Sikkil Gurucharan
Sikkil GurucharanIt was some time in 1987. This 5-year-old boy affectionately called Charan at home was coaxed by his grandparents Sikkil Sisters to sing any tune. After quite a bit of cajoling, he sang a popular film number. His grandparents especially Smt Neela was amazed at the “sruthi sudhham” or tonal perfection in his singing and also the near-perfect alignment of the notes. Together they decided that he must pursue vocal music. Almost every second member in the family had taken up flute. Hence they were insistent that at least this boy should pursue a different art form namely singing, as he had already shown immense promise at that age.”

The above paragraph describes how I was fortunate enough to make my intial forays into the Divine Art called Carnatic music. My father had shifted to Hyderabad at that juncture for official reasons and our whole family had to shift our base. Technically speaking, my music classes started then. My mother taught me the initial exercises and other songs like Mudhaakaratha modhakam, Madhuraashtakam, Kurai Onrum illai etc. She also taught flute to my sister and I used to involuntarily register those kritis also in my mind. A couple of years passed in such a fashion.

In 1990, we returned to Chennai(then, Madras). And my grandmothers wasted no time in putting me under the able guidance of Vaigal Sri S.Gnanaskandan, a sishya of Dandapani Desigar and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer . He was the Producer of All India Radio at that time and he would come over to our place to teach music. This unique practice, he continues till date, belying his age of 76. I know it would be a cliché to say that initially I had no interest and used to be playful during lessons. In my case, it was partially true. A strict person by nature, my Guru ensured I learnt properly and the people at home also created an ambience filled with music to build my interest in singing. They did succeed. Well, to a certain extent!!

My interest in music was boosted to a vast extent because of the places I landed at for my education !! Please see Education Link for further details.


Shri V .Chandrasekaran , Gurucharan's Father, is the Marketing manager in Palepu and co. , a leading pharmaceutical distributing company, after having worked for more than 30 years in the MNC , May and baker . He is also a stage artiste and has acted in several hit plays including Thani kuduthanam, Oor Vambu, Kalkattu, Washingtonil thirumanam. He was initially associated with Sri Poornam Viswanathan and later the troupe, Kala Nilayam.

Smt. Mythili Chandrasekaran, Gurucharan's Mother, she is a lecturer in Government Music College, Adyar for more than a decade now. She is a busy teacher taking classes in flute and vocal music. Those interested in learning Vocal or Flute are free to contact . She is also one tough critic of her son's music!!
Smt Lavanya Venkatesan , Gurucharan's sister is an M.Phil in Maths and has served as a lecturer in Stella Maris College. Once an aspiring music critic, she is now happily married to Mr Venkatesan , a Chartered Accountant , and has settled in UAE. She plays the flute , having learnt the family art from her grandparents and mother, but had to give precedence to her first love, Mathematics. She is another person who regularly reviews her brother's music , thanks to her uncanny sense of sruthi and raga-bhava !!

Vidya Mandir at Luz corner was where I did my schooling. I think I am one of the fortunate few to get admission in an institution where music was part and parcel of the curriculum. This school was and continues to be popular for encouraging cultural art forms. My very first year at school fetched me the first prize in the inter class music competition. That was a big turning point in my life because the accolades and recognition I received among my teachers and friends was so thrilling. I decided to get serious about music!! Till 12th standard, I seldom missed a chance to exhibit my talent and the response made me improve and refine my music further

Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College – Another major influence on my music. I had dreamt of becoming a student of this college since my 11th grade because of it’s impressive alumini . The past students of this college had become stars in the field of music, sports and other extra curricular activities. Thank God, the dream came true. With true modesty I would like to add that I passed out of school with a meritorious percentage and the Best outgoing student award. This guaranteed my entry into Viveka(as we affectionately call it) .

My music too had graduated from school to college as I was more in tune with concert-related techniques and had begun singing during the December Season. Whatever I had heard about the college was absolutely true and they encouraged my music even better. The professors were all knowledgeable people in music. I still remember, I sang Dhinasharanyane in Karnaranjini ragam to the Principal Dr. Ramaratnam standing in the corridor. He immediately praised me and made me sing during the weekly prayer hour of the college. This continued for the 3 whole years. This along with College culturals and regular concerts representing the Ramakrishna Mutt, took my music to another realm, one that was marked by solid practice and a professional attitude. I started believing that Music is, after all, my Destiny. And thanked my stars for it!! In 2002, I passed out of this college, once again, with a Gold medal and best outgoing Student award. The college had accomplished what it was famous for- All Round Development.

By this time, I had become busy with Music.Regular outstation concerts and other assignments made me opt for a correspondence course. I enrolled myself for the twinning programme of Pondicherry University and Loyola College and got the Masters Degree in Financial Management in 2004.

After completing MFM, I did a brief stint as a Radio Jockey(RJ) at Worldspace . I was in charge of presenting programmes, interviewing artists and doing voice overs for their 24 hr carnatic music channel "Shruti" . Later when the channel shifted base from Chennai to Bangalore, I chose Music over RJ'ing and stayed back in Chennai - The Centre for Carnatic Music.


"THASMAI SRI GURAVE NAMAHA "

The above title transalates roughly as "I salute such a Guru !!" . In this section , I would like to salute such people who fit into the sloka "Guru Bramha Guru Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwaraha, Guru Saakshaath para bramha ! " . These people have selflessly taught me their knowledge of music and I remain, with gratitude ,one of their humble students ...

Vaigal S Gnanaskandan :

My first and foremost teacher. My grandparents insisted that I must learn under him for one simple reason. His sincerity . Moreover his shaareeram or his voice timbre is something special. The glitter in his voice was what inspired her to ask him whether he was willing to take me as his student. He readily agreed and my classes began when I was 9 yrs old. Till date , he continues to come over to my place and teach . He is something more that just a teacher.He is our family member and the kind words of blessings he always has for us definitely imbibes so much confidence and good sentiments in every family member. A selfless teacher, in the true sense...

Sangeetha Kalanidhi Sikkil Kunjumani and Neela

I have always been an admirer of their music. Something different, something so unique about their style. As if , the flutes were spelling out the lyrics also . ( vaarthai kekkaramaari vaasippa!! ) As years passed , I was able to gather so much from them. Be it on how to plan a concert,selection of ragas,handling of manodharma, judging the audience mood and many more nuances which play a pivotal role in building up a successful kutcheri.They have imbibed in me a successful kutcheri bhani . PRESENTATION is their forte and I continue to learn this aspect from them.

Smt. Mala Chandrasekar :

I lost count of the number of people asking me how I am related to Mala. Many still think I am her son, some believe I am her brother , so on and so forth. She is my chitthi , my aunt. Affectionately known as Mala aunty, she has taught me several songs, valuable tips on music and other regular lessons. Residing in the same building,we share a special aunt-nephew relationship.

I would like to quote a very interesting incident at this juncture. I used to visit her frequently when she was at Kilpauk Gardens. Her mother in law, Smt. Radha Viswanathan, the daughter of Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbalakshmi, was my mentor too. I will discuss that in detail after this. So coming back to the incident...

Aunty once taught me how to sing the raga Thodi. I think it was in 1994. I was very playful at that stage and never paid any attention to her . She is one committed teacher, by the way. Not only music , but whatever she does, she does it to perfection. I couldnt get a few sangatis right and kept on asking her to change that. She refused and was determined to make me sing . I was becoming more and more restless as my cousin, Kaarthik, was signalling from the corner asking me to play cricket with him. Mala became so angry that she slapped me . Actually the slap was much milder than what we do to shoo away flies !! But i started wailing so loudly that Radha mami had to intervene and ask her to stop scolding me. The very fact that she had slapped me , had taken me by surprise and I could'nt bear that humiliation. It took several hours to calm me down . Things settled down with some sorries being exchanged. Mala still doesnt know why I cried that day because the slap was so mild. Actually even i dont know why i cried. But the biggest gain from that incident was that my raga elaboration of thodi acquired a new dimension from that day. I started working hard for it. Even today whenever i sing thodi , she winks at me saying " Had I not hit you that day, you will not be singing thodi properly now!!" . My answer would be " You never hit me . I cried just to escape from your lessons !! "

Smt. Radha Viswanathan :

I had the good fortune of learning some priceless kritis like Swara raga sudha, Kartikeya gangeya, Rama rama gunaseema,Veenabheri from Radha mami. Moreover, melodious bhajans made popular by MS amma were also taught . I still remember the enjoyable sessions in her house along with Mala aunty and my cousins. There have been times when I used to look forward for holidays so that I can spend time with Mami and learn songs from her. I found her quite different as a Guru compared to others mentioned above. She was a fast teacher and I had to sharpen my grasping skills to cope up with her teaching methods. It benifitted me a lot. Even today I visit her and try to learn some kritis whenever time permits.
In Photo: (From L to R Standing) Grandparents Sikkil Kunjumani and Neela, Sri KS Venkatraman, sister Lavanya. Seated on the chair- Smt Radha Viswanathan and Sri Viswanathan. on the floor(from L to R) my uncle and aunt Sri Chandrasekar and Mala , my parents Smt Mythili and Chandrasekaran. And Aparna , Smt Kunjumani's granddaughter.


Titles and Awards

*Yuva Kala Bharathi – Bharat Kalachar- 2005
* Isai Chudar – Karthik Fine Arts - 2005
* Naada Oli - Naada Inbam - 2005
* "Best Vocalist proficient in all aspects of Music" - Indian fine Arts '2005
* TAG corporation's Ramabhadran Centenary Award for most promising young artiste of the year 2005
* Kalki Memorial Award – Kalki memorial Trust 2005 (Youngest to receive this award)
* Dharmatma memorial Award – Raja Annamalaipuram Sabha - 2005
* Swarna Venkatesha Dikshitar award - Music academy conference 2002,2003,2004
* Best Concert - Music Academy Conference - 2003
* Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer award for best raga renditions - Sri Krishna gana sabha 2002
* Best Vocalist Award - Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in 2000
* Best Performer in Sub Senior Category during Music Season 2002 - - Indian Fine Arts society.
* Special Talent Award – Thyaga Bramha Gana Sabha ‘ 1997
* Awarded the Sangeetha Bhaskara title from Gnanaskandan trust, Chennai -1994
* Won several prizes during the competitions held at Music Academy, Narada Gana Sabha, Mylapore fine arts etc during the years 1995-1999

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