Carnatic vocalist to perform at Sri Venkateswara Lotus Temple in Virginia: Exclusive interview with Charulatha Mani

Charulatha Mani. PHOTO: Charulatha Mani

Charulatha Mani, a renowned Carnatic vocalist and film playback singer, as well as an Ethnomusicologist, will be showcasing her singing prowess at Sri Venkateswara Lotus Temple, on April 27, 2024, in Fairfax, Virginia.

Mani, who embarked on her professional journey as a teenager and has over 25 years of stage performance experience worldwide, is the founder of “Isai Payanam – musical journey” a unique concert concept that bridges Indian classical music with film music genres.

Speaking with News India Times in an exclusive interview about her upcoming performance at the Lotus temple, Mani noted, “I am very excited for it. I am going to be presenting my signature Isai Payanam concert featuring some very well loved and some rare ragas of Indian classical music.”

Mani recalled that she performed at the Lotus temple in Virginia, and at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, Maryland in June last year. “Both experiences were fulfilling. The temple atmosphere, warm vibes from the audience, and the spiritual nature of the offering all make these concerts very memorable indeed. I am happy to be back.”

Mani said she’ll be presenting a “heady mix” of Brindavana Saranga, Brindavani and Madhyamavati ragas which are “allied yet slightly different from each other.” She will also be presenting Gowrimanohari raga, her latest analysis of globally renowned Indian musical composer and singer A R Rahman’s “Periyone en Rahmane” from Aadijeevitam.

Explaining the significance of Isai Payanam, she underscored, “It is a concert concept that shines light on ragas in classical music through the lenses of Carnatic and film music genres. By showing film examples the audiences are drawn into the world of classical music from a zone of familiarity, thereby enticing them into a space that is nostalgic, stimulating, and culturally relevant too.”

Mani further added that the Isai Payanam style unites individuals from diverse backgrounds within the classical concert setting. Its multilingual concerts traverse film songs in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, and Kannada languages spanning a century of cinematic history. The inclusion of raga explanations and improvisations in Carnatic concert format including Alapana, Kalpanaswaras, Nereval, and even Ragam Tanam Pallavi contributes a distinctive classicism to this concert experience.

Charulatha Mani with “Mellisai Mannar – Melody King” M S Viswanathan in Chennai, India. PHOTO: Charulatha Mani

“I have been doing these [Isai Payanam] concerts since 2006 and now they are a global phenomenon with over 125,000 subscribers on YouTube and a strong presence in the Chennai music season and beyond. I am very grateful for this growth trajectory,” she said crediting her success to “the grace of God and the support of amazing fans and followers.”

About her journey in film playback singing, Mani said music director Vijay Antony had seen some of her TV presentations of Isai Payanam and asked her to record for him.

So, it began with a hit song “Kaakha Kaakha” in “Naan Avan Illai” film. Some of her award-winning film songs in Indian movies include “Chillax” from “Velayudham,” “En Uchi Mandaila” from “Vettaikaran,” “Theeye Theeye” from “Maatran,” and “Kannukul Pothivaippen” from “Thirumanam Enum Nikkah.”

Recently, Mani sang “Sada Nannu” in Telugu and “Thandaay” in Tamil from actress Savitri Ganesan’s biopic, Mahanati. “This is a National Award-winning project, and I am so deeply grateful that these opportunities have come my way,” she added.

Mani also composed and sang the Tamil portions of the song “Titli” from the Bollywood film “Chennai Express” starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. “I collaborated on this with my sister, singer Srimathumitha, and it was an amazing experience to work with music directors Vishal Dadlani and Sheykhar Ravjiani on this huge blockbuster of our times.”

Mani began singing at the age of three with the guidance of her mother Hemalatha Mani, a renowned Veena expert. She then formally learned music from stalwarts such as Sandhyavandanam, Srinivasa Rao, Calcutta K S Krishnamurthy, and Savitri Satyamurthy.

Mani is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra and serves on the Researcher Advisory of the Lullaby Project at Carnegie Hall, New York. In addition, she also engages in music and perinatal mental health initiatives with The Royal College of Music in London.

She earned a doctorate in music from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, where she focused on “intersections between Carnatic music and Italian Opera.” She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Queensland on “music and human flourishing with a focus on lullabies across various languages of the world.”



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