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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Season Bytes - Kruthi Bhat

By Lavanya Narayanan

                                                                                                                                            7th December 2016

Season Bytes
The HCL concert series, hosted by the Music Academy, has supported young musicians for over 30 years. While the series used to mark the entry of a performer onto the serious Carnatic music stage, the multitude of sabhas and opportunities that exist now have changed the game—now, HCL is another feather in a young artist’s cap—though possibly, a life-changing one. We attend HCL concerts with high hopes and we approached Kruthi Bhat’s HCL kutcheri with equal, if not more, enthusiasm. Tackling kambhoji on stage for the first time with Tyagaraja’s O Ranga Sayee, as Kruthi herself mentioned, and showing vocal prowess to fit her impressive lineage, she was matched phrase-for-phrase by young violinist Sruti Sarathy, also from the US. What was more encouraging still was to see the audience filled with senior artists—Kruthi’s uncle, Vittal Ramamurthy, as well as Abhishek Raghuram and Vijay Siva, among others. We look forward to seeing Kruthi, a young artist who is as humble as she is talented, back in Chennai for the season. 

Season Bytes - Concert Etiquette

By Lavanya Narayanan

                                                                                                                                                 7th December2016

Season Bytes

As the season starts off, I can’t but notice the changing parameters of concert etiquette that are brought seemingly to the forefront, especially in larger venues that accommodate throngs of people. While many occasions have presented rather unusual circumstances, a recent instance at the first concert of vocal sister-duo, Ranjani-Gayatri, astonished me quite a bit. After the artists concluded their virutham, an older gentleman suddenly shot up from his seat in the front row. “Ma’am, what slokam is this from?!” Sitting on stage, I was rather shocked by the sudden disruption. This happened again as the duo prepared to conclude the concert, with another gentleman exclaiming, “Sing an abhang!” While I understand the crowd’s enthusiasm, the ambience of a concert and the trance that it can put you in is promise enough, I would hope, for the audience to allow the artist creative freedom and independence, holding their commentary and critique until the end. 

Lec Dem Mela 2016

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The great December challenge

Music Academy Season Tickets. 

Rajagopalan Venkatraman

(Reprinted from Sri. Sri. Sri. Faceseasonananda's diary entry of three seasons ago. Suitably modified with addendum #9 to factor in the current climate).
Rain or shine, currency or card, bike or boat, TADA or Nada, the show must go on!
For the benefit of those who haven't yet seen the customary full page programme schedule on the Music Season Special Supplement of The Hindu today --
Eligibility / Selection Criteria for Season Tickets ---
1. Minimum of 75% in 10th and 12th Stds. Notary attested mark sheets to be presented.
2. Minimum of 70% in Bachelor's and/or Master's degree. No arrears in any subjects in any semester. Attested mark sheets of all semesters to be produced.
3. Ration Card, PAN Card, Passport, Driving License, Aadhar Card and Voter Id -- all of the above in original to be produced at the ticket counter. Two attested copies of each need to be submitted.
4. Those holding valid Drivers' License issued in the continental states of the US of A are given 5 grace marks.
5. Residents of the Greater Mylapore area, immediate blood relatives and descendants of performers in the evening slots and super senior slots in the morning are given 5 grace marks upon producing attested, documented proof for the same.
6. Written Test carries a weightage of 50 marks. Broadly covering Trinity, Papanasam Sivan, Purandaradasa and 20th century composers from TN, Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala.
7. Group Discussion carries a weightage of 25 marks. Topics will only be on Trinity compositions.
8. Personal interview carries 25 marks. The panelists comprising Shri. PSN, Smt. Vedavalli and Shri. BM. Sundaram will conduct the personal interviews. Their decision will be final. No further correspondence will be encouraged with the President and/or any Executive Council members of the Academy.
9. Those who bring the old Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes shall bring an authorization letter in original duly signed by Hon. Shri. Arun Jaitely and Shri. Urjit Patel along with two photocopies attested by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore/Saidapet.
Also, applicants are strongly advised against queuing outside the Academy premises from this afternoon onwards. The counters open sharp at 09:00 am tomorrow and applicants are strongly advised to come to the venue not earlier than 6 hours before.
Here's wishing all the very best for applicants.
Have a Happy and Fulfilling Music Season 2016.
Issued on behalf of the Office of Sri Sri Sri Faceseasonanda.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

G Ravi Kiran

Photo by Subramanya Shastri
Young Voices

By Sushma Somasekharan

Many musicians are really passionate about the art form, keen to share their love for music with their listeners and others. Meet a musician who is so overcome by one particular composer that he even started a trust, Guruguhaamrta, to express his love and respect for the composer.

Sruti recently spoke to Carnatic vocalist G Ravi Kiran, disciple of T.M Krishna, about his music and his fascination with Muthuswami Dikshitar.

How did your tryst with Carnatic music begin? 

My first guru was Gayatri Kesavan who noticed that I could sing. She taught me the introductory lessons of Carnatic music. I later learnt from Vasanta Ramanujam and RS Ramakanth who then suggested I learn from his father, the legendary Sangita Kalanidhi RK Srikantan Mama. It was in late 2002 that I started learning from TM Krishna Anna. I am grateful to all my gurus who have been instrumental in my musical journey in various ways. 
How has learning from various gurus influenced your music?. What would you say you have imbibed from them?

It took me a few days to gather the courage to talk to Srikantan Mama, but once I did, I was pleasantly surprised to discover his childlike enthusiasm and curiosity for music. He is a musical titan with several decades of musical experience. Yet, the keen interest he displayed in music made him seem like a new student, like any of us. It made me realise that his humility, his respect for the art form made him the legend that he is.
After each class with him, we had several informal interactions when he would recollect his experiences with the legends of the pastespecially his two idols Musiri Subramaniya Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. I would often wonder at the sincerity and dedication of Srikantan Mamaespecially his sense of time and his emphasis on diction. Even till his last days, he took great care of his body and his voice. I hope to have imbibed some of his discipline.
In late 2002, I was fortunate to be accepted as a disciple by TM Krishna Anna. Even before that, I was one of his innumerable fans ever since he performed at my college, BITS Pilani, in 1998. His Bhuvini dasudane and Nidhi chala sukhama left me spell bound and I felt a deep connection with his music.

Learning from Krishna Anna has been a memorable journey. He is a strict task master and does not spare you till you get a sangati right in its entirety. Nothing is left for ‘tomorrow’ or the ‘next class’. His ability to switch on and off is also something I greatly admirehe can be talking jovially with you before class, but once it comes to music he is in a different space altogether. His commitment to what he believes in and his sincerity in everything he doesthese are some of the qualities in him that inspire me day in and day out.

When did you consider pursuing Carnatic music professionally? 

My true calling came when I spent four years at BITS Pilani.  It was then that I realised the beauty of Carnatic music. My roommate during my college years was another stellar musician DB Ashvin, and those years inspired me to become even more passionate about this pristine art form. After graduating from college, my concert career also started blooming slowly and steadily. My first full length concert was for a sabha in Bangalore called Ananya with Srikantan Mama in the audience. I have been fortunate to be recognised and encouraged by so many sabhas in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and elsewhere. Over the past few years, I have performed in several leading sabhas all over India and have also performed in France, Singapore and Australia.

I enjoy performing at different venuesbe it the prestigious sabhas of Chennai, the temple audiences in Kerala with their sheer passion for Carnatic music or the Rama Navami concerts with their old world charm in Bangalore.- each of these has a special charm and each concert is a learning experience. Ultimately, I want to be true to my music and surrender to it with humility and respect. 

You are also a full-time engineer. How do you ensure you strike the right balance between both your careers?

It is all about discipline. So long as I am able to practise at least a couple of hours every day, there is always time to pursue both careers. I listen to recordings of the great masters whenever I find time during the day. My day begins with music and I have been fortunate to maintain that discipline from the day I joined the corporate work space. Striking this balance is also made much easier by the support of my parents and my wife Archana, a professional Bharatanatyam dancer.

Tell us more about your Muthuswami Dikshitar movement.

I really do not remember when I started getting fascinated with Muthuswami Dikshitar. It just grew on me over time and before I knew it, it enveloped me completely. I found an 
outlet to this obsession, if I may call it that, through Guruguhaamrtaa trust I formed in 2009. RK Shriramkumar Anna, an artist very close to my heart, named it.

My fascination for Dikshitar was stoked by Krishna Anna, when he start researching Dikshitar as well as the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini. It was also during this time that I learnt several rare gems from him. Frankly, the grandeur of Dikshitar is something I am just barely beginning to fathom. I can only look at it with awe, wonder and reverence.

Through Guruguhaamrta  I have been conducting concerts and lec-dems focused entirely on Dikshitar, conducting two flagship events every year (for the past six years). The first is a day-long akhandam at Ettayapuram where several musicians from South India participate and the second a national level Dikshitar Kritis competition through which I hope to encourage more and more students to learn and sing Dikshitar kritis. I would like to share my love for Dikshitar with everyone, and I can only hope that these events will spark the interest and curiosity for the great composer.

I am thankful to all the seniors as well as my colleagues who have been gracing Guruguhaamrta with their presence and participation. I am also grateful to all the patrons of Guruguhaamrta, without whom I would not be able to move forward with my movement.

Many would say that Dikshitar is an acquired taste, as his compositions are very scholarly and technical, rich in lyrical and musical values. How do you ensure that even the common rasika appreciates your goal and is on board with it?

I honestly believe that we could get everyone to appreciate Dikshitar kritis if more and more artists sang them on the concert stage. At a fundamental level, that alone would ensure that rasikas are exposed to as wide a Dikshitar repertoire as possible.

At a secondary level, the aim is to present the multiple facets of Dikshitar kritismusical, lyrical and spiritual. Under my guru’s guidance, I have embarked on a personal mission to sing and document all the Dikshitar kritis in raganga ragas. These ragas are all unique and have an independent identity which is different from the more popular 72 sampoorna melakarta ragas. Dr R Hemalatha, ace violinist and scholar, is collaborating with me on this project to share the theoretical insights of these raganga ragas.

Indulge us. What are your favourite renditions of Dikshitar kritis? I’m sure our readers would like to share your love for Dikshitar too.

This is really tough. All his compositions are remarkable in their own right. Hmm, if I had to choose, I would say Semmangudi's Chetha sree, Santana Ramaswaminam and Balakrishnam bhavayami. And Krishna Anna’s “Sri Bhargavi bhadram in Mangala Kaisiki and Rama Rama kali kalusha” in Ramakali. These are my all-time favourites.

(As part of Sruti's policy, honorifics and titles are avoided as far as possible, even when the writer or artist employs them as a mark of respect to their seniors. This blog post is no exception).