NRI Voice: A Musical Journey in Melbourne
Melbourne-based violinist and vocalist Murali Kumar and his wife Vandana run a Carnatic music school in the Australian city.
Indian violinist and vocalist Murali Kumar has been nurturing young talent for the past over a decade in Melbourne, Australia.
“It is extremely satisfying and a matter of pride,” Kumar, who runs Raaga Sudha School of Carnatic Music with his wife Vandana, says. Along with being an accomplished musician, Kumar is also an engineer and works full time as a senior manager in a IT firm in Melbourne.
Kumar and his wife moved to the Australian city in 2000 after working briefly in the United States and Japan. The couple, who is also involved in philanthropic activities in India, has sponsored two projects to provide potable water supply to needy tribal villages in Palghar district of Maharashtra.
The Chennai-born, BITS Pilani graduate talks to Little India about his musical journey and efforts to popularize Indian classical music in Australia.
Love for Music
Violin and music define who I am. It is an integral part of me. My parents initiated me into the Carnatic style of music on the violin when I was 8 years old. I performed my first full-length concert at the age of 14 or 15. I am also proficient in Hindustani classical music, and perform regularly in India and Australia.
In December, I can often be spotted performing in Chennai for the city’s popular December Season, an annual classical music festival. I also provide violin support for all forms of Indian classical dance, such as the Bharatanatyam.
Getting Accolades in Australia
I have won a number of awards in Australia over the years, such as the Victoria’s Multicultural Award for Excellence from the state government. I was also the inaugural president of the Federation of Indian Music and Dance in Victoria, an umbrella organization bringing together music and dance schools in the region. I feel that music is an ocean and I am forever willing to learn in it.
Music and Indian Diaspora
Families of Indian origin are proud of their roots and want their children to be connected with our culture. Music is the essence of our religion, culture and heritage. That said, what is most encouraging is the motivation and drive of the students themselves, which is more than that of even those who are born and raised in India these days.
Our academy collaborates with other schools and we invite artistes from India for perform music and dance concerts as well as unique productions. Many of my senior students have made Indian music an important part of their lives, and that is enormously satisfying to me as a guru.
Both Vandana and I are proud Indians, and Australians at the same time. Melbourne is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best cities in terms of the quality of life. Melbourne is also the cultural capital of Australia. The Indian community here is very united and we retain our Indian identities, while being Australian, without any hassles.
A Balancing Act
It is not easy to balance everything – my job, my music practice and concerts, teaching students, running the school and organizing concerts and productions. It is a challenge for both of us as my wife works full time and helps me in the school as well. But somehow, we find time for everything.
We are passionate about music. The school’s team of volunteers helps out a lot. We keep ourselves physically fit with exercise and yoga, and that helps us balance things.
The Path of Kindness
My wife and I have always been involved in philanthropic activities since the early days of our careers. We came in contact with Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Maharashtra, in 2014 and we decided to sponsor their projects to provide potable water supply to tribal villages in Palghar district. We have completed two projects util now and both have been very successful.