Tanam in Raga Keeravani
Akkarai Sisters

In concert at Kudiraimaligai, Trivandrum

Young Stars

Subhalakshmi receiving the Rajiv Gandhi Yuva Puraskar from the President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma

The young duo made big waves in the field of Carnatic Music and won critical acclaim. Maestro Shri T V Gopalakrishnan recognized Subhalakshmi as a child prodigy and invited her to perform a violin solo at his festival when she was barely eleven. Since Carnatic concerts were few and far between in Delhi, Swamynathan had Subhalakshmi play for top-notch dancers, and the reviews for these concerts would contain special mention of young Subhalakshmi, sometimes even a whole paragraph. The sisters also began to win many competitions and awards, such as Kalashree, the Delhi State First Award, Kala Bhushan, Sangeetha Visharada and many others. Thirteen-year-old Subhalakshmi was selected as one of the young talents to represent India at the Indo-Russian Cultural Exchange Programme held in Moscow. For this, the Government of India felicitated her with the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Yuva Puraskar’, awarded by the President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma.

Violin duet by young Subhalakshmi and her father Swamynathan

Every December, the family traveled to Chennai to attend concerts during Chennai’s Margazhi Music Season. On one such occasion, Subhalakshmi was invited to perform both vocal and violin on Vijay TV, and this performance brought her instant popularity. Concert opportunities started pouring in, and in the year 1998, Subhalakshmi debuted at the Chennai Season at a concert accompanying Abhishek Raghuram at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, a concert which is still talked about today. The family finally moved back to Chennai, the hub of Carnatic music, where Subhalakshmi began performing extensively.

Subhalakshmi and Sornalatha together receiving the Shanmukha Shiromani Award at the Shanmukhananda Sabha, Mumbai

In Chennai, the sisters underwent further vocal training with Padma Bhushan Shri P S Narayanaswamy, one of the most highly respected gurus in the field, and gained many valuable musical insights under him. They also learned from chitravina maestro Shri N Ravikiran, and Subhalakshmi gained invaluable experience playing with him in many major concerts and tours. She also had the rare privilege of playing alongside legendary artistes like mrdangam maestros Palghat Shri Raghu, Umayalpuram Shri K Sivaraman, and Trichy Shri Sankaran, kanjira wizard Shri G Harishankar, and many others, and she was also featured in many of his fusion, jugalbandhi, and Melharmony concerts, as well as dance productions. Subhalakshmi also had the privilege of performing with stalwarts like Dr M Balamuralikrishna, Dr T V Gopalakrishnan, Shri R K Shrikantan, Shri T K Govinda Rao, Dr N Ramani, and many more, while Sornalatha too had the good fortune of playing with eminent artists like Shri N Ravikiran, Shrimushnam Shri V Raja Rao, and Hyderabad Sisters. The sisters have had the privilege of being accompanied by tavil legend Aridwaramangalam Shri A K Pazhanivel and many other senior artistes in their vocal and violin duet concerts.

Today, Akkarai Sisters are amongst the most celebrated names in Carnatic musicians and hold a very unique distinction in the field as amongst its top vocalists, violinists, as well as accompanists. They attribute all their success to their gurus, especially their father, Akkarai Shri S Swamynathan, who still continues to guide them, and to their mother, Smt A Janaghi, who has nurtured every need and been an enormous tower of strength.