Asian Music and Dance

Belonging to Samyo – A musical family

Sixteen-year-old musician, Tharani Nithiyananthan, gives us the low-down on what it’s like to be a member of Samyo – South Asian Music Youth Orchestra.

I’ve been a member of Samyo since April 2009, when I successfully auditioned with the Carnatic (South Indian) violin. Samyo is the UK’s first South Asian orchestra and is managed by Milapfest who specialise in North and South Indian music. Prior to joining the orchestra, I had friends who were already part of Samyo and they suggested that I audition. Although it was a nerve-racking thought, I decided to at least try. 

Rehearsals are usually held once a month throughout the year but these can become more frequent in the lead-up to a performance. Rehearsals take place in London so I am lucky that I don’t have to travel for hours from cities such as Leeds and Liverpool, like some of my fellow musicians. I practise daily, like I always have done (even before joining the orchestra), and I dedicate one day a week to rehearsing Samyo pieces. This level of practice is really helpful, particularly when we are asked to play at slightly smaller shows with just a handful of members; it means that I’m more prepared. On these occasions it is especially important that every member knows exactly what they are playing in each piece. 

Samyo is an addition to my musical life and so, when I joined, it did not take up too much spare time. Instead, it slotted into the music I did already. All members of the orchestra are dedicated to music, both individually and as a group, so we are happy to give our time to practice. I attend Forest School and play music, both Eastern and Western, regularly there. Although at times it felt like a struggle to keep on top of my work and extra activities, the school have been very supportive – they’re even coming to see Samyo’s show at the Southbank Centre next year. 

There are endless benefits to being part of the orchestra. First and foremost, the atmosphere of being part of the orchestra is amazing. They are like a family and when I joined, they accepted me without second thoughts. Every member feels like they belong and we are all such great friends. In this environment, it makes it a better place to learn and improve existing musical skills. Also, I have been exposed to music which I would have never learned if I had not joined Samyo. As a South Indian musician, I would not have thought to learn North Indian music but now that I have been introduced to it I have found that it has not only broadened my musical knowledge but made me become a much better musician. We learn from highly acknowledged and honourable artists from both North and South Indian traditions and I have experienced training which would not have been possible without Samyo.

I have gained many skills since I became a part of Samyo. I have also experienced different types of learning, from being taught by established musicians, fellow members and by teaching the newer, younger musicians in the orchestra. Playing music as a group was a new concept for many of us, especially for me. Although it took time to learn the correct skills, those around me helped me listen and merge with other musicians to form a group which works well. 

There are many members of Samyo who are planning, and working towards, a career as a professional musician. For me, this has not been my ambition. Music for me has always been my passion, something that stays fixed when other parts of life seem unsure. I will never stop playing the violin and will never stop learning but I do not want my musical life to depend on wealth or how much I earn. I would prefer to play music because I love it. No matter how busy life may become, I will always spend time listening, learning and making music.

Samyo is performing in Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre on March 17 2012. Please visit www.milapfest.com for full information.



Join the weekly Pulse newsletter and we will send you the latest news and articles straight to your inbox