My Life History | My Education | Life after Marriage | Sikkil Bani

Born in a reputed musical family on 23rd August 1963, I started learning flute at the age of five from my gurus Padmasree Sangeetha Kalanidhi Smt Sikkil Neela (Mother) and Smt. Sikkil Kunjumani (Aunt). Learning was very informal. I was gifted a small flute in Nagercoil (think it was pitch ‘7’ to suit my little fingers) . They very casually taught me how to create sound, special blowing exercises and sarali varisais in ragam ‘Harikamboji’. Literally speaking, the basic lessons in sarali varisai took months for me to play on the flute. So slow and non-receptive I was to music. However my mother and aunt used to coax and cajole me to play on the flute.

Lessons progressed slowly until my 15th year when they decided to do my arangetram. This was done at “Sakthivel llam”, Mylapore our spiritual guru’s house (Sri Mani Swamigal) in an unconventional manner with Sri. S.D. Sridhar on the violin and Sri Srimushnam.V. Rajarao on the Mridangam. Later I passed through auditions in all India radio for youth programme where I performed at regular intervals..

It was at this time that I happened to be auditioned and selected by Doordarshan Kendra in 1980 to perform in “Ilam thendral” programme (a 15 minutes slot)-live. I had played Thyagaraja’s  tholijenma-belahari , Ramakathasudha-madhyamavathi and a song in behag. This programme brought me lots of appreciation from many great musicians like late Smt. Brindamma and late Sri Nagarajan- reputed Khanjira artiste. It was at this point that late Sri Yagnaraman of Krishna Gana Sabha (who happened to watch the TV programme) gave me the first opportunity to perform my debut concert at the sabha in August 1980. From then on, my musical responsibilities gradually increased.

At this juncture, I got the first prize from all India radio for “wind instrument category” blessed by late Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi (MSS) in 1982 and was there upon graded to give regular concerts in radio. At the same time, my inter collegiate music competitions (represented Stella Maris college where I studied) were also instrumental in building up my confidence to emerge as a successful musician.

It was during my final year, that I had the opportunity to participate in the “Violin Venu Veena” trio ensemble with smt Lalagudi Vijayalakshmi on the violin and my friend Padmavathi on the veena. Soon this became successful and Lalgudi mama suggested such an ensemble for concerts.  We performed our debut  concert at Krishna Gana Sabha along with Veenai Jayanthi on 1.1.1986. My association with Lalgudi mama’s family taught me many values in life such as discipline, hard work and dedication to the cause of music.

It was on 20th June of that year that I joined  the family of the legendary MSS through marriage. This indeed provided me an additional mileage to attain perfection  in my musical career. Besides the VVV ensemble, I also had the opportunity to perform with Sikkil Sisters as flute trio which helped me to improve my repertoire in the concert platform. My very first gift from my husband and mother-in-law was an electronic Tambura. MSS would teach me about Sruthi Suddham with this Tambura & I would practice the same everyday. In this way, I was very lucky to get the right kind of encouragement from my inlaws in my musical journey.

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