This is a watercolour portrait of Lakshmi’s mother tuning her tambura, which was left to her by her late grandmother. It is representative of the musicality that Lakshmi inherited, belonging to a family of Carnatic musicians.
Interestingly, this tambura can only be tuned to female singing shrutis (pitches). This artwork speaks of the experience of learning music from the women of her family; her grandmother taught music to both Lakshmi and her mother until her very last day.
Lakshmi, who inherited a passion and love for Carnatic music regardless of these expectations, only observed the expectation of a gendered performance when she took to the stage. In fact, she is drawn towards singing in the lower register. Listen to Lakshmi switch between these singing styles as she compels listeners to set aside these expectations, while still paying homage to her heritage in her personal practice.
Although she learned music from her grandparents, only her grandmother could teach Lakshmi what the audience expects from a female performer, and how to mould and control a female voice to sing in a higher pitch, and make it sound “sweet”. This is quite unlike the standards set for male Carnatic vocalists, who are expected to demonstrate power and strength through their voice.
Lakshmi Ramesh, 24
Lakshmi Ramesh (she/her) is part mathematician, part Carnatic vocalist, part Bharatnatyam dancer and an all-round artist from Bangalore. She has trained in fine arts under the tutelage of Smriti Shiva at Studio Strokes School of Fine Arts for 13 years. Her current practice combines the various art forms she is trained in. She has recently rekindled her interest in fine art and hopes to make it far professionally.