Press Reviews
THE HINDU,24.12.99
Fluent and graceful
VIJAY VENKATESHWAR's flute recital was marked with fluency, grace and command. He began with a felicitous rendering of the varnam in Kamalamanohari. Begada raga was pleasing, so too was the Dikshitar kriti "Vallabha Nayaka".

Control over breath, voice, speed and an intuitive grasp, all contribute to the life-giving features of the music.Proficiency over any one alone does not guarantee quality to music. A holistic attention to all these features, with an effort to synthesize all, can result in quality music.

Vijay's flute recital displayed a holistic grasp of these features. The violin display by C.N.Chandrasekharan was lively and brigha-filled. Melakkaveri Krishna murthy provided excellent rhythmic support on the mridangam.

THE HINDU, 31.12.99
Reflecting a great tradition
A concert is said to be satisfying if the main artiste has skillfully presented his vidwat. The concert however is made exciting if the entire team exibits earnestness to make it a success. This was perfectly true of VIJAY VENKATESHWAR's flute recital accompanied by M.A.Sudareswaran on the violin, and T.R.Sundaresan on the mridangam.

Vijay is an ardent follower of Mali school, having been a student of T.S.Sankaran, a senior student of Mali. His fingering and soft-blowing technique with absolute co-ordination, speaks of a school that reflects the spirit of an undaunted tradition.

Vijay's exploration of Hemavathi for Dikshitar's "Hari Yuva Thim" did not deviate from the "sampradaya of elaboration" and his Kambhodi showed his skill at innovation.

THE HINDU, 12.01.01
Flautist with great skill
VIJAY VENKATESWAR gave an enjoyable flute recital, showing good grasp of the art of playing kirtanas with raga bhava and laya suddham. While Dikshitar's `Maha Ganapathim Manasa' (Nattai) and Tyagaraja's `Thathwameruga Taramaa' (Garudadwani) were played briskly, Syama Sastri's `Marivere Gathi Evaramma' (Anandabhairavi) was rendered at a very slow pace, which was appropriate for this raga. After the Hamsanaadam alapana, Tyagaraja's `Bantureeti koluvu' was played delightfully with attractive kalpanaswaras. The main item was the Keeravani ragam, tanam and pallavi in which the flautist's high degree of skill came into full play. In-depth raga alapana was followed by impressive tanam and a tisra nadai pallavi in Khanda jathi triputa talam with eduppu after 1 idam, the pallavi text going like this... `Tillai Eesanaikkaana naan enna punniyam seideno'.

Dr. Narmada, violin accompanist, played excellently throughout the concert and her Keeravani was particularly delightful. T. R. Sundaresan gave able mridangam support and played a competent tani avarthanam for pallavi for a difficult eduppu, including many laya patterns. After playing the first and second kalams (three beats and six beats each finger), there were a few passages involving nine beats each finger - can be called tisram in tisra nadai - and the concluding spell was in third kalam involving 12 beats each finger culminating in a beautiful muthaippu.

THE HINDU, Friday, December 8, 2000
In Keeping with Tradition
Vijay Venkateswar who gave a performance at the R.R. Sabha, for the Mylapore Arts Academy, has crafted a distinct style which has not forsaken the Carnatic tradition. Though the instruments are the same he calls his instrument vichitra veena which is one and the same as chitraveena. The opening Sahana varnam and "Mahaganapatim" (gowla) were brisk with imagination. The elaboration of Malayamarutham was thought provoking and interesting in the sancharas.

The song "Manasa etulo" was enjoyable with an array of well planned swaras in two speeds. "Anupamagunambudi" in Atana of Thyagaraja was adequate.

Lathangi was taken up by Vijay Venkateswar for elaboration. He surveyed a wide range of the raga with a commendable level of competence.

Tanam was executed well followed by "Aparadhamula" of Patnam Subramania Iyer with imaginative swaras. C.N. Chandrasekhar (violin) displayed his knowledge of Malayamarutham and Lathangi, Trichur Narendran played an impressive tani on the mridangam.

THE HINDU, Friday, October 6, 2000
Pleasant Preface RADIO REVIEW
Vijay Venkateshwar, a talented musician, began his concert on the Vichitra Veena that sounds similar to the gottu vadhyam with an animated version of Thyagaraja's "Varanarada," his only available kriti raga Vijayasri.

An alapana of Saranga was scripted pleasantly as a preface to "Neevadane" of Thyagaraja. V.L. Kumar on the violin responded pertinently. The song rendition had a refreshing quality, while the swara prastharas and the solfa finale were well organised in terms of both calculation and playing proficiency.

A rare kriti "Sri Saraswathi" in Manji raga by Deekshitar was nteresting, although the raga swaroopa was rather different to that which one is accustomed to hearing.

The individualism of an artiste is reflected in ample measure in raga dissertation -- Saveri was vividly depicted with neat, mellifluent phrases indicative of the artiste's propensity towards classical presentation, without any exhibitionic attempts to dilute the exercise. Kumar is a commited professional who is hardly ever caught napping, and his raga elaboration was an enjoyable cameo. The brief tanam by the main artiste had a modest impact.

Shyama Sastri's "Sankari Sankuru" in Trisra nadai with swara passages in the madhyama and dhurita kala pramanams were crisp and lively -- perhaps the korvai could have been arranged to conform better to the raga lakshana.

Ramesh, the exhuberant percussionist that he is, came up with a tani avartanam chiselled with precise, powerful laya embellishments.

"Haridasuluvedale" in Yamuna Kalyani by Thyagaraja was an alluring end piece.


THE HINDU, 01.09.04

Notes that spell hope

IT WAS like listening to some of Bruno Fergani's compositions.In their musical offering, Fergani and Vijay Venkat are poles apart. Although Fergani produces electro trance and Vijay composes jazz-fusion, the two have one thing in common. They both convey a sense of hope through their music. In Fergani's "Trance Of Love" and "Like A Dream," you see people reaching a sort of spiritual sublimation and when the tracks have run themselves out, a flood of positive energy courses through your being. The string of compositions (his own) that Vijay played on his violin along with a keyboardist (Aparajith), a bass guitarist (Anu) and a drummer (John Karanakaran), at the Unwind Center this past Friday, left listeners in a buoyant mood.
"Raindrops" had drummer John simulating the pitter-patter sounds of rain. Then, Vijay stepped up the tempo, suggesting that the drizzle had graduated to a downpour. For "Spirit of Spring," the drummer played almost alone for a while, with spasmodic notes from the bass guitarist. Then the other two joined in. The idea was to present a picture of the land slowly taking on the colours and spirit of spring. When the music hit a crescendo, you saw flowers blooming, butterflies hovering over them and the sky spread out like a clear sheet of blue.With "The Merry Dancers", the drummer created the sounds of glass shattering to smithereens. Then he went berserk. The beats were fast and loud. When Vijay joined in, the notes reached a maddening pitch. With rapid swings of the bow, Vijay managed to convey the images of dancers swirling about merrily.

"The Cheerful Hearts" was again a fast-paced track that brought before your eyes heart-warming images of young ones clicking their feet and bouncing off walls.

When Vijay had emptied the bag, the music had got through so powerfully to the audience that they found themselves asking for more. And Vijay Venkat obliged with an on-the-spot composition. .htm

THE HINDU, 25.06.2005

Torrent of Talent

This is going to be a difficult task. There is only one person, but there are about 15 instruments to talk of, about five genres, and six fields of interests. Anyone clutching his/her head about what to do for a living must just meet 32-year-old musician Vijay Venkat.

Venkat calls himself a "jazz fusion artiste", but quickly adds that he's not into "raga with drums". "The minute someone hears the word fusion they think it's going to be `Alaipayuthey' with drum beats," he says. "What, are there only two countries in the world? Can't there be a fusion of music from any two countries?" His cultural preference, therefore, is Western Classical with Jazz. All this is fine, but can I please listen to some music, I ask.

The next ten minutes is a lesson in jaw dropping.

A graduate from the Trinity College of Music, London, and a proficient Carnatic musician, Venkat plays almost all instruments that have a name. "But I have chosen to focus on the violin, flute and vichitra veena," he says, "The violin is considered to be the most difficult instrument, and there is an instant connection when I hold in my hand." This choice comes with a daunting list of sacrifices: The guitar was given up because it gave cross-grooves on his fingers; the mridangam was surrendered because it would've hardened his fingertips and hampered his fingering on the violin. He even quit a career in tennis because it didn't give him enough time to practise music, and might've caused calluses on his hands.

Foot-tapping numbers

Jazz-fusion is what Venkat has finally chosen as his genre. "It's actually self-composed Western Classical that is improvised in the jazz format," he says. "And I do mostly foot-tapping numbers, fast-paced, yet detailed." Calling Solo Western Classical `foot-tapping' seems like a big fat lie, but despite Venkat's swanky quotes, he speaks the absolute truth when he says they are entertaining. "I know this music is not widely popular because it's unfamiliar territory," he says. "But I refuse to put Thyagaraja and Dikshitar through the synthesiser. It's sacrilege." Oh, then it is ok for Bach to play around tabla beats? "No. These maestros deserve respect too. I only play my own compositions." Ah. Touché.

Venkat also gives regular Carnatic concerts on the vichitra veena (or gottu vaadhyam). His Carnatic violin techniques come from the rare, and extremely intricate Dwaram school of music. It is said that even Yehudi Menuhin was bowled over by Dwaram exponent Venkataswamy Naidu's violin technique. "In Chennai, I lose out to lobbying and power-play," confesses Venkat. "I had a long, confused, frustrated period. But now I've decided. Despite all this nonsense that goes on in this field, I'm going to stay on. I have so many musical ideas, and creative patterns in my head, and I need to give them form."

When his father and sister join us in conversation, it's obvious that beyond all that pride lays objective appreciation. When the father mentions all he hopes his son will achieve, there is hidden resentment about talent going unrecognised now. "People ask which instrument my son plays best. I say he plays all of them with equal skill and unique technique. It's a gift, that's what it is." Despite the fact that the claim comes from his father, if you've heard Venkat play, you won't doubt it for a second.