As told to Greg Cahill
Keep Connected chronicles the ways in which string players and organizations are supporting and keeping in touch with their audiences or students throughout the global coronavirus pandemic. Even as society reopens, virtual concerts and social-media outreach programs are a phenomenon that have kept performers in the public sphere, since concerts, festivals, and other large gatherings remain largely restricted.
Strings caught up with composer and arranger Neyveli S. Radhakrishna, an exponent of the unique ten-string, stereoscopic double violin. He is quarantined in Chennai, India, the capital of South Indian classical music. A classically trained violinist, Radhakrishna—Radha, as many call him—is a sought-after session player in India, where his day job is playing on various CD, movie, and TV projects. He also is the co-founder of the band Ahimsa.
While he has played plenty of solo gigs, the kind of relationship he has with his fellow Ahimsa players appears to be the perfect environment for a player of the double violin. Strings contributor David Templeton once noted: “Once Ahimsa does begin to play—an intoxicating collision of Indian Carnatic music and experimental modern jazz—the oddness of Radhakrishna’s electric double violin gives way to the realization that, no matter how many necks the thing has, it’s clearly in the hands of a virtuoso.”
Tell me about your daily routine.
It is a bit changed recently since the lockdown was announced—I feel I have more time to spend with my family, and exploring what I have failed or postponed to do during past years.
What have you learned about yourself as a person and as a player while working and living in solitude?
Undoubtedly, I am more cautious about taking care of my health, like doing yoga, meditation, and being more selective in eating habits, like intake of more proteins and greens. I’ve also been researching more technical playing aspects of acoustic, as well as electric, violin.
How are you staying connected with your audience or students during the quarantine?
Well, since this pandemic period, to move physically to other places or to perform is not at all advisable. Also here in India we have to wear masks. Almost all of my friends, students, audiences, and well wishers are somehow or other on social media and other forms of communication, [so I’ve been] giving interviews and conducting online music classes and workshops through mediums like Google Meet and Zoom. Now, in this time, almost everyone is online. Plenty of diverse programs are live-streaming globally, and there is a vast amount of interest—people who want to follow or listen to my kind of music.
Why is it important to stay connected on social media?
Survival of the fittest, so stay connected with the world virtually.
How do you rate your experience with virtual performance?
Learning and getting used to playing within four walls, you can’t expect a large audience. But the virtual platform is reaching an audience globally, so this can be used to be connected from anywhere. I will continue to use online platforms after everything comes back to normal.
How will you continue going forward as a player? Will the quarantine or limitations of the virus change your path?
I guess not only me, but all of us will get used to these things, and it seems everyone is affected in some way or other, trying to focus and not to lose the path.
What projects are you working on?
I am planning my solo albums with double violin, also some international collaborations on audio and video.
Is there a message you’d like to share with our readers?
Be happy and meditate at least ten to 15 minutes every day. That increases your willpower and helps you realize the benefit of this compulsory holiday that has been given to us to take care of ourselves.