India’s violin icon Dr. L. Subramaniam, “The Paganini of Indian Classical music,” “The God of Indian Violin,” is the serenity of an Indian musician combined with the magnetism of a western star. Constantly propelled from Singapore to Paris, from Delhi to Los Angeles, he has conquered every audience with the elegance and virtuosity of his style. His career as a childhood prodigy brought him into contact with the greatest musicians and he soon imposed himself as a master of the violin. At a very young age, he was honoured with the title Violin Chakravarti. No other musician can boast of such diverse repertoire and collaborations or such mind-boggling techniques. To date, Dr. Subramaniam has produced, performed, collaborated and conducted around two hundred recordings.
Dr. L. Subramaniam is the only musician who has performed/recorded Carnatic Classical Music, Western Classical Music, both Orchestral and non-Orchestral, and composed for and conducted major Orchestras, scored for films and ballets, collaborated with a wide range of some of the greatest musicians, from different genres of music including jazz, occidental, jugalbandhis with North Indian musicians, world music and global fusion. He has established himself as a force that is strongly Indian but universal in nature and approach.
His insatiable musical curiosity made him master different techniques of various genres and explore new avenues (he was a musical advisor to Peter Brook about the sound concepts for his “Mahabharata”). He has composed music for a select few films, including Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala and was the featured soloist for Bernardo Bertolucci’s Little Buddha and for Cotton Mary of Merchant–Ivory Productions. This total receptivity towards the world, this polymorphous talent, this technical mastery however find their truest experience in the service of Carnatic music, the tradition he has inherited from his father and guru, Professor V. Lakshminarayana. Dr. Subramaniam’s parents Prof V. Lakshminaryana and V. Seethalakshmi were the driving force behind him and the reason he chose a life in music.
Passionate about music, Subramaniam was also dedicated to science. He passed his M.B.B.S at Madras Medical College and registered as a General Practitioner. Subsequently he did his Master’s Degree in Western Classical Music in California and received a PhD. for his thesis on Raga Harmony from Jain University, Bangalore.
Dr. Subramaniam has constantly experimented with new concepts and different ideas because of his stable foundation in Carnatic Classical Music, Western Classical Music, Orchestration, and Rhythm. He is the creator of the Global Music concept.
Attracted by his unusual musical phrasing, several western musicians wanted to play with him. He willingly lent himself to these exchanges, though it was for him a no-man’s land, which allowed him to explore the field of improvisation. In this atmosphere of live exchanges, the musical differences and similarities became obvious to him and from then on they organised themselves brilliantly.
Since 1973, Dr. Subramaniam has made historic collaborations and recordings with people like Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Pierre Rampal,
Steven Seagal, Ruggiero Ricci, Arve Tellefsen, Herbie Hancock, Joe Sample, Stanley Clarke, George Duke, Al Jarreau, Jean Luc Ponty, Earl Klugh, Larry Coryell, Corky Siegel, Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, John Surman,Maynard Ferguson and Ravi Coltrane.
Today, he is the founder/director of the Lakshminarayana Global Music Festival, the biggest global music festival in India, in which this spirit of encounter, which he has always enjoyed, is strongly expressed. The Festival has brought some of the greatest artists from around the globe together on one stage. It is held annually, primarily in India, but has also been held in different parts of the world. He is also the founder/director of the Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts, a premier institute for musical education and the Lakshminarayana Global Centre of Excellence that offers undergraduate degrees in music.
He is not only the most outstanding Indian Classical Violinist but is also an exceptional composer who has established himself as the foremost Indian composer in the realm of orchestral composition. In 1983, he wrote a cross-over orchestral work titled Double Concerto for Violin and Flutecombining western scales and micro-intervals. Spring Rhapsody is a homage to Bach and Baroque music. Over the years he has written and created works for the world’s greatest orchestras – New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta (Fantasy on Vedic Chants), Swiss Romande Orchestra (Turbulence), Kirov Ballet (Shanti Priya), Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra (Concerto for Two Violins), and Berlin Opera (Global Symphony), the live concert of which was broadcast simultaneously over 28 nations for millions of people. Astral Symphony, Freedom Symphony, and Bharat Symphony, are some of his other orchestral works. His compositions have also been used in various stage presentations by leading ballet companies, including the Cleveland San Jose Ballet Company and the Alvin Ailey Company.
To increase understanding of the concepts of South Indian Classical Music, he has released a four-CD set, called An Anthology of South Indian Musicand written an authoritative book Classical Music of India, which was co-authored with his late wife Viji Subramaniam.
He has received several awards and honours, including the coveted Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for “The Most Creative Artist” from the President of India. In recognition of his contribution to the World of Music, he has been conferred with Honorary Doctorates (D.Lit) by Bangalore University, University of Madras and Sheffield University.
His album titled ‘Global Fusion’ was a critically acclaimed milestone and features artists from five continents including one of the most popular and successful singers in the film industry, Kavita Krishnamurti (whom Dr. L Subramaniam married in November 1999), and his daughter Bindu Subramaniam.
This living legend's concerts are truly marvelous landmarks, which are a real inspiration to the audience. The album Conversations and his orchestral composition Fantasy on Vedic Chants have become milestones and serves as a reference and guide for any composer exploring the concept of fusion. One can hardly believe that such technique and emotive playing can exist at all.