Dr. L Subramaniam & Son

A sweet excursion into the meanders of Indian ragas.

A one-time only concert by the music director of Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala, was given in Montreal, the only city in Canada of their North American tour, on September 28, 2013. The concert was given at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, on the Concordia University Loyola campus, with the added bonus of complementary samosas and chai tea at the intermission, offered graciously by the promoter.

Cited as “The Concert of the Year”, the event consisted of two sets including one raga in each which illustrated the virtuosity of Subramaniam and that of his 22 year old son, Ambi, a prodigy in his own right, both on violin. Father and son were accompanied by musicians on tabla drums and on the sitar playing the role of the drone, the constant transe inducing background tonality in Indian music.

Dr. Subramaniam, the “Paganini of Indian Classical music”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, surprised the audience at one point with a riff in a Western classical style reminiscent of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, recognizable because of the notes in major scales, then seamlessly gliding back into the full, half and quarter tones and minor chords of the raga. Ambi Subramaniam possesses his own style, using a 5-string violin that enhances the depth of his ability and difference with his father.

The elder Subramaniam, center in yellow, and the son, Ambi, in blue.

The two reached the end of each set with a climatic duel in which the father would do a riff that the son would repeat to perfection, but with enough prowess to add his own flair to the flight of notes, ending perfectly on the beat in effortless synchronicity. A beat that would change from 5 to 7, to 12 to 14 notes a beat, as explained at the top of each set by the teacher, improvised within the tonic guidelines of the particular raga.

In fact, the intricate texture providing the rhythmic base, with the constancy of the drone vibrating to 4 notes repeated in loops in the background, creates a captivating effect for the audience. Add to that the fact that no concert will be the same, because ragas are improvisations on a theme, and you have a unique, mesmerizing experience.

Grateful acknowledgements at the end of the concert.

This is a good example of the father-son duo in concert.