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Music has shaped my thought process, tells young vocalist Rithvik Raja
He is on a mission mode. With a blinkered-horse like focus, he stays on course to reach his goalpost. He finds pleasure in music and takes pride in pursuing music-related things. Among the youngsters arriving on the Carnatic music scene, Rithvik Raja is a performer who deserves a close watch. Here, he talks freely to www.carnaticdarbar.com on his music, passion and goals.

Tell us about your academic background?
I did my entire schooling (from LKG to 12th standard) at Vidya Mandir, Mylapore.

I finished my B.Com (Bachelor of Commerce) from RKM Vivekananda College, Mylapore, in April 2009. I have also completed a web-designing course from IMAGE. This has helped me to design many websites such as www.tmkrishna.com, www.svanubhava.com, www.tkmurthy.com, www.rithvikraja.com, www.yacm.in and www.thedecemberseason.com. I am currently doing a one-year sound engineering course at SAE College. I will be completing the course in November 2010.

Who is your music guru?
I had my initial training from my mother vidushi Smt. Sudha Raja. I actually started singing only as I listened to her taking music classes at home. Then, I learnt from vidushi Smt. Sulochana Pattabhiraman for a couple of years. From 2003, I have been under the tutelage of vidvan Shri. T.M. Krishna.

And, what is your experience learning from him?
First of all, I consider it a great honour and privilege for having been blessed with such great gurus. My learning experience with Shri Krishna is something very special. I cherish it very much. I was only 14 years old when I joined him. Apart from learning music, I have also learnt a lot of other things from him. How to treat accompanists? How to approach a concert? The importance of stage presence, concert presentation and managing many things – I have learnt all these from him. Hence, in a way, I have learnt a lot more than just music from him. I have had so many wonderful experiences traveling with him to all his concerts, singing along with him etc. But with regard to my learning music, I don't think I can ask for a more dedicated guru, who takes so much effort and care in even the slightest thing relating to your music. Each class is a new learning curve for me. I can expect something new to learn from each class. Most of all, I have learnt what perfection is all about. It is extremely important to differentiate between manodharma sangitam and kalpita sangitam. I am glad my guru has taught me that. I started learning from him at a critical stage, when my voice started to break. He made that process a lot easier and helped me through that difficult time. He is not only a guru to me. He is my mentor and like a part of my family. I, in fact, call him 'anna' (brother)! I can go on and on.

What is your aim?
My aim is to be a successful Carnatic classical singer without compromising on the core values of this great tradition. Apart from being a performing musician, I would also like to contribute something to Carnatic music in other ways that would take it far and wide and reach it to as many people as possible and ultimately the masses.

What does music mean to you?
Right now, music is my `be all and end all’. Everything that I aspire to do in my life and everything that I want to be in my life is targeted towards music. When I was in college, I made a choice that music is where I should belong. I also realized that for me to survive I have to be fitter than the fittest. And right now, I am treating music like it is within me and working harder everyday to bring it out and portray in a better and more colorful manner. I can't imagine a day without music, be it practicing, listening, reading or enjoying.

Do you want to take music as a profession or pursue it as a hobby?
I am looking to take up Carnatic music as a profession. But till I make a name for myself, I want to be able to support myself. Hence, I might end up working on the side. But when I get a chance to decide between music and job, I will definitely go for music. It is my passion.

Who do you see as your role model or someone who has inspired you the most?
Apart from my gurus, I enjoy the music of all great musicians of the past. I especially like Semmangudi, Ramnad Krishnan, DKJ and Brinda Muktha. I would be extremely happy if I am able to produce even 1% of the music I have heard these greats give us.

How do you strike a balance between your studies and music?
I have been juggling music and studies right from school. I also had cricket then.

Now it is just music and studies. That makes it a relatively simpler to handle. I guess it is all about time management. Apart from my practicing music, attending classes and giving concerts, I also serve as the President of YACM (Youth Association for Classical Music). Hence, it is definitely difficult to manage all these and have a social life with friends etc. If it is something that you love, you can definitely manage it efficiently and effectively without stressing yourself out with the workload.

Do you think music has helped you positively?
Yes. I definitely think music has helped me positively. First of all, music has shaped my thought process. It has influenced the way I think and the way I respond, musically and otherwise. It helps me generate a lot of positive energy within me and makes me feel calm and happy. I also take this confidence that music gives me into other things in life, which, I think, is a very good.

How do you feel about performing in the ongoing December season?
My first December season was in 2005, when I gave five concerts. I had heard people tell me that December is always very special. I realized how true this was and understood the grandeur and the magnitude of the December season only when I performed in it for the first time. Since then, every December season has been special for me. Compared to the past seasons, this is the one where I am singing the most - close to 15 concerts. I am looking to do well in every concert and create an impact in order to make a name for myself and move up the ladder in terms of concert singing. Every concert is a unique opportunity and it is up to me to make the best use of it.


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