Sanjay Subrahmanyan was born in Chennai on January 21, 1968 into a family steeped in Carnatic music. The air in his childhood home was thick with the strains of some of the greatest voices ever known to the Carnatic music world – reverberating from the radio, tape recorders and the gramophone. Like many others in the family, Sanjay too developed a passion for the art form at a very young age. His early training included violin and vocal classes from Guru V. Lakshminarayana, his grand aunt Guru Rukmini Rajagopalan, Guru Calcutta K.S. Krishnamurthi and later, from Nadaswaram maestro Guru S.R.D. Vaidyanathan. Today, as his musicianship scales great heights, Sanjay has emerged as an iconic inspiration to a whole new generation.
Sanjay Subrahmanyan is one of those rare and complete performers whose concerts are the product of mastery and an intelligent mind. His music has the high authority and purity of tradition and the creativity of an exceptionally gifted artist. His concerts, like those of the great musicians of the past, convey an air of freedom. The durability of their music lies partly in this strength of spirit that it embodies. Sanjay’s performances have this great attribute. He is visibly lost in his music and takes his audiences with him into a journey of ecstasy. It is therefore not surprising that his fan following is a kind of phenomenon never seen before in the world of Carnatic music.
Sanjay’s repertoire is vast and varied and an unending work in progress. A unique feature of his concerts the balancing of rare unconventional ragas along with the time-honoured classical ragas like Todi, and Sankarabharanam and the refreshing interpretations each time he essays them. Sanjay’s fondness for his mother tongue is much celebrated and a much-anticipated feature of his concerts is his delivery of lesser-known Tamil compositions that he has made popular over the years.
The great artists of Carnatic music have always sought after the infinite and taken us along with them in their artistic explorations. The best among them today, like Sanjay Subrahmanyan, harmonize the wisdom and stabilizing influences of the past with their own artistic and intellectual creativity. In 2015 when he was presented with the coveted title of the Sangita Kalanidhi by the Madras Music Academy, it was but a natural progression.
Today, as he continues to enthrall his audiences with his classical performances, he is also exploring other avenues of musical exploration as seen in his recent debut in film music and engagement with Coke Studio, Tamil.