Venkatesh and Sankari are the second couple Parivadini is featuring in Navaratri 2021, Nava Shakthi series. These concerts are supported by Srivathsam and inmathi.com.
Vidushi Sankari was born in Thirukazhukundram in Kancheepuram. She learned the basics of Nagaswaram playing from her father Vid. P Vedagiri who had learned to play the same instrument from Vid. Ethirajan of Tirupulivanam — the springboard of hundreds of Nagaswaram artistes. Vedagiri felt his daughter should also learn Nagaswaram at Tirupulivanam and arranged for his daughter to take music lessons from Ethirajan’s son, Vid. Uthirakumaran. Sankari learned music from Muthukrishnan who taught at the Goverment Music Schoolin Chengalpattu.
Vidwan Venkatesh learned the basics of Nagaswaram from Vidwan Shanmugasundaram of Pettavaythalai through the Gurukula mode of learning. Venkatesh continued his training with Vidwan Reddiyur Sivavadivel at the Government Music school in Trichy. After gaining his diploma he further honed his skills under Vidwan Bharithadasan and Vidwan Vijaya Karthikeyan at the Annamalai University.
Venkatesh-Sankari have been performing as a couple for over seven years now. “We met through music. We had gone to Thiruvaiyaru Thyagaraja Aradhana with our respective troupes. Our acquaintance grew into love and culminated in marriage. At first, it was difficult to sync when we played together. We practised together for nearly a year to synchronize. We started playing together at weddings and festivals of small temples. Opportunities grew and we started playing at bigger venues. One of our first such duet concerts was at the Punnainallur Mariamman temple festival where we played in front of stalwarts,” says Venkatesh.
Sankari talks about the challenges that women nagaswaram artistes face. She says that the focus is often more on what women wear when they come for concerts than what they play. Only a few listen with attention to what women artistes play. “It is difficult for women to undertake Gurukula mode training. But since my parents were keen that I learned nagaswaram, I was able to do so. Moreover, when we travel to perform at venues, women don’t get safe accommodation. For these reasons, women artistes don’t take up a career in performing even after learning.” says Sankari.
“Women have made their presence in all fields. They are seen as achievers in all fields although in the field of arts many look down upon women’s presence. Despite this, many women have made their mark in arts. Circumstances have to change to encourage them. I have hope that over time things will change to make things favourable for women artistes,” adds Sankari
At the upcoming Nava Shakthi concert, Shankari and Venkatesh will be accompanied by K Viswanathan and Theja Rathnappa on thavil.