Madras Heritage and Carnatic Music

Articles on Chennai, its heritage, history and culture

Sriram Venkatakrishnan

Sriram Venkatakrishnan

I was born on 22nd June 1966 in England and had my schooling in Madras and Calcutta. I completed my graduation with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the College of Engineering, Delhi in 1987. In 1989, I completed my post graduation with a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Advertising from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University. I then had a varied career in Advertising and Marketing before taking over in 1998 as Chief Operations Officer of Broadgate Technical Services (India) P Ltd., a software development firm based in Chennai with clients in UK, Singapore and the Middle East. In addition I am also involved in my family business of Industrial Hydraulics in which the firm HVK Systems is the largest distributor in India for Eaton Corporation, a Fortune 100 company. Carnatic Music has been a passion for me since the age of six when my grandmother unrolled a mat in the family puja room, made me sit on it and began teaching me the basics. This combined with a great interest in history, led me to study the art form in depth with special reference to the great personalities who embellished it. In 1999, along with Sanjay Subrahmanyan, the eminent Carnatic vocalist, I set up , a web site devoted to spreading awareness about Carnatic Music and its heritage. This site ran for six years before it closed in 2005.

During Madras Week in August and the Music Season in December, I conduct heritage walks in the city of Chennai with special focus on historic locations of the city. In 2002, along with Sanjay, I authored a quiz book on Carnatic Music, with over 300 questions and answers. From 2004 to 2010, I was Contributing Editor to Sruti, the classical music and dance magazine. Between 2006 and 2010 I was also a member of Sruti’s advisory committee. In December 2004, my book comprising the biographies of twenty major exponents of Carnatic Music, titled Carnatic Summer was released. I also took music lovers on a journey to Tanjavur during the music season of 2004. In 2005 I was invited by The Hindu to begin a monthly column titled Encore which looks back at historic events in the world of Carnatic Music. From 2006 to 2009, I wrote regularly for the Carnatic Music channel of Worldspace Radio. I have written a chapter on “Music in Madras” for the Madras Gazette which is being published in 2008 by the Association of British Scholars. Effective 1st March 2006, I joined the board of Madras Musings and was appointed its Associate Editor. My biography of Bangalore Nagarathnammal, a famed singer of yesteryears, was released on 9th December 2007. It was accompanied by a rehearsed reading titled Sruti, Smriti, Kriti put together by Prasanna Ramaswami and enacted by The Madras Players. The book received the UNFPA Laadli Award for gender sensitivity in writing.

In 2008, I co-authored along with my guru Sri V Subrahmaniam, the book Semmangudi, Life; Music, commemorating the centenary of the maestro Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. This was released on 25th July by APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, at the Music Academy. In August 2008, my fourth book, Fifty Historic Residences of Chennai, a bilingual one was published by Kalamkriya, of the Sanmar Group of Companies. My fifth book, titled Four Score and More, was on the history of the Music Academy, Madras and was co-authored with Dr Malathi Rangaswami. This was released on 11th December 2009. On 13th March 2010, when the new Tamil Nadu Assembly building was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, this book was gifted to him by the Chief Minister.

I have since written several books and am currently working on a biography of the Harikatha exponent C Saraswati Bai. I am also presently Secretary of the Music Academy, in which capacity I am the convenor of its annual conference. Since the passing of Mr S Muthiah I have taken over as Editor of Madras Musings, the fortnightly dedicated to the city’s history, heritage and culture.

You can follow me on YouTube as well, for updates on Chennai’s history and that of Carnatic Music.

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