subraThe violin, an obvious import from the West, was brought into South Indian classical music towards the end of the eighteenth century. It has been a secondary instrument, played alongside the vina or other principal instruments, but in the late twentieth century its performers have taken it to dizzying new heights. Various performers, such as T. N. Krishnan, T. Rajam, L. Vaidyanathan, L. Shankar, and L. Subramaniam have helped to earn the violin an international reputation as a South Indian solo instrument. L. Shankar, who is credited with the invention of the “double violin”, has collaborated with many Western musicians, and also with North Indian musicians, particularly the tabla maestro Zakir Hussain.

L. Subramaniam has likewise played with Yehudi Menuhin and recorded with Stephane Grappelli; he has also played with western orchestras. His “Fantasy on Vedic Chants” was given its world premiere by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, then conducted by Zubin Mehta; Turbulence was commissioned by the City of Geneva in 1987, and the following year Subramaniam composed Shantipriya for the Kirov Ballet, then touring India; again, in August 1995, his “Global Symphony” premiered at the World Music Festival, of which Subramaniam was the artistic director, at the Madison Square Garden. He has also composed music for films such as Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay, and he has over 60 recordings to his credit. Subramaniam received his musical training in childhood, as is almost always the case in India, from his father; unusually, he is also completely proficient in Western classical music, in which he has a Master’s degree. The excerpt here is from Raga Hemavati, as performed at Wyastone Leys in Britain on 7 November 1989; he is accompanied by K. Shekar on the tavil, a South Indian drum, not tuned to a particular pitch as is the more popular mridangam.