Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Music Academy awards

By S. Janaki

Now that the elections are over at the Music Academy, the committee will now get down in right earnest to discussing and declaring the Sangita Kalanidhi and other awards. The Meccademy seems to have a mindboggling rotation system of sorts—one year a vocalist, the next year an instrumentalist—after a violinist may be a vainika or percussionist? A female followed by a male, and the latest (introduced a few years ago) is that of alternating between the old and the young! Now I wonder whether last year's Sangita Kalanidhi A. Kanyakumari is the youngest among the veteran group of violinists or is she the seniormost among the young violinists! Better clarity may help us speculate better about the awards this year.

If Kanyakumari belongs to the younger category, this should be the year for senior and veteran musicians, as also for vocalists or percussionists.  For several years now, Sruti has been advocating that more than one musician be honoured  with the Sangita Kalanidhi award—a vocalist, a string or wind instrumentalist, and a percussionist. There are several such musicians like vocalists O.S. Thiagarajan, Aruna Sairam (last year the awardee was a woman, so I wonder), R. Visweswaran (veena), Vikku Vinayakram (ghatam), and  Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel (tavil), to name a few. As Parur M.S. Anantharaman, V.V. Subramanyam, and L. Subramaniam are violinists, they probably may not be part of the list this year.

In the younger brigade we have seniors among them who are deserving contenders like N. Ravikiran (chitraveena) and Neyveli Santhanagopalan (vocal). Let's wait and watch. It is a pity that the life of a young genius was snuffed out in his prime, for none can deny that Mandolin Shrinivas should have been the first young musician to receive the Sangita Kalanidhi; wishful thinking that the Academy should have got the idea a year or two before it did! 

Regarding the Natya Kala Acharya award of the Music Academy, stalwarts like Guru T.K. Kalyanasundaram of Mumbai, and Shanta Dhananjayan are yet to be honoured—I wonder why! In fact they should have been among the early recipients. Veterans like N.S. Jayalakshmi, C.V. Chandrasekhar and  V.P. Dhananjayan were honoured with  the Sangita Kala Acharya years ago, when the Natya Kala Acharya award with its handsome prize money had not been even thought of. Fame did not have purse-strings attached!

Will the Academy start honouring stalwarts belonging to other classical dance forms too or will it restrict itself to Bharatanatyam? (Only Carnatic musicians are honoured with Sangita Kalanidhi because Hindustani musicians do not perform in the regular season slots.) However, solo and group presentations in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali, Mohini Attam and Manipuri have become an integral part of the annual Dance Festival of the Academy; Sattriya, Koodiyattam and Chhau could follow suit. There are veterans in each form who are pioneers and need to be honoured before moving on in Bharatanatyam where it has already come down the ladder! 

The Academy honoured icons like Bharatanatyam exponent Kamala Narayan and sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar with the lifetime achievement award in 2003 or so. Why not honour more such icons during their lifetime, before it is too late?

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