Could you introduce yourself and let us know more about your role in the performance?
Hi, I am Srividhya Sairam and I have been a performing Carnartic vocalist since 2011. I started learning Carnatic music at the age of 8 under Sri Kovai Padmanabhan (in New Delhi, India) and my first public performance was at the age of 13 at the Delhi Tamil Sangam. I am an alumni of Kalakshetra Foundation, where I took advanced training from Smt. T.M.Prabhavathi, senior disciple of Padmabhushan Dr.M.L.Vasanthakumari. In 2011, they conferred upon me 'The Best Performing Student Award’.
I am a graded artist of All India Radio and have performed for major Carnatic organizations like Music Academy Madras, Shanmukhananda & IIC. On the academic side, I am a mathematics graduate from the University of Madras (Bachelors'), Pittsburg State University (MS) and am currently pursuing my PhD in Mathematics Education at SFU, focusing on the psychological and pedagogical aspects of mathematical creativity, whilst correlating it with musical creativity.
In this performance, I particularly bring in the flavour of Carnatic music to the musical experience. I was the only lady vocalist in the team and in my opinion, the blending of the male and female voice added a lot of value and a variety of musical moods to the entire performance. I also had many opportunities to suggest and modify the music that was emerging, as well as compose a few musical scores for the performance, especially the Alarippu.
What inspired you during the creation of Parāśakti?
As I mentioned above, I believe I brought in the Carnatic flavor to the table and it definitely helped in giving a nice musical texture to the whole performance along with other artists. As some of the chosen pieces like the Tillana were inherently Carnatic, I think I was able to bring in that particular aspect of singing which was associated with the piece. Also, I set to tune the Alarippu in Chapter 1. Before this collaboration, I had only known Alarippu as a rhythmic piece, but based on my discussion with the team, I was able to conceive it as a musical piece, while also bringing in some creative aspects of Carnatic music like raga alapana and kalpanaswarams. I think this was a helpful creative outlet for myself as well as the dancer to experiment our artistic outcomes in a much enthusiastic way.
Also, because I had to work alongside a male vocalist in this project, I had to sing in different pitches for different pieces so that there would be a balance with our voice ranges. This was fun experimentation for me as I could let myself free to try out my voice in different pitches and understand my own tonality throughout the project. I have always sung pitches like G-sharp or A for my solo performances and in this one I have sung in a variety of pitches like C, G & F-sharp. I felt I was able to express myself in multiple ways with my voice to suit the mood of the dance. In short, I didn’t feel limited with my voice range while working on this project.
How did you balance the Hindustani and Carnatic elements?
I think the Carnatic and the Hindustani pieces were nicely mapped out with minimal overlaps. For example, while the 2nd chapter did not have much Carnatic in it, the Alarippu (1st chapter) and the Tillana (3rd chapter) started after mini pauses, even if preceded by Hindustani ragas. And so, the flow from Carnatic to Hindustani or the other way was not very sudden or dramatic. All the pieces were well connected and they beautifully flowed from one onto the other. Overall I found it to be a nice mix of Carnatic and Hindustani styles and I think all the musicians in the team strived to get that perfect balance.
How did you feel when you were rehearsing and performing at the Chan?
I really had a wonderful experience rehearsing and performing at the Chan Centre. Starting from the initial welcome on day one, everything was arranged so well for all the artists. All the staff were very friendly and the audio technicians who helped us with the sound check were really helpful and knowledgeable. They made sure that we all were comfortable with our voices and were patiently willing to help us get the right mix. The acoustics at Chan was great and personally it was a learning curve for me to understand more about audio nuances, working with in-ear monitors and much more. It was totally a pleasure to rehearse and perform at Chan.
What was it like creating something during this pandemic?
It has been such a challenging time for all of us and performing arts has been one of the fields which really had a hard hit during the pandemic. It felt so good to collaborate in person with other artists after a long time and it was very hopeful to feel the togetherness in music again. Although singing with masks on was a little disturbing at times, it was nevertheless a wonderful experience to be in person with other artists while the music was emerging.
Thanks to Chan and other sponsoring members for this opportunity during this difficult time. This will definitely be a memorable performance for many reasons and creating it in the midst of the pandemic would definitely serve as a future inspiration to me for feeling hopeful that good times are never far.
Watch Srividhya perform in Parāśakti: The Flame Within, streaming on March 19th.