UN reverberates to sound of Carnatic music

United Nations: The UN headquarters, which usually gets drowned in the cacophony of global issues, reverberated to the melody of Carnatic music as globally- acclaimed Indian violinist L Subramaniam enthralled the audience at a concert here.

Subramaniam, called "the Paganini of Indian classical music", along with his son Ambi gave a 90-minute performance at the UN ECOSOC chamber on behalf of the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the UN First Lady, Indian Ambassador to the world body Hardeep Singh Puri, his deputy Manjeev Singh Puri and an array of diplomats from many nations sat through the entire concert and gave a standing ovation at the end to the violin virtuoso.

This was perhaps the second time that a Carnatic musician performed in the main venue of the UN with full attendance of world leaders after late MS Subbulakshmi who gave a performance in the General Assembly in the 1960s.

Subramaniam performed two involving pieces accompanied by a group featuring V V Ramamurthy on mridangam drum, Arun Kumar on tavil, Giridhar Udupa on ghatam, Sathya Sai on the morsing and most notably 19-year-old Ambi, who was also on violin.

Subramaniam mesmerised the 500-plus international audience with the opening piece ? Vanajakshi in Kalyani raagam and the varnam played in multiple-speed, a characteristic of his unique style, in the first half. As a contrast, the second piece was in Keervani raag under "ragam, thanam and pallavi," to his own composition.

In order to showcase the uniqueness of violin in the world of Carnatic music, he has introduced multiple speeds in varnam, improvisation and five-beat cycle tradeoffs and poly rhythms to create climax and power play.

"I have played in different venues all over the world in more than 100 countries — be it for Germans, Americans, Greeks, African-Americans, Russians and so on in my career but playing at the UN was truly a memorable on," Subramaniam told PTI.

"I was playing Carnatic music to the world audience with people from different parts of the world sitting under one roof. I was honoured with the presence of Ban Ki Moon for the entire duration. Many of the audience were mesmerised though some did not understand or had heard Indian music before. I am also happy that I played for the first time with my son. I had earlier performed at the UN in 1987 with maestro Lord Yehudi Menuhin," he said.

The concert tour was sponsored by Indian Culture for Cultural Relations (ICCR) attached to the Ministry of External Affairs.

The father-son duo had earlier played to a packed 1500-seater Kennedy Centre in Washington during Maximum India festival. There were diplomats, connoisseurs of music and people from all walks of life. The team had also played in Houston to full house.