Prema Ananathakrishnan, who was instrumental in beginning the Swati Tirunal Jayanthi celebration here 15 years ago, is a singer to reckon with
What makes a singer great is not only the gift of God given ‘gnanam’, a sweet melodious voice, dedication to strive and achieve, congenial learning circumstances etc, but the element of luck that goes with it plays a key role in success.
And that is why is always a pleasure to write and talk about Prema (Meenakshi) – no wonder she took the name Prema because Meenakshi is pronounced here as Meenaski (a clean switch from Indian to Polish). She is the epitome of all virtues needed to make a singer great. A commendable aspect of her music learning was that she had to tread a hard path to master classical music, being the member of a family not all musically inclined, except a grandmother by name Annapoorni Ammal.
Her parents were however keen on helping her achieve musical excellence, win qualifications in Carnatic musicand to get into a music teaching profession, either in a school or a college setting.
Prema began her musical journey at the age of five, guided by (the now late) Savitri Menon, and furthered her music learning from (the now late) Venkatalakshmy Mami, her mentor for all form of fine arts including ‘kolam drawings’.
She was then taught by Vidwan Vechur Harihara Subramania Iyer, noted for the tough stance he adopted in teaching music. He was part of the long ‘Sishya Parampara’ of the bard of Tiruvayyaru, Sri Thyagaraja Swamy. In that parampara Prema thus became a new link thanks to Vechur Iyer. She did her degrees of B.A (Music) and M. A (Music), from Kerala University. The remarkable rise in stature music achieved in Kerala in this era was due to the help given by Sangeetha Kalanidhi Semmangudi Mama, GNB, MSS, Balamurali, Musiri and other luminaries of that era. Anyway our Prema was a beneficiary of the hard yakka put in by those stalwarts.
Prema received opportunities to sing in local concerts in Tiruananthapuram, which boosted her confidence of singing in public. She was an All India Radio artiste, a coveted post, and gave a number of full scale concerts.
She then married into a musically inclined family and received good support from all quarters. For her it was a clean-slate start here because Carnatic music was in its infant stages in Australia with only a handful of trained singers living in Sydney then.
Sydney Music Circle and sabhas mushroomed in rapid haste and aradhanas with monthly concerts began with good support from music loving people of Indian origin. Prema was instrumental in beginning the Swati Tirunal Jayanthi celebration here 15 years ago. It has flourished into a major event in the yearly music calendar.
She had been teaching music to students and she has a good sishya parampara. In an advanced level she learned the intricate details of singing from Rajalakshmy Venkatachari. “Music is not one’s private property to hoard. It should be disseminated,” says Prema, who relishes in that role. She teaches music with dedication to her receptive students.