with L Ramakrishnan (violin), Neyveli R Narayanan (mrdangam), & Dr S Karthick (ghatam)
The Akkarai Sisters are among India’s most distinguished musicians today, known for their lively and soulful music steeped in tradition.
The sisters, Subhalakshmi and Sornalatha, hail from a family with a rich background in Carnatic (South Indian classical) music. Their grandfather Suchindram Shri S P Sivasubramanian was a prolific musician and composer, and their grandmother Smt R Sornambal a Harikatha exponent and music teacher. The sisters were trained intensively from a young age by their father, Akkarai Shri S Swamynathan, a veteran violinist and founder of the Swara Raga Sudha School of music. They have also learnt under other renowned gurus such as Shri V Janakiraman, Shri O V Subramanian and his daughter Smt Padma Natesan of New Delhi, and later on, Padmabhushan Shri P S Narayanaswamy and chitravina maestro Shri N Ravikiran.
As violinists, their unique playing style features fine bowing and a rich tone, as well as sensitive fingering, capable of reproducing the finest nuances of Indian classical music; and their perfectionism and deep understanding of the art has led them to become accomplished vocalists as well. As accompanists, they are known for their unique skill in blending seamlessly with the music, while enlivening and enhancing it skillfully, having thus become highly sought-after accompanists for many an eminent musician.
Both sisters have performed around the world, including Europe, U.S.A., Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, and many more. Subhalakshmi has played in many prestigious events like the Indo-Russian cultural exchange programme, the Théâtre de la Ville Festival (Paris), the farewell concert for Zubin Mehta (Munich), and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute Sangeet Utsav (Mauritius). The sisters have also had the privilege of having been accompanied by the tavil legend Aridwaramangalam Sri A K Pazhanivel in their vocal duet concerts.
Subhalakshmi and Sornalatha have received numerous accolades; Subhalakshmi received the Rajiv Gandhi Yuva Puraskar award from the President of India at age thirteen, and has since earned the Music Academy Madras Outstanding Young Violinist Award four times, Yuva Kala Bharathi (2002), the Kalki Krishnamurthy Memorial Award (2007), the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award from the Sangeet Natak Akademy (2007), Vani Kala Nipuna (2012), Kala Rathna from the Cleveland Tyagaraja Aradhana (2013), and many more. She was identified as one of India’s 50 emerging stars by The Week magazine’s issue commemorating the Indian nation’s 50th anniversary. Sornalatha has also earned many awards and titles, including Kalashree, Sangeetha Bhaskara, Yuva Kala Bharathi, Isai Chemmal, the Vipanchee Award, the Best Violinist Award from the Indian Fine Arts Society, and the Best Violinist Award from the Music Academy (2013). The sisters together received the prestigious Shanmukha Shiromani from the Shanmukhananda Sabha in Mumbai in 2009.
The sisters have released many albums, both violin and vocal, solo and duet, such as ‘Inta Saukhyam’, ‘Varali’, ‘Keeravani’, and Charsur’s ‘December Season 2012’; and they have also provided accompaniment in many others. They are also much sought-after as teachers.
They attribute all their success to their gurus, especially their father Akkarai Shri S Swamynathan, who established them as musicians and continues to guide them.