeling that day, the acoustics, the audience, the hall and the ambience", he simply lets the music take over.

And that is how this "God of Indian Violin”--who has travelled the world and who was honoured with the title “Violin Chakravarthy” (emperor of the violin) at a very young age--has performed and recorded South Indian classical music, Western classical music, both orchestral and non-orchestral, and also composed for and conducted major orchestras and collaborated with a wide range of some of the greatest musicians, from different genres of music including jazz, occidental, jugalbandis with North Indian musicians, world music and global fusion.

While his exchanges with western musicians were their own sort of wordless dialogue, the Padma Bhushan winning traditionalist tells us in an interview about his other favourite form of traditional exchange of memories: the autograph.

Do you remember the first time you sought an autograph?

I got my first autograph around 1963. I got the AIR competition first prize award and I  received it from our President. Then I met Pandit Nehru and I took his autograph. That's the first autograph I got in my autograph book. It was a thrilling moment. My father was with me. That's the time I got my first book too. I was hoping to get President Radhakrishnan's autograph too but due to security, I was able only to take the award. I have a photo with him of that moment, which I cherish. Most of the people I asked autographs for, were gracious enough to sign it.

Do you remember the first time you gave an autograph?

I signed my first autograph around mid seventies. Since I travelled and performed a lot of  concerts around the world, most of them were people who attended my concerts and waited for me backstage. Those days my LPs and later my cds were sold at some of the concert halls and music lovers waited to get my signatures on them. Even now sometimes someone brings an old LP to my concert and gets it signed by me to keep in their collection.

What are some of the strange requests that you've got from autograph collectors?

Sometimes, I have signed on violins which people have brought. Once in a way, I've had people asking me to sign on their hands or forearms. Sometimes, even on currency notes and concert hall tickets or brochures.

What do you think is the significance of an autograph?

When you see these autographs they bring back a lot of wonderful memories of that occasion and those times too. I think our future generation should also value this great tradition. Sometimes people write their blessings too. Something to treasure all our lives.


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