Saturday, 4 July 2020


After the untimely demise of guru Rasheswar Saikia Barbayan, the founder-principal of Sangeet Sattra in October, 2000 a group of culture-loving people of Assam introduced the ‘Rasehwar Saikia Barbayan Sattriya Award’ in the year 2009 as a mark of respect to late legendary guru for his untiring efforts to establish Sattriya dance, music and Bhowna. From the year 2013, Sangeet Sattra continued this award to commemorate and offer their respect to their founder-principal. This coveted award is given to persons who have dedicated their life for the all-round development of Sattriya culture and Indian classical traditions. The eminent personalities chosen for this year’s award are – Sonaram Sarma Burah Bhakat, a devoted Bura Bhakat of Mul Kamalabari Sattra, Dr. Nita Vidyarthi, eminent dance critic, and Kalavati Devi, renowned Manipuri dancer.

Due to the current pandemic, the formal award ceremony will be held at a later date.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Apsaras Arts Roundup

Singapore’s initial lockdown restriction was revised with relaxed restrictions to “Phase 2” from 19 June 2020 as the arts community prepares to reopen studios for regular dance classes from early July.  Apsaras Arts surges ahead with continued digital conversations with interesting speakers. 

This past week, two digital events were held; ‘Spotlight Series’ part five, featuring outgoing India High Commissioner to Singapore, Jawed Ashraf. During this tenure, he created many important initiatives that strengthened India-Singapore relations including the inauguration of a memorial of Mahatma Gandhi at Clifford Pier in 2017 (now the Fullerton Bay Hotel), marking the occasion of the immersion of his ashes here in Singapore back in 1948. All these events were marked with rich cultural content showcasing the vast and rich heritage of India. Many of these performances featuring classical dance, instruments and yoga practitioners of Singapore were curated and coordinated by Aravinth Kumarasamy of Apsaras Arts as well.

In this Spotlight session, H.E Javed spoke on “Transcending Boundaries – The Power of India’s Cultural Heritage.” Speaking off the cuff from the High Commission of India, on 21 June, which was coincidentally international day of Yoga, he spoke with eloquence and depth on the enduring power and potential of the centuries long transcending of Indic traditions and culture through language, ideology, customs and traditions to the rest of Asia and in particular, the specific influences to South East Asia, including Singapore. The many communities he managed to engage, the religious activities he participated in, all had cultural elements embedded and he feels that Indian culture and heritage can continue to build dialogue and bridges for long-lasting friendship and camaraderie between India and Singapore. This session was attended by over 80 participants including those from Europe, especially French-Indian arts organisers who are anticipating his impending arrival and are looking forward to support from the Government of India for Indian cultural exchange in France. It was a pleasure hearing his views, many of our students and participants were encouraged to hear his positive words, especially during this difficult global pandemic. 

This was followed by a new series by Apsara Arts called ‘Heart 2 Arts – Conversations with Darshana Series Artistes’ on 26 June 2020.  Moderated by Mohanapriyan Thavarajah, this series featured conversations with Singapore-based dancers who have been featured in Apsaras Arts Darshana Series. This series began in 2018 and recreates an intimate setting of thematic solo and duet performances by locally based professional dancers.  The first session opened with Kathak dancer, Shivangi Dake Robert who had presented her show, Nupur Lahiri back in late 2019. In this session, Mohanapriyan explored the voice of the dancer through the selected pieces and themes and creates a conversation around how they created their show, the inspiration for their showcased pieces (he shows snippets from the show as part of the flow of discussion) and also how their past training impacts their performance style and what it takes to bring out elements in a piece. In this discussion, Shivangi shared how she used sequential lighting to showcase four unique characters within a storyline and explained how contemporary techniques like this help create more relevant performances. This session is available on Facebook Live at this link: for viewing. 

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Order of Australia Award for Shobha Sekhar

Melbourne based musician Shobha Sekhar was conferred the prestigious Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). The Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), announced that Shobha Sekhar would be conferred with this medal, in the Queen's Birthday 2020 Honours List.

The Order of Australia recognises individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.

Shoba Sekhar, founder of Kalakruthi school of Indian classical music in Melbourne, was initiated into music by her grandmother Lakshmi Bai, she continued her tutelage under stalwarts like D.K. Pattammal, R.K. Srikantan and D.K. Jayaraman. Dulcet-voiced Shobha is also a reputed veena artist and has won appreciation for her concerts and lecdems across continents. She founded her school Kalakruthi in 1994 and the school is now accredited by Music Academy, Chennai.

Shobha is a long term correspondent of Sruti and we congratulate her on this momentous occasion.  

Award for Apsaras Arts, Singapore

Vidhya Nair

Singapore based Apsaras Arts, was one of the first of six organisations who became inaugural recipients of The Stewards of Singapore’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Award – an award given to those dedicated to the promotion and transmission of the intangible cultural heritage in Singapore.

This award conferred by the National Heritage Board (NHB) Singapore aims to recognise practitioners (individual and groups) of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) who are dedicated to the promotion and transmission of their practices and have made outstanding contributions in their field.

This award spotlights Apsaras Arts as a leader in the Indian arts community and is important to the vision of the founders’ Neila and Satyalingam’s in creating a dance company that celebrates local dance traditions and nurtures young aspiring talents to be showcased internationally.

To thank the community and acknowledge the 43 years of service to Singapore society, a commemorative video was released on 9 June 2020 showcasing 43 faces and voices associated with the company sharing adjectives that reflect their relationship and what this company means to them.

SICH Award 2020 Link:

Saturday, 6 June 2020


Its Covid here, its Covid there, its Covid-19 everywhere! It has had its impact on every sphere and will continue to do so in the future too, to the extent that people are now talking about BC and AC—‘Before Covid’ and ‘After Covid” eras! Hence the spotlight in this issue is on Covid and the arts; USbased noted musician and composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran has attempted to analyse arts in the post-Covid scenario. Will arts as we know, ever be the same again?

On television and print media, we are bombarded with facts and figures about the pandemic from morning till night, which can be quite depressing. We have also presented a few statistics for you, but they are heartening figures about the Covid relief work undertaken by some prominent organisations in the arts fraternity. Three cheers to all the artists who are contributing in some way or the other to help others in need. On the one hand, music, dance, painting and other creative activity can be a soothing balm and calm the mind in a positive way. But what about performing artists for whom these could be the source of stress? Read what T. Nandakumar has to say about it in our ‘Wellness’section.

In our ‘News & Notes’ segment we have two reports— one of a regular festival held live in Patiala on a grand scale before the pandemic struck, and the second is a roundup of online events interestingly and intelligently put together by Apsaras Arts from Singapore during the worldwide Covid lockdown. In the coming months we will likely have more and more reviews of music, dance and theatre events streamed online via Zoom, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. Let us too keep in step with the times! In fact, in this issue we have a first person account from Rama Kousalya, a traditional, septuagenarian musicologist who cast aside her apprehensions about social media and learnt the ropes to successfully coordinate and conduct online the jayantis of Tyagaraja and Syama Sastry from far flung Tillaisthanam! Certainly an inspiration for all of us to gear up and become tech-savvy soon as this will probably be the “new normal” in the near future.

We do have our regular profiles of personalities. This time, Sruti contributor Anjana Anand, who is also a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher, has interviewed two senior dancers who have blazed a trail abroad— Malaysia based Ramli Ibrahim and US-based Hema Rajagopalan. Ramli is a classic example of a multifaceted artist who has transcended barriers through his art; he has been decorated with top honours in Malaysia and India. Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher Hema Rajagopalan, who turns 70 in a few months, has been one of the pioneers in propagating the dance form in the diaspora. 

For classical music lovers there is a moving account of how Neyyatinkara Vasudevan rose from humble beginnings, through hard work and perseverance, to become one of the leading musicians and teachers from Kerala to make waves in the Chennai Carnatic music scene and around the world. There are also two analytical articles on the Varnam; one attempts to explore the unpublished varnas of Walajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar. In the second article, senior Bharatanatyam exponent and scholar Nandini Ramani provides insights into the structure of a traditional pada varnam.

Our varied content this month surely offers interesting fare for you to spend time on a positive note.