Kala Ramnath has had a busy year, as have several other Indian classical musicians. But she hasn’t merely been notching up frequent flier miles. The acclaimed Hindustani classical violinist has spent the last 12 months plucking at the heart-strings of audiences in India and abroad. She earned huzzas and claps as the opening act at the Gunidas Sangeet Sammelan, one of the most prestigious music events in the country, in December. She previously featured in a Seasons of India concert at the Royal Conservatoire at the Hague, the Netherlands, in November.
That’s hardly the whole story. “Personally for me, 2012 has been a satisfying year,” Ramnath, 45, says. “In June, the London Symphony wrote a composition in my honour, which I consider to be a big compliment. I also figured in the third edition of Rough Guide to World Music, which has carried a 1,000-word essay on me and my violin.” Ramnath was also invited in August to the US to conduct a workshop for fiddlers at Shasta Mountains, California. “Darol Anger, the renowned fiddle virtuoso, as well as Grammy award winning fiddlers Tim and Mollie O’Brien attended this workshop,” Ramnath says.
She will spend the last day of the year in Kolkata, performing with the Chicago Quartet, Civitas Ensemble, who play string instruments. Next year, Ramnath will perform at the Uttarpara festival in Bengal in February and the Jitendra Abhisheki Memorial Festival in Pune in March.
Ramnath is the only violinist to have been given the Rashtriya Kumar Gandharva Sanman, an award instituted by the Madhya Pradesh government. She has a charming stage presence, apart from tremendous control over speed and movement. Ramnath hails from a family of violinists on both sides of the Indian classical music divide: Her uncle is Carnatic giant T.N. Krishnan, while her aunt is Hindustani stalwart N. Rajam. “Most of my cousins played Carnatic music on the violin,” she recalls. “My grandfather thought that my playing Hindustani music would eliminate rivalry, which is why I began learning Hindustani music.”
Apart from being groomed by Rajam, Ramnath also learnt a lot by accompanying Mewati gharana maestro Pandit Jasraj. Her style has been described as “vocal music”—it is akin to khayal singing. “All instruments like the sitar, sarod and flute can play the gayaki ang (vocal style), but only a bowed instrument like the violin can emulate vocal music in totality,” she says.