Thursday, 30 October 2014

T.R. Balamani passes away

T.R. Balamani, well known Carnatic music guru, who trained several star musicians, passed away in the morning on 30 October 2014, in Chennai. She was the recipient of several awards including the first M.S. Subbulakshmi Lifetime Achievement Award from Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts, Mumbai; the TTK Award from the Music Academy, Chennai; and the Acharya Rathnakara title from the Tyagaraja Aradhana Committee, Cleveland. Sruti offers its condolences to the bereaved family.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014


 An exciting opportunity for emerging Carnatic vocalists below 25 

Sruti has joined hands with TAG Corporation and Karnatic Music Forum, both involved in promoting Carnatic music, to conduct an annual Talent Hunt to spot five top voices in the field of Carnatic music.

The first TALENT HUNT will be held from 12th to 17th January 2015 at TAG Centre, Alwarpet, Chennai.

Applications are invited from young, aspiring vocalists looking for opportunities in the Carnatic music performance space. The applications must be accompanied by the applicant’s biodata and audio CD to the address given below:

Mrs. Usha Baradwaj, Coordinator, D1/9, Anand Apartments, 50, LB Road, Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai – 41 or by mail at

Out of the applicants, 18 will be selected to perform for an hour each during the January 2015 event. The top five voices of 2015 to be selected by a panel of experts, will each receive prize money of Rs.5000 and a citation.

1.       The artists (boys or girls) must be below the age of 25 as on 1st January 2015.
2.      The CD must contain one classical kriti with raga alapana, niraval and swaras for a maximum duration of 25 minutes, and a light classical song. The total duration of the CD should not exceed 30 minutes.
3.       30th November 2014 will be the last date for receipt of applications.
4.       The applicants should not have performed in the December Music Festival concerts of any of the major sabhas of Chennai.
5.    During the hour-long performance, the selected applicant is expected to present a mini concert that will include raga alapana, niraval and kalpana swaras.
6.     Proper vocalisation will be an all-important criterion in selecting the top five. Open-mouthed, akaram-oriented singing will be a must.

Note: Violin and percussion accompaniment, to be provided by the organizers, will be common for the day’s concerts.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Kala Nilayam’s Anubhava Aradhanai

A superb tribute to Tyagaraja

By Charukesi

It must have been an unusual experience for Kalanilayam, the oldest Tamil theatre group, when it decided to choose a totally different subject for its play before the Chennai audience last weekend. It was a period play on the life of saint-poet Tyagaraja, who lived around two hundred years ago, and his immortal songs in praise of his beloved Sri Rama.

Backed by the 98-year old doyen of Tamil theatre, K.S. Nagarajan (who was honoured with a life time achievement award by Ramu Endowments before the play), his son playwright and actor-director K.S.N. Sundar donned the role of Tyagaraja, besides scripting the dialogue. The play featured episodes based on short stories by the late Swaminatha Athreya of Tanjavur, a scholar writer of the Manikodi era. The stories were published some sixty years ago in Swadesamitran, based on his conversations with the disciples of Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer and Embar Srirangachariyar, who learnt directly from the saint-poet. Of the more than 25 stories originally published, only a dozen were available now in the book ‘Tyagaraja Anubhavangal’. Every one, however, is a gem.

The play had eight episodes chosen strung as homage to the bard of Tiruvaiyaru. It began with a scene in which Tyagaraja is invited by Natesa Achari to witness the Ramayana play being staged by them in the threshold of the field in the night. Overwhelmed by the impact of the street play by commoners, Tyagaraja embraces the actor who plays Rama as well as Natesa Achari who plays Hanuman.

The commotion created by the abduction of a young girl Ganga by the palace people and the resultant riot averted by Tyagaraja was another scene which had all the ingredients of drama. In another, poignant scene, the temple priest is accused by the rogue Eknath of stealing the golden flowers meant for the archana, Tyagaraja heaves a sigh of relief when the gurukkal reveals the truth that exposed Eknath.

The roles of Tyagaraja’s disciple Ramaraya and Jalpesan, Tyagaraja’s brother, were clearly etched and provided mirth and laughter in an otherwise serious play. ‘Kalanilayam’ Chandru did the role of Ganapadigal and Upanishd Brahmam with his customary ease, underplaying the roles. The majestic Kakaji Panditar, an official from the palace, the gigantic tantric who brings cheer to Jalpesan for his scorpion bite and Ganapadigal’s garrulous friend Krishnamurthy Sastrigal, were perfect foils. 

The play had the advantage of wonderful vocal music by Sikkil Gurucharan which added strength and substance to the whole play. The kritis chosen were contextual and Gurucharan rendered them with feeling.

KSN Sundar not only scripted the play but also took up the challenging role of the saint-composer. His body language and dialogue were close to perfection. The humour in the dialogues was naturally woven into the play.

From family dramas to a classical play of this kind, Kalanilayam has come a long way and it must have been a paradigm shift in their approach to sabha theatre presentation. On the whole, a well produced play Anubhava Aradhanai is booked for a dozen shows in the city as of now and should reach out to many venues in the coming months.

A suggestion to the Sabha authorities: While celebrating the Tyagaraja Aradhana Day, why not stage Anubhava Aradhanai in the evening for the pleasure of the rasikas? They would not only get to hear the wonderful music of the composer, but also watch the events unfold before them on the stage leading to the birth of the kriti-s.