Tuesday, 7 July 2020

FROM THE EDITOR


“Cyber” and “online” are the latest catchwords. With no let up in the Covid 19 pandemic and the continuation of restrictions, the resumption of truly live performances, in halls big or small, seems to be quite a distant possibility. We have cyber performers, cyber teachers, cyber speakers, cyber organisers and cyber spaces. Cyber sessions by musicians, dancers and theatre personalities are either streamed “live” (!) or resurrected from the archives. The performance space has shrunk from the large proscenium to the restricted camera area in the artist’s room. So too has the space for the audience who watch performances peering into digital screens—big, medium or small, in the casual comfort of their homes. In the wake of social-distancing, online concerts must have drawn several new enthusiasts into the arts circuit and also kept alive the interest of seasoned rasikas. Online performances are a good makeshift arrangement; cyber can certainly coexist and complement live performances, but cannot really replicate the wholesome live experience. However, artists and several arts curators have risen to the occasion and the cyberspace is buzzing with online arts activities, especially on weekends. There is a mindboggling variety to savour. The spotlight in the July issue continues to be on Covid 19 and the arts: two of our seasoned writers—Sujatha Vijayaraghavan and Shailaja Khanna, who have watched a range of performances have presented interesting reviews of online programmes during the lockdown.

We present a special feature on the debonair sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan, his music and his musical lineage. It is a ‘double delight’ as we have also brought to you a rare interview with his father, the late sarod maestro Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan. And what a coincidence that the interviewer is none other than Lalita Khanna—mother of Shailaja Khanna who has penned the profile-interview of the famous son for Sruti! The interviews throw light on their learning, life and approach to the arts. 

We are launching two new series in this issue. One is an occasional series on popular choreographers/ teachers in classical dance who are crowd pullers—in an attempt to explore the secrets of their success. The first person to be featured in it is Madurai R. Muralidaran, passionate about laya, Tamil and music, who has been showcasing his mega dance musicals globally and whose compositions are very popular among dance teachers. The second series is on the ‘Saptaswara devatas’ by ace painter, musician and musicologist S. Rajam. We published many of his paintings while he was alive. However, it has been our long standing wish to share with our readers, details about the original paintings of the saptaswara devatas that adorn the walls of Sruti office. We begin the series with S. Rajam’s painting Origin of the Swaras, and hope to present each swara in the next seven issues of the magazine.

The Carnatic music world has lost a stellar artist in the passing away of octogenarian musician T. Rukmini on 31 May 2020. Her good friend, Sujatha Vijayaraghavan pays rich tribute to this versatile violin soloist, accompanist, vocalist and teacher, who charmingly couched her laya prowess in the sheen of melody and bhava.

This year Guru Poornima falls on 5 July—the day to pay respects to the guru, guide and mentors. We have come a long way from gurukulams where disciples spent years with the guru, to home tuitions, group classes, and to impersonal online classes. I recently came across an announcement inviting students to learn nattuvangam online qualifying age three to adults! Now where are we heading for? Take care! Be safe.

S. JANAKI

Saturday, 4 July 2020

RASHESWAR SAIKIA BARBAYAN SATTRIYA AWARD


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: https://www.facebook.com/DarshanaIDS 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: https://youtu.be/idmSmkLxdQE