Divine Strings
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Divine Strings

Long Beach, California, United States

Long Beach, California, United States
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"Voila, it's a violin prodigy"

Eleven-year-old Aishwarya Venkataraman, a US-born California resident, is a child prodigy in music. A regular visitor to India, Venkataraman resides in Vashi when she is in Mumbai. And when she's here, we get a chance to quiz her about her violin playing, among other things.

Venkataraman began playing at the age of two-and-a-half years. She was initiated into playing the violin in the Suzuki method, its principles involve perfecting bowing techniques, learning fundamentals of the violin and rigorous practice. At that age, riyaaz was no longer than 10-15 minutes at a time. Now, however, Venkataraman rehearses for up to four hours per day. "My earliest memories," Venkataraman says, "are of being in diapers and playing the violin."

As Venkataraman steadily progressed to become one with the violin, finding a guru was the foremost thing on her parent's mind. She learnt western violin techniques from Amy Guerra. Later, violinist T.N. Trishnan helped Venkataraman in the process of perfecting the Karnatic method of playing the violin.

In the pipeline for the violinist is a performance with Musique Su Larner, in Sydney, Australia. She has performed with the group earlier as principal violinist.

As of today, Venkataraman plays the violin in three distinct techniques: the Karnatic method, the western method, and the light-hearted Blue Grass method, which is an offshoot of the western technique and can be aptly described as involving Gypsy fiddle tunes. To those clueless about Blue Grass, it is popular in areas around Tennessee, famous for being the hometown of Elvis Presley.

And to add to the desh prem angle, she adds, "Though I was born in America I consider India as a home away from home."

- Shraddha Sakhalkar
Vashi - The Times of India


"Review of Aishwarya concert in Star of Mysore"

IF YOUTH HAD AND AGE COULD

In the title read for 'youth' freshness of thought, and 'age' experience of life. I know you will exclaim, "It is an oxymoron. How can the two go together?'' But in the nature's Ali Baba cave nothing is impossible. An instance for this was provided by the pre-teenager violinist Aishwarya Venkataram (from California) at Veene Seshanna Bhavana (Dec. 29). Guru Guha Gana Sabha of Mysore had sponsored the concert. Her father, a Professor of Mathematics at California, was on mridanga and Tumkur B. Shashishankar on ghata.

As I was sublimated to celestial heights of ecstasy while listening to a thorough exposition of Pantuvarali Siva Siva Siva enarada (Tyagaraja) with neraval at aagamamula nutiyinchi followed by a beautiful festoon of kalpanaswaras and later a detailed development of Todi raga-tanamalike comprising a garland of five flowers Todi-Neelambari-Bhouli-Kapi-Mohana my mind flew back to the 1940s when at the prestigious Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Madras T.N.Krishnan (Aishwarys's future Guru), then a teenager, flanked by the giant percussionists of the time, Palghat Mani Iyer (mridanga) and Vilvadri Iyer (ghata), was striding giant steps across the Karnatak music firmament. The pallavi was in Tamil.

Brisk-paced items like Hamsadhvani Vatapi Ganapatim (Dikshitar) and Bahudari Brovabharama (Tyagaraja) were proofs for her exuberance of ideas and dexterity in techniques. The placid Saramati Mokshamugalada (Tyagaraja) and Kapi Jagadodhharana (Purandara) showed her prowess in slow motion as well. Vinod's nimble hands on mridanga sang the manodharma of his daughter. Shashishankar's ghata support was delightfully delicious.

In Aishwarya nature seems to have treasured a worthy successor to the current four violin giants ... : TNK [TN Krishnan], Lalgudi [Lalgudi G. Jayaraman], Parur [Parur MS Gopalakrishnan] and MC [M Chandrashekhar]. Watch her evolution with love and care. Aishwarya's website: www.divinestrings.com and email:

30-12-2006 G.T.Narayana Rao - G.T. Narayana Rao, music critic


"NPR Feature on Aishu"

Go to: http://www.crossingeast.org/musicfeatures.htm

Feature on Aishu is at the bottom of the page. - Crossing East Music Feature


"Review of Aishu Concert In New Bombay"

Child Prodigy Aishu

Aishwarya Venkataraman popularly known as Aishu was born into a family of rich South Indian musical tradition in Northridge, California in 1993 and grew up in a musical atmosphere. Aishu began her training in violin at the very early age of two-and-a-half. Her father, Vinod (V.R.) Venkataraman a native of Bombay, India is an acclaimed professional Mridangist and a professor of Applied Mathematics. Aishu's paternal grandmother, Smt. Vijayam Ramaswamy, was a distinguished South Indian violinist. Aishu's days are filled with eminent artists like T.N. Krishnan, Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane, Stephane Grappelli, Ella Fitzgerald, and Andre Rieu among many others.

At four, Aishu started learning the Carnatic music under the tutelage of the eminent violin maestro T. N. Krishnan, a living icon in Classical South Indian violin, widely regarded as the Yehudi Menuhin of the East. To be selected as his next protege is a rare honor for Aishu. Aishu also continues her training in Traditional Western Classical music under the able guidance of Ms. Amy Wickman and Bluegrass and Country music under the able guidance of Mr. Matt Brislawn.

Aishu's sparkling concert

Aishu began her concert with a brisk Hamsadwani. She then presented the famous kriti of Shri. Muthuswamy Dikshitar 'Vathapi Ganapathim…' very exquisitely. Next she portrayed Saint. Thyagaraja's composition in the raag Chandrajyoti (Bhagayanaye) followed by another popular kriti (Marivere) in Ananda Bhairavi. The piece de resistance of her memorable concert was her Raagam Taanam Pallavi in the raag Thodi. During the taanam, Aishu majestically glided through very appealing ragas like Neelambari, Bowli, Kapi and Mohanam with consummate control over the instrument. She reminded her guru Sangita Kalanidhi T. N .Krishnan in style, technique and melody.

She had vividly brought out the immortal kritis Raghuvamshasudha in ragam Kathanakutuhalam and concluded with a lilting Saint.Purandaradasa's Kriti Jagadhodharana in Kapi. She also amazed the audience with an English note.

The 'Jambavan' of Mirdangam Shri. Vellore Ramabhadran added further grace and charm with his feather touches. The tani avartanam duet between Vellore Ramabhadran and Vinod Venkataraman (father of Aishu) on the Kanjira was quite fascinating. In short, Aishu had unveiled her immense potential. She is all set to become our cultural ambassador in the west and bring more glory to the India and her rich music. - by Lakshman Sundar


"Comment from Presenter Faith Rivera"

Please thank Aishu & VR for sharing their amazing artistry at our Festival! I was just blown away with their unique, sound & styling! It truly was an honor to share their presence, talent & creative spirit at
our festival.

Faith Rivera,
Entertainment Coordinator
Women's Music, Arts, Dance & Word Festival
www.womensfestival.org - Women's Music, Arts, Dance & Word Festival


"Carnatic Music Kicks-off Emerging Artists Series"

By PUJA MOHINDRA
Special to India-West

LOS ANGELES — It was Sunday morning, and in the halls of Herrick Chapel at Occidental College in Glendale, 150 adults and children congregated in saris and shorts — not for a Sunday sermon or weekly worship — but for a spiritual morning of Carnatic music. The chapel’s stained-glass windows made for a fitting backdrop for the first presentation of the three-part Emerging Artists Series hosted by Music Circle, an organization dedicated to promoting the Indian classical arts. The Sept. 14 event brought together music lovers and patrons to showcase vocalist Roopa Mahadevan and violinist Aishwarya Venkataraman.

Mahadevan, accompanied by violinist Ajay Narasimha and mridangist Neyveli R. Narayanan, performed in the first half of the program. Born and raised in San Jose, Mahadevan is a student of Asha Ramesh of the San Francisco Bay Area, and has performed throughout India at most major institutions in Chennai. A graduate of Stanford University, with a bachelor’s and master’s in biology and neuroscience, Mahadevan received a Fulbright scholarship in 2006 to pursue advanced vocal music training in India under the esteemed guru, Suguna Varadachari.

The full story appears in the print edition of India-West. To subscribe, click on the Subscribe link on www.indiawest.com or email info@indiawest.com. - India West


"Classical strings of south India coming to Ocala"

15-year-old violinist brings Indian music, culture to CFCC.


By Dave Schlenker
Staff writer



Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 6:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 10:36 a.m.

It is safe to say, Aishu Venkataraman is no ordinary California teen.

The 15-year-old musician is a junior in high school and also is a junior at Berkelee College of Music, where she attends classes in the summer. She loves to swim, but because of her music, her Advanced Placement courses and her performance schedule, she does not have time to be on the school’s swim team.

Aishu (pronounced eye-shoe) is a violinist who has performed in venues from the Kennedy Center to a small CD store in Maryland. Tonight, she and her father, percussionist and mathematician Vinod Venkataraman, will perform at Ocala’s Central Florida Community College, sitting on the floor — in their culture’s tradition — and playing classical South Indian music with a hint of jazz improvisation.

“There are definitely jazz influences in my music,” Aishu said last week. The albums that influenced her the most include Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology,” Stevie Wonder’s “The Definitive Collection” and Indian singer/composer Shankar Mahadevan’s “Breathless.”

When playing concerts in the United States, she said, her goal is to perform and educate.

At noon today, the Venkataramans will present a lecture on the music of southern India that also will include photographs by CFCC professor Pat Fleming from his travels as a Fulbright Scholar to India in 2004 and 2007. That event will be held in CFCC’s Fine Arts Auditorium, and tickets are not required.

Additionally, Vinod — known as “V.R.” — will conduct a lecture for pre-calculus and trigonometry students on India’s music and its connection to “combinatorial mathematics,” noted Jennifer Fryns, instructional manager of Visual and Performing Arts at CFCC.

Those attending tonight’s concert, however, do not need to know about calculus or even how to spell trigonometry. The education Aishu seeks to convey revolves around the music and its heritage. She said one of her favorite parts about performing is answering questions after the show, particularly from children.

“There are always children of all ages who attend,” she said. She said the most common question is, “Why do the musicians sit down when they play?”

The answer, she said, dates back to the temples of India, where music is considered as much an exercise of the body as it is of the mind. Plus, she said, it puts the performers on the same level of the audience.

“Aishu is considered one of the country’s most successful musical prodigies,” Fryns noted. “Her musical training began when she was just a toddler, and she recorded her first album, ‘Divine Strings,’ when she was just 9. She has performed throughout the United States and India.”

Aishu said she usually goes to India in December, where she and her father perform.

She has been featured on HBO’s “Music in Me,” NPR’s “Crossing East” series and in Senses magazine. Her new CD, “Bliss,” with percussionist Vellore Ramabhadran, is scheduled to be released this fall.

Asked about the future, she said she plans to complete her schooling at Berkelee.

And then?

She is thinking about studying medicine, answered Aishu, whose mother is a physician. She is considering combining music and medicine in the growing field of music therapy. - Ocala.com | Star-Banner | Ocala, FL


Discography

Divine Strings - 2004. Featuring Aishu Venkataraman on violin, accompanied by Vinod Venkataraman on the Mridangam and Leonice Shinnaeman on the Ghatam.

Bliss - 2007. Featuring Aishu Venkataraman on violin, accompanied by Vellore Ramabhadran on Mridangam. To be commercially released soon.

Photos

Bio

Aishu Venkataraman, South Indian Violinist

Aishu, born Aishwarya Venkataraman in Northridge, California, grew up surrounded by music and musicians on February 25, 1993. Aishu began her training in Suzuki violin at the tender age of two-and-a-half. At age four, she started learning the Carnatic or South Indian style of music under the tutelage of the eminent violin maestro T. N. Krishnan. Widely regarded as the Yehudi Menuhin of the East, Krishnan has selected and groomed Aishu to be his next protege – an honor of the highest magnitude Currently, Aishu is continuing her study of Carnatic music under the guidance of India’s famed musicologist Shri S.R. Janakiraman who was recently awarded the Padma Shri by the Indian government,

While continuing to play South Indian Classical Music, Aishu began training at the famed Berklee College of Music with an emphasis on jazz performance, earning a full scholarship. She carries the unique distinction of being the youngest student to receive a Bachelors of Arts from this esteemed institution. Aishu is currently pursuing her second Bachelors degree at Stanford University in Stanford, California.

Aishu's tonal quality, spectral purity and strong bowing technique are the hallmarks of her performance style. Her proficiency in Jazz as well as Carnatic Music distinguishes her style. Her average day begins at 5 AM and includes 5 to 6 hours of practice and a whole day at school. She maintains a rigorous concert schedule, takes a full load of courses at Stanford University and is an exceptionally talented swimmer.

According to the Star of Mysore, "In Aishwarya nature seems to have treasured a worthy successor to the current four violin giants: TN Krishnan, Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Parur MS Gopalakrishnan and M Chandrashekhar. Watch her evolution with love and care." Additional highlights in Aishu’s career include performances the Historic Hoover Theater in San Jose, and the Women's Music, Art, Dance, and Word Festival. Aishu was also the featured artist during halftime of the Nets/Knicks basketball game at the prestigious Continental Airlines arena. She has also been featured on NPR's "Crossing East" series, and will be highlighted in HBO's The Music in Me, Senses Magazine, and was the featured artist on Entertainment Studios’ documentary, The Young Icon.

Aishu's debut CD, "Divine Strings" was recorded at the tender age of 9. Her most recent album is "Bliss," recorded with percussion legend Vellore Ramabhadran. Currently, Aishu is working on her first crossover album, which integrates both Jazz and Carnatic music.

Follow Aishu's musical journey on the web at www.divinestrings.com.