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Nithyashree Mahadevan – Carnatic Vocalist & Playback Singer

27 January 2010 12 Comments
Nithyashree Mahadevan was here in IIM Bangalore to give a live performance at Yamini ’09. Thanks to SPICMACAY student body, I got a chance to conduct a quick interview for CWS-2! Please find a brief introduction about Nithyashree.

Brief Introduction:

Nithyashree Mahadevan is a leading carnatic music artist and a playback singer. Her paternal grandmother is a legendary musician – D K Pattammal. Her maternal grandfather is Mridangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer. Nithyashree herself, is an eminent artist who has performed in various sabhas across the world. She has over 100 commerical albums to her credit. She made her debut in playback singing with A R Rehman for the movie Jeans where she sang – “Kannodu Kanbadellam”. Her other hits include – “Ra Ra” in kannada movie Aptamitra and Soukiyama Kanne from Sangamam.

Coffee With Nithyashree Mahadevan – Carnatic Vocalist & Playback Singer
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
NM: Nithyashree Mahadevan

Me: Maam, We all know about your legendary background and how it has played an important role in your career as a singer. What in your personal opinion was the single biggest turning point in your musical career?
NM: Well, I would say there were 3 turning points, which were very crucial in my singing career. All these were equally important.
Me: Sure Maam, can you please talk about those.
NM: I started my singing in 1987. Till the early 90s I was making very slow progress. In one of those concert seasons, I didn’t even get a single concert slot to perform in Chennai. I was extremely disappointed and I was very upset about it. Finally one opportunity came. It was not an individual concert. I was a given a chance to take part in an aradhana in a not so popular place. Secretary of fine arts saw my performance there and offered me a chance to perform in a Sabha on January 1st. To my surprise, the concert was overflowing with crowd. I really enjoyed the concert and performed really well. I would say this was a really the first big break which I was waiting for.
Me: Sure Maam, needless to say you never stopped from that time you started! What is your second turning point?
NM: Yes, from then on I have been performing for so many years!
There was a very popular carnatic music critic by name N M Narayanan. He was a purist and was very strict. He used to tear apart the singers in his articles. (Kizhi Kizhintu Kizhichuduvaru)
During the early days of my career, when I was still trying to establish myself, I was told that Mr. Narayanan would be attending my concert and will be writing a review on my singing. I was very worried and tensed. After the concert, he came to me and asked my name.I was surprised with his question and told meekly “My name is Nithyashree”. He replied in a loud voice, hence forth you should say your name is “Rani Nithyashree. You are the Rani (queen) of music.” I was pleasantly surprised.
Few days later the review came in the paper and I became quite famous after that review. He had praised me a lot in that. I also have an emotional connection with that review. I got to know that it was Mr. Narayanan’s last review before he passed away.
Me: I am sure words like “Rani”, at that point of time, would have been very special for you! What is your 3rd turning point?
NM: I would say that my 3rd turning point was a more recent one. My entry into the film world through the movie “Jeans”.
Me: That was a surprise! Why is that a turning point?
NM: Singing for the movie helped me reach people whom I wouldn’t have reached otherwise. I became popular amongst a number of non-carnatic music fans.
Me: Well, What is your take on singing for movies? A number of carnatic music singers are purists and they don’t even entertain the thought of singing for movies.
NM:  I am happy about singing for movies. One thing you must understand is that it is very difficult to shift genres easily. So, I prefer to sing only a few selected ranges.
Also it is difficult to groom your career in both. In one you are a specialist, in another you are generalist. The expectations are different. So, once in a while you can switch gears, but it is difficult to maintain both the careers.
The way I see it is, I am a specialist carnatic singer who wouldn’t mind singing a few selected pieces for general audience whenever it falls in my range.
Me: How easy it is to practice for a movie song? Does it require the same effort as a carnatic song?

NM: Generally, you get the song in a couple of interaction with the director. One or two practice is enough. It is not very hard. But for a carnatic concert, you put in much more effort.
Me: Ok. Apart from carnatic & movies singing, another dimension of yours is that.. you have been giving quite a good number of performances outside India. Do you see any differences between performing here and there?
NM: Not exactly, once you go into the hall, it is exactly the same audience. They come with the same enthusiasm which can be seen here. I don’t see many differences between performing here and performing abroad.
Me: That is an interesting reply. There is one question which is lingering in a lot of us. How do you handle the pressure of expectations from people, when you come from such a legendary background?
NM: True! I wouldn’t say there are no pressures. In fact, during my early days I used to experience a lot of pressure. I was still trying to establish myself, but the expectations used to be really high.
But having said that, I have now established my own way of singing & I have my own styles now. Coming from a background like mine has a huge positive in terms of learning and recognition, but at the same time there will be expectations.
I am able to cope with it now. I understood that unless I establish myself, people won’t come and listen to me forever… just because I am a grand-daughter of legends. I have now learnt to cope with the expectations and I have moved on.
Me: That was a great reply! I have one final question. What is your advice for late beginners into singing?
NM: Well, it is better late than never. Keep the passion alive and keep practicing. Practice makes you perfect. So, you are never too late. All the best!
Me: Thank you very much for sparing your time for this interview maam! CWS is very proud to host you on its show.
NM: My pleasure. Thanks!




  • Vatsala said:

    Thanks to CWS, I get the feeling of having spoken to Nithyashree myself 🙂

    Nithyashree, Thank you for sharing this with us(CWS junta).

    And I relate to the last question the most! 😀
    Sundar, thank you for asking that question

  • VijayPravin Iyer said:

    thanks for this posting. Very nice write up

  • Vetti said:

    hey da, good one. Loved it, Glad CWS is growinGGG!

  • Ram said:

    Hey Sundar – Cool One!!

  • Nisha Subramanian said:

    I loved the last question too.Good Job Sundar!CWS is venturing into new dimensions 🙂

  • Shri said:

    Dear Sundar,

    i like quite a few of your tweets, thanks for the posts. I would like to share with you one of my blogs on carnatic music. regards, Shri

  • Anonymous said:

    nithu ma.u always rocks. i luv ur open highpitched voice.manmadhakaadu i never expect

  • Vaishanavi Kasturi said:

    Hi I liked the interview a lot.
    I would like to know the contact details of Nityasri Mahadevan mam. I would like to contact her if anyone has please mail it to my email id ie

  • Rosario Sotto said:

    Super-Duper website! I’m loving it!! Will come back again once more – taking you feeds also, Thanks.
    Hello. Great job. I did not anticipate this on a Wednesday. This is really a excellent story. Thanks!

  • Sundar Rajan G S (author) said:

    @Sotto, Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Venkat said:

    Superb… http://legendsinmusic.ucoz.com/ its Free download carnatic music and Bhajans website.

    all the vocal, Instrumental, Slogams, Bhajans, discourse we can get for free download mp3 collections. world no 1 carnatic website.

  • vijayaragavan said:

    Nithyashree Mahadevan,

    Your my favourable person , sometime i will angry for your activates…

    Mam I Love Your voice and child smile…

    I have no question to ask bcoz your perfect…