Thursday, 13 July 2017

Birthdays & Anniversaries

“Time has been a major influence”
(Excerpted from the Sruti archives)

Astad Deboo is a maverick dancer. His 67th birthday falls on 13 July 2014. Over the years he has dodged neat categories and continues to explore new frontiers with his individualistic style. Minimalism, restraint and innovation have emerged as signature features of his choreography. Having worked extensively with different groups of performers, he was in Delhi recently with Rhythm Divine a performance with Thang-ta performers from Manipur. In this freewheeling conversation he reflects on his journey through the various rhythms of life and performance.

What was the inspiration for Rhythm Divine? How did the concept originate and how did you go about creating it?

I have been working with performers in Manipur for the past ten years. We started working with their living traditions and techniques and introducing layers of playfulness and interaction. I would respond to their rhythm, they would follow my movement, and so on. We keep changing the choreography, developing new works and revisiting earlier ones.

Are the volatile political conditions of Manipur expressed in the bodies and movements of the dancers? Was there any engagement with that during the creation of the piece?

Maybe not directly in terms of theme and content, but it is part of their experience. We worked a lot with rhythm – there are different levels of hostility, suspiciousness in their silences, their cries. They usually perform in a completely different context, mostly as ritual, in temple environs, but not on stage. So the work takes on a different meaning when it is taken into a new context.

To read full story, buy Sruti 359

Kesarbai Kerkar (1890 - 1977)
Empress Of The Concert Platform
(Excerpted from the Sruti archives)

Introduction: The selection of vocalists for coverage in this series of essays is guided by stylistic or historical significance rather than acknowledged stature or greatness as commonly understood. Selected vocalists will always represent a respectable level of musicianship, while the essays will attempt to justify their selection for the Sruti reader's attention. The order of release will be guided by the need to sustain reader interest through variety. —Deepak S. Raja.

"When we went to hear Kesarbai, we went VV to learn something". This was the sitar maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan's observation about Kesarbai. In a male-dominated era, no female vocalist, either before her or after, has obliged her male colleagues to acknowledge her as an "Ustad". Kesarbai (1890-1977) was the only contemporary of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan (1886-1950) to command a concert fee on par with his. But, there was a difference. Kesarbai cultivated a small, but fanatical, following largely of connoisseurs. Faiyyaz Khan, on the other hand, accumulated a huge, and equally committed, following cutting across levels of aesthetic cultivation. 

The arduous journey to the top 

Kesarbai was born in Keri, a small village in Goa. She showed an aptitude for singing in early childhood. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Kolhapur, where she was placed under the tutelage of the Kirana doyen, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan. This training ended in ten months when her family moved back to Goa. Three years went by without any training, before she started learning from Ramakrishna Vaze, the Gwalior trained maestro, who visited Goa periodically. The intermittent grooming under Vaze Buwa ended after eight or ten years, when her family moved to Bombay. 

To read full story, buy Sruti 241

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