L. Subramaniam: Master of Indian Music

One of the giants of Indian classical music made his first Smithsonian appearance since 1994 for this concert, recorded on September 24, 2009. During the thirty years of his international career, L. Subramaniam has performed with jazz artists Stéphane Grapelli, Herbie Hancock, and Jean-Luc Ponty, as well as the New York Philharmonic; written film scores for Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala; earned a Grammy nomination; and received the revered title of Padma Bhushan from the president of India.


0:00–17:05, Kriti by Tyagaraja, in raga Ravichandrika
17:24–27:19, Kriti by V. Lakshminarayana, in raga Karaharapriya
28:40–1:19:12, Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi, in raga Gourimanohari


L. Subramaniam, violin
Ambi Subramaniam, violin
Mahesh Krishnamurthy, mridangam (double-headed drum)
Satish Pathakota, kanjira (small frame drum)

South Indian Classical Music

1. Kriti (variations and improvisations on a devotional song)
Composer: Tyagaraja (1767–1847)
Raga: Ravichandrika
Spoken introduction: 0:00–1:25
Alapana 1:28–4:18
Palavi—Anupalavi—Caranam 4:33–17:05

2. Kriti
Composer: V. Lakshminarayana (1911–1990)
Raga: Karaharapriya
Spoken introduction: 17:24–17:50
Alapana: 17:58–18:42
Pallavi—Anupallavi—Caranam 18:43–22:52
Percussion duet 23:00–27:19

3. Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi (improvisations on a raga and variations on a theme)
Raga: Gourimanohari (Gowrimanohari)
Ragam: 32:00–47:42
Tanam: 48:02–56:10
Pallavi: 57:44–1:19:12


L. Subramaniam, violin
Violinist L. Subramaniam is a giant in both Indian classical music and the music world at large, with an international career spanning thirty years. Between his countless concerts and more than two hundred recordings, he has performed with many great vocalists of south Indian classical music; collaborated with such jazz artists as Stéphane Grappelli, Herbie Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty, Joe Sample, and Stanley Clarke; composed works for the New York Philharmonic and the Berlin State Opera; written scores or performed on the soundtrack for such films as Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala, Little Buddha, and Cotton Mary; earned a 1981 Grammy nomination; and received the revered title of Padma Bhushan from the president of India.

Subramaniam’s parents, V. Lakshminarayana and Seethalakshmi, were both accomplished musicians in their own right. His brothers are also acclaimed musicians—violinist-composers L. Shankar and L. Vaidyanathan—with whom he has also recorded. Subramaniam took up violin lessons with his father at age five and gave his first public performance when he was six. He studied medicine at Madras Medical College and registered as a general practitioner before turning full-time to music, earning a master’s degree in music at the California Institute of the Arts. Among the many highly regarded vocalists he has accompanied in Carnatic music are Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, K. V. Narayaswamy, Dr. Pinakapani, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M. Balamuralikrishna, and M. D. Ramanathan. He has also appeared frequently with the venerable mridangam artist Palghat Mani Iyer.

Subramaniam’s composing career began with his Double Concerto for violin and flute (1983) and Spring Rhapsody, an homage to baroque music. His subsequent works were performed by the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta (Fantasy on Vedic Chants); L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (Turbulence); the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (Concert of Two Violins); and the Berlin State Opera (Global Symphony). He also performed in China with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra. His compositions have been the basis for choreographies by the San Jose Ballet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the Mariinsky Ballet.

Subramaniam released the recording Global Fusion in 1999. In 2004, his Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival, based in India, toured Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the United States (including Lincoln Center). Performing with Subramaniam at the festival were violinist Arve Tellefsen, the Oslo Camerata, and jazz legends Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Earl Klugh, and Ravi Coltrane.

In 2007, Subramaniam premiered his Freedom Symphony with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Warrenton Chorale, and Indian percussionists. He currently serves on the advisory board of composer A. R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory, in Kodambakkam, Chennai. The government of India named him Padma Shri in 1988 and Padma Bhushan in 2001. In recognition of his contribution to music, he has received honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Madras, Bangalore University, and the University of Sheffield.

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin once said, “I find nothing more inspiring than the music-making of my very great colleague Subramaniam. Each time I listen to him, I am carried away in wonderment.”

Ambi Subramaniam, violin
The young Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, known as Ambi, is following in the footsteps of his father, L. Subramaniam. Ambi first performed in public at the age of seven and has appeared on stage with his father at concerts throughout India and in Malaysia, Switzerland, and the United States. He performed with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty in 2003. The next year, at age 13, he helped represent Indian music at a musical event for hundreds of young American and Indian musicians, held concurrently at Carnegie Hall in New York and at the Sai Center in New Delhi and linked by a real-time interactive video broadcast. Ambi also has performed before the president of India, at the Menuhin Festival in Switzerland, and at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival in New York.

He has performed for spiritual leaders Mata Amritanandamayi, Sri Ganapati Sachchidananda Swamiji, and Swami Shantanand Saraswathi. Ambi appeared at an open-air millennium concert on New Year’s Eve 1999, before more than two hundred thousand people.

Ambi has performed with his father for Carnatic concerts at the Dussehra Festival at the Mysore Palace, during the centenary celebration of the Bangalore Guyana Samar, and at a special performance at the Gateway of India in 2003. He also performed for the closing ceremony for the annual Bharatiya Pravasi Divas before the president of India.

Mahesh Krishnamurthy, mridangam
Mahesh Krishnamurthy, mridangam (double-headed drum), began studying music at the age of seven under Thattha Mangalam Chandra Sekhar Menon, and later continued his studies under Shekaripuram Ramakrishnan. and Vidhwan Karaikudi Chandramouli. Mahesh has since received advanced training under Karaikudi Mani in Madras. He has accompanied such leading musicians as L. Subramaniam, Mandolin Srinivas, and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

Satish Pathakota, kanjira
Satish Pathakota, kanjira (hand-held frame drum), has performed for more than twenty-five years. He has appeared with such leading Indian classical musicians as L. Subramaniam, Nedanuri Krishnamurthy, and Tanjore Kalyanaraman, among many others. Pathakota has also performed with Global Rhythms; Grammy Award-winners Glen Velez, Carlos Santana, Horacio Hernandez, Eguie Castrillo, and Pat Metheny; percussionists Casey Scheurell and Jamal Mohamed; and the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. He has performed at festivals and universities including the Laxminarayana Festival (Bangalore), Berklee College of Music, Cornell University, Oklahoma University, Southern Methodist University, and University of Cincinnati College—Conservatory of Music.


The concert heard on this podcast was made possible, in part, by Doris Weiner and family, Marion and Ashok Deshmukh, Arun and Rama Deva, Hart and Nancy Fessenden, Ranvir and Adarsh Trehan, Ashok and Stuti Kaveeshwar, Kenneth and Joyce Robbins, and the late Margaret and George Haldeman.

Podcast materials compiled by Michael Wilpers, concert manager. Audio engineering by Andy Finch and Suraya Mohamed. Concert photographs by Neil Greentree. Related artwork from the collections compiled by Moonsil Lee and adapted for the website by Cory Grace.

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