Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Jon Higgins

Birthdays & Anniversaries

18.9.1939 - 7.12.1984
Jon Borthwick Higgins (September 18, 1939 – December 7, 1984), also known in India as Higgins Bhagavatar, was an American musician, scholar, and teacher known principally for his rare skill as a non-Indian in the field of Carnatic music. He lived much of his student and professional life at Wesleyan University.
He founded the Indian music studies program at York University in Toronto with Trichy Sankaran in 1971, and returned to Wesleyan in 1978 as a professor of music and Director of the Center for the Arts. He continually sought to strengthen the quality of Wesleyan's curriculum, and immersed himself in numerous cultural activities inside and beyond the university community. He also maintained a deep relationship with his family.
Higgins was a singer of European and Western classical music. He is also recognized as the first non-Indian to perform South Indian classical Carnatic music at a high level of proficiency. He began his Indian music studies in Wesleyan courses taught by Robert E. Brown and T. Ranganathan, and was quickly captured by the subtle beauty of the art form. He decided to fully dedicate himself to learning the language of Carnatic music, and went to India on a Fulbright scholarship to learn from Ranganathan's brother, T. Viswanathan. Within a short period of time he performed to great acclaim at the Tyagaraja Aradhana, an important music festival in South India. He later continued his studies under their sister, renowned dancer T. Balasaraswati, and wrote his dissertation on the dance music of bharatanatyam. Higgins returned to India as a Senior Research Fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies. He continued to perform Carnatic music, recorded several albums, and due to his widely recognized sensitivity was honored with the sobriquet "Bhagavatar" (scholarly musician). 


The jury of the OMC Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival presented the NALCO guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award to Dr.Sachi Das (Theatre) and to guru Lingaraj Behera (Odissi) on 9 September at the 24th OMC Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Award Festival 2018. The NALCO guru Kelucharan Mohapatra Yuva Prativa Samman was presented to four young artists in the area of classical dances and Odissi music. The recipients were Sonali Mohapatra (Bhubaneswar) & Subikash Mukherjee (Kolkata) for Odissi dance, Swati Sinha (New Delhi) for Kathakand and Rohan Suresh Dahale (Mumbai) for Odissi Music.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Lalgudi G. Jayaraman

Birthdays & Anniversaries

17.9.1930 - 22.4.2013
Lalgudi Gopala Iyer Jayaraman (17 September 1930 – 22 April 2013) was an Indian Carnatic violinist, vocalist and composer. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2001. He is commonly grouped with M.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.N.Krishnan as part of the violin-trinity of Carnatic Music.

He expanded the style of violin playing by inventing a whole new technique that is designed to best suit the needs of Indian Classical Music and establishing a unique style that came to be known as Lalgudi Bani'. Jayaraman composed several 'kritis', 'tillanas' and 'varnams' and dance compositions, which are a blend of ragabhava, rhythm and lyrical beauty. Lalgudi's instrumental talent comes to the fore in the form of lyrical excellence. He brought the most-sought-after vocal style into violin, and his renditions exhibit knowledge of lyrical content of the compositions.[4][5][6] Lalgudi actively and scientifically learned to self-critique his performances and dutifully wrote detailed reviews after each concert, a habit encouraged by his father and guru.[1] He was loath to experiment on stage in his solo concerts and almost always planned to the last detail, leading a certain critic to tout them as being intellectual rather than emotional in spirit, but Lalgudi's spontaneity and innate musical genius were often seen when he accompanied leading vocalists.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

M.S. Subbulakshmi

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi (also known as M.S.) was an Indian Carnatic singer from MaduraiTamil Nadu. She was the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.[1] She is the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award, often considered Asia's Nobel Prize,[2] in 1974 with the citation reading "Exacting purists acknowledge Srimati M. S. Subbulakshmi as the leading exponent of classical and semi-classical songs in the carnatic tradition of South India

The rendering of songs in Carnatic music is in the nature of 'ashtavadhana' (a feat of doing eight things simultaneously). It consists of adherence to sruti, command over laya, remembering the sahitya, knowing its meaning, bringing out the bhava, correct pronunciation, understanding the special features of raga and the use of gamaka-s. One who masters all these aspects is a compleat (meaning perfect) musician. MS was one of the few who belonged to this elite category.

A rarely known fact is that Jaidev, the venerable music director of Hindi movies, had approached MS to sing Allah tero naam in Gaud Sarang for the movie 'Hum Dono'. Unfortunately she did not agree as she had cut off all connections with the film world after 'Meera'. One can only speculate as to how the song would have been rendered by her. Instead Lata Mangeshkar provided the playback singing in a chorus. She sang the song as only she could have done. It became an all-time hit. In this connection a recent interview of Lata by The Times of India will be of interest to readers of Sruti. She listed her ten favourite songs. The first one was Aayega aanewala in 'Mahal'. This is what she said: "In those days I was a fan of M.S. Subbalaxmi (sic). I must have seen her film 'Meera' at least 50 times. Her style of singing got ingrained in my memory. Though the lyrics of 'Mahal' (written by Kamal Amrohi) were almost Urdu, while singing it I imagined how Subbalaxmi would have sung it." What a tribute from one Bharat Ratna to another!.
To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 144,244,384

Alathur Venkatesa Iyer

16.9.1895 - 1958
Birthdays & Anniversaries 

Venkatesa Iyer (born 1894) had drifted from a vedic-chanting family to learn music. He mastered the harmonium and could even demonstrate gamakas on the instrument, goes the story. Moving forward to the 1910s, Venkatesa Iyer married and settled down in Tiruchi. The first son, born in 1914, did not survive even for a year. The second, born in 1916, was named Sivasubramaniam.

Venkatesa Iyer’s association with Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai and Palani Muthiah Pillai, and his opportunity to tune the lyrics of Tiruppugazh which had a variety of complex rhythmic settings, rooted him strongly in laya. This was meticulously imparted to the two boys, making them experts in this aspect of music.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

T.N. Seshagopalan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Sri Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, the celebrated Carnatic musician and composer had his initial musical training under his mother and Sri. Ramanathapuram C. S. Sankarasivan (a great disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, the eminent musician and composer). (Sri Sankarasivan is the elder brother and guru of the famous mridangist C S Murugaboopathy).

In 1983 the prestigious Music Academy of Madras arranged to have a program of Seshagopalan in order to record special CD's and cassettes which have now been released by Oriental Records in the United States.

His many commercial cassettes and CD's are treasured possessions of his many ardent fans and admirers.

Viswanatha Iyer

Birthdays & Anniversaries

15.9.1896 - 1970
He has been described as the Grand Cavalier of Carnatic Music; as a Rabelaisian character; as a bon vivant; as a bohemian of the well-dressed kind. He was all of this, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer was.

He was, in essence, a free spirit and this was manifest in his music as well.

Music was in his blood, born as he was to a man who was well-known as a gifted amateur musician among connoisseurs of his day. He was the third child of Rama Iyer of Maharajapuram and his wife Amba. Rama Iyer, a landlord, lived in Maharajapuram, a fertile village on the banks of Kaveri river, in Tanjavur district. Endowed with a natural musical voice, he used to regale select listeners with his raga alapana-s. He would be invited to sing at festivals and religious functions. It is said that listeners on such occasions would be so moved by the slokas and viruttam-s sung by Rama Iyer that they would even forget to taste the payasam- the sweet delicacy— served  to them.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 95

Friday, 14 September 2018


Birthdays & Anniversaries
14.9.1948 - 29.6.2016

Veena was born in Kanpur on 14 September 1948 as the last of three siblings. She had an elder brother Kashinath Bodas, and an elder sister who died prematurely. Veena’s mother Shanta was also a singer who taught music in local schools. Shanta was encouraged by her husband to pursue both her school and music education. Veena grew up in this musical atmosphere at home. In addition to her lessons from her father, she also learnt from Kashinath.

Veena’s parents Shankar Shripad and Shanta Bodas hailed from Sangli in Maharashtra. A contemporary of Omkarnath Thakur and Vinayakrao Patwardhan, Bodas was an early student of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

Active in the nationalist movement, Paluskar was in the habit of sending his students to different parts of the country as music missionaries. He deputed Bodas to Kanpur, after being requested by locals to bring classical music to that mainly industrial town. Paluskar had performed in the 1925 Indian National Congress meet at Kanpur and by 1926 Bodas moved there with his wife and settled there. Bodas and Shanta founded ‘Sangit Samaj’ and started teaching, inviting other performers and propagating music in Kanpur. The music of the Paluskar tradition was essentially in the style of the Gwalior gharana.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 383

Alarmel Valli

Birthdays & Anniversaries

There is never a dull moment in her dance. Alarmel Valli is one of the best known divas of Bharatanatyam. She has represented India at prestigious cultural forums and impressed mainstream audiences abroad with her eloquence in dance and words. She has intelligently sculpted an attractive filigree of nritta and abhinaya on the strong foundation laid by her guru Pandanallur Subbaraya Pillai. 

How do you describe Alarmel Valli’s dance? This petite, agile, and vivacious artist is always a picture of self confidence on stage. ‘Valli’ means a creeper and her slender arm movements have the sinuous quality of a creeper swaying in the breeze. 

Valli’s USP is the musicality of her dance. The titles of the documentary films on Alarmel Valli – Pravahi and Lasya Kavya – are apt and represent the ebullient, graceful and poetic nature of her dance. Well known features of her dance are her joyous nritta marked by midukku or sparkle, with liberal use of ottam (running) adavus interspersed with light aerial movements which help her lithe frame to cover space in an incredible manner. There is a kulukku or jauntiness in her walk, a certain alakshyam or sauciness as she flicks her wrist in the ullasa nadai. Valli is a vibrant dancer but not a photo-perfect one. Her facial angles, her arm stretches, her elbow positions, body bends, and her araimandi on the move may not always be on the dot. Her attami is not gentle but pronounced. She presents a judicious combination of mukhaja (facial) and angika abhinaya peppered with coquettish glances accompanied by a typical slant of the neck. This flows into her nritta as well, but her abhinaya is clear and communicative as she weaves in interesting metaphors, steering away from melodrama. However, as hers is a spirited style, her flashes of intensity are often swept away in the swift momentum of her dance. You are left wishing for quietude and visranti.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 376


Birthdays & Anniversaries
14.9.1918 - 29.1.1973

Krishnan was born on 14 September 1918 in Alappuzha in Kerala, to Vaidyanatha Iyer and Brihannayaki, hailing from Kooniyur in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. When Krishnan was four months old, his father shifted from Alappuzha to Ramanathapuram (anglicised to Ramnad) district in Tamil Nadu to join the service of the Maharaja of Ramnad. Krishnan was one of eight siblings. Since the family spent many years in Ramnad, all of them prefixed Ramnad to their names. Krishnan began his first vocal lessons in Carnatic music under the tutelage of his elder brother Lakshminarayana and his guru C.S. Sankarasivam (a disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar). Among the brothers, Lakshminarayana and Venkatachalam learnt the violin, while Raghavan and Eswaran were trained to play the mridanga. By the age of seven, Krishnan had mastered Arunachala Kavi’s entire opera – the Ramanataka kriti-s. His singing prowess earned him opportunities in theatre while at school in Ramnad. Even at a young age, Krishnan had an inbuilt sense of rhythm. His guru Sankarasivam, who sang the complex Tiruppugazh in difficult tala cycles, accompanied by Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai, enjoyed making Krishnan keep the beat with his impeccable sense of rhythm.

In 1936, Krishnan moved from Ramnad to Madras, where he started performing and gaining exposure to the music of the veterans of the time. GNB was his favourite musician and Krishnan was a regular at his concerts, seen almost always in the front row. He was quoted saying, “Just as Hanuman is present wherever there is nama sankeertanam, so also will I be seen wherever there is good music.”

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 332

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Prabha Atre

Birthdays & Anniversaries
In a career spanning  seven decades, the veteran, a representative of the Kirana gharana and a Padma Bhushan awardee, has performed all over the world, released several recordings, and authored books on music composition and music appreciation in Marathi and English. She worked for All India Radio and was the head of S.N.D.T University’s music department at Mumbai in the early 1990s.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Kalakshetra Kathakali Festival

Kalakshetra kathakali Festival 2018

Sonal Mansingh

Sonal Mansingh, 74-year old veteran Odissi and Bharatanatyam exponent and social activist, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in July 2018 by the President of India Ramnath Kovind. Under Article 80 of the Constitution, the President can nominate 12 members to the Rajya Sabha "from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service." The nominated members have a six-year term.
Very few Indian classical artists have been nominated to the Upper House -- the first artist and woman to be so honoured was Rukmini Devi Arundale who served from 1952-62, followed by the nomination of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar (member from 1986-92). Filmstars Vyjayantimala Bali and Hema Malini, who are also renowned Bharatanatyam artists, have also served as members of the Rajya Sabha.
Sonal Mansingh—a much decorated artist and recipient of  the Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India—who has been in the field for about six decades and runs her dance institution the Centre for Indian Classical Dances (CICD) in New Delhi, says that the nomination to the Rajya Sabha is a validation of Indian art, culture and tradition. One hopes that her dynamic presence will be a catalyst to government bodies to give more importance to the preservation and propagation of the classical, folk and tribal arts which constitute India's rich cultural heritage.

Papa Venkataramiah

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Papa Venkataramiah was born on 12 September 1901 as the second son of violinist Karur Srikantiah. He, like Tyagaraja, belonged to the Mulakanadu (Murikinadu) sect of Telugu speaking brahmins. He could claim kinship of blood and music with the composer Matrubhootiah, and with the Devudu Brothers: Pedda Devudu (Venkatasubbiah) and Chinna Devudu (Krishniah), the violinist and composer of the Garbhapuri kriti-S; and also with Sangeeta Kalanidhi Karur Chinnaswami Iyer (1888-1967), who was a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award as well. Father Srikantiah was a disciple of Chinna Devudu and he helped his guru to establish a music school in Esplanade, Madras. In his time, Papa had his novitiate under Chinnaswami Iyer.

Papa wanted to become Govindaswamy Pillai's disciple in 1920 when the latter had come to Madras for a concert engagement at the wedding of Veena Dhanammal's grandson. It was a lucky coincidence, as Veena Dhanammal was Govindaswamy Pillai's patron-saint, philosopher and friend. Papa was accepted and this was a turning point in his career as a musician. Papa's own generation was dominated by three great violinists: Mysore T. Chowdiah, Kumbakonam Rajamanickam  Pillai and Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 204

Banni Bai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Banni Bai, born in 1912, belonged to the village called Chittukkadu near Pat tab hiram. Her parents were Duraisani Amma and Parthasarathy. This couple was blessed with five daughters: Janakavalli, Jivaratnam, Alarmelu aka Banni Bai, Lakshmikantam and Saraswati. They also had a son named Nagabhushanam.

Banni Bai's maternal grandmother, her mother and her aunts were all performing musicians. The family wished that one, of the children, preferably Banni, should take up Harikatha. In the event she did. Even at the age of seven, she had already learnt several compositions to accompany her sister janakavalli in the latter's music recitals. When she turned nine, she started learning Sadir. Her teachers were Kanchipuram Tiruvenkata Pillai and Mylapore Gowri Amma.

Preparation for a career as a story-teller, Harikatha style, required tutelage under many. She learnt music from Appakutti Pillai, Kumbakonam Swaminatha Iyer, Narayanaswami Iyer, Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, his disciple Vaidya- nathan, Veena Dhanammal, Kalakkad Ramnarayana Iyer, his brother Kalakkadu Mahadeva Iyer, and the celebrated composer Kotiswara Iyer .

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 176

Swaminatha Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries
13.3.1972 - 9.2.1961

Mayiladuturai (or Mayuram) in Tanjavur district, washed by the holy waters of the Kaveri river, is a rich granary of rice and also the arts of dance and music.

In its fold of musicians, particularly the nagaswaram performers, lived the pious Sesha Pillai, a hymnodist who sang Tevaram in temples. His son Kulandaivelu Pillai was a vainika.

In 1840, Kulandaivelu and his wife Velmuthamba were blessed with a son whom they named Swaminathan and trained him both as a vocalist and as a vainika.

Swaminathan became a brilliant vocalist under the guidance of the nagaswaram maestro, Kurainadu (Koranad) Ramaswami Pillai. But the nagaswaram prowess of Tirumangalakudi Muthuveeruswami Pillai inspired him to switch over to the pipe. He felt that the nagaswaram was a more potent vehicle for the exposition of Carnatic music.

Sometime later Swaminathan made Tirupamburam his headquarters so as to be within reach of his patrons in Kapistalam. Sivagiri, Kannivadi, and so on. Subsequently, Melagaram Subramania Desikar, the head of the Tiruvaduthurai Mutt, gifted Swaminathan a house and settled him in Tiruveezhimizhalai, so that he would be readily available for service in the temples and other religiousestablishments nearby. This was a real blessing for it vouched for Swaminathan the guidance of musical savants like maha vidwan Tiruchi Meenakshisundaram Piilai, Flute Saraba Sastri and Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar. The mutual regard between Sastri and Swaminathan was unique. Sastri was also a Harikatha performer and he took pride in getting the nagaswaram maestro to polish the music composed by him for his own Harikatha.
To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 53

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Karaikudi Mani

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Mridangam maestro Mani was born on 11 September 1945 in Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. His father T. Ramanatha Iyer, who hailed from Ganapati Agraharam near Kumbakonam, taught English and mathematics at the Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar High School, Karaikudi. His mother R. Pattammal belonged to Budalur, and was related to well-known gottuvadyam vidwan Budalur Krishnamurthy Sastri.

Ramanatha Iyer, who had learnt music from Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavatar as well as Swaminatha Iyer of Ganapati Agraharam, was a keen music enthusiast, well-versed in the bhajanai paddhati. Their home in Karaikudi was right opposite Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar’s. In fact, Iyengar’s disciples K.V. Narayanaswamy and B. Rajam Iyer regularly partook of the simple breakfast of pazhaiyadu or rice soaked overnight in water and buttermilk, at Ramanatha Iyer’s household. The Nagarathars of Chettinad often sponsored concerts by the leading vidwans at Karaikudi; Ramanatha Iyer not only did not miss a single concert but also cultivated the friendship of the musicians and invited them home.

It was but natural for Mani to be initiated into Carnatic music by his father, that too as early as at the age of three. By the time he was four, Mani had learnt all five of Tyagaraja’s Pancharatna kritis. In the month of Margazhi, father and son regularly woke up at the crack of dawn to join the bhajanai at the Koppudai Amman temple. During temple festivals, Ramanatha Iyer carried young Mani aloft on his shoulders to watch nagaswara vidwans Karukurichi Arunachalam and Vedaranyam Vedamurthy and tavil artist Nachiarkoil Raghava Pillai lead the procession around the four mada veedis – the streets around the temple. It was during these processions, which began at nine at night and often went on into the early hours of the morning after, that Ramanatha Iyer discovered that his son had a penchant for rhythm. Perched on his father’s shoulders, Mani kept perfect time to the beat of the tavil – on his father’s head!

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 379

M. Balasubramoniam is new Director SZCC

Prof. M. Balasubramoniam, former Principal of Chembai Government Music College and R.L.V. College of Music and Fine Arts, Tripunithura, has been appointed Director of the South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.  The cultural activities of the States of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, and the Union Territories of Andaman & Nicobar, Lakshadeep and Pondicherry come under the purview of the South Zone Cultural centre.

M. Balasubramoniam is a member of the Central Advisory Board on Culture; Dean, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of  Calicut; former Special Officer of  S.R.V. Government College of Music and Performing Arts, Thrissur. A well known mridangam exponent, he has accompanied eminent musicians like  Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, K.V. Narayanaswamy , D.K. Jayaraman, Mandolin U. Shrinivas, Flute N.Ramani and a host of other stalwarts . He has travelled extensively performing with foreign musicians in Jazz festivals and other international music festivals.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Dr. Prof. Sumati Mutatkar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Dr. Prof. Sumati Mutatkar (10-9-1916 to 28-2-2007), the terminal light of the galaxy of eminent music scholars in Hindustani music. She was an authentic musicologist, and a competent artist well versed in almost every genre of classical Hindustani vocal music, She served for long as a distinguished teacher, and as supervisor of multiform researches in the art of music at the University of Delhi.

Sumati Mutatkar was liked as much by musicians in general as by colleagues and students. Her own academic growth, scholarly contribution, and her efforts to make our music better known in foreign lands, merit recalling in detail.

After graduating from Nagpur University, Sumati Mutatkar shifted her allegiance to Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapeeth, Lucknow from where she ultimately secured a doctorate in music (D.Mus.) by virtue of a thesis written on ‘The Cultural Aspect of Indian Music’ under the supervision of Dr. S.N. Ratanjankar, What however, contributed substantially to her impressive status as a vocalist is the rich diversity of teachers from whom she learnt the actual practice of classical singing. Her earliest lessons were had under the wing of Sawla Ram of Nagpur and Wamanbua Joshi of Amraoti. As for the subsequent sources and direction of her practical training as a vocalist, they may be listed as follows, if a little patchily: detailed guidance in almost every genre of classical Hindustani vocalism from Dr. Ratanjankar; training in khayal gayaki of the Gwalior gharana — as also in forms like tappa, thumri, and prabandha-s as they occur in Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda — under Rajabhaiya Poonchwale; long sessions of learning the Agra gharana idiom of khayal, dhrupad and dhamar singing (in the Nauhari bani) from Vilayat Hussain Khan; further enrichment of her compositional repertoire under the tutelage of Anant Manohar Joshi and Mushtaq Hussain Khan; training in how dhrupad-dhamar singing is to take wing into rhythmic variations in accord with pakhawaj playing, under Govindrao Burshanpurkar; and what is not so widely known, grooming in the graces of tappa and thumri singing of the poorab ang under the personal supervision of Rasoolan Bai.

To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 274

Devoted to her father’s legacy

Geetha Bennett (1950-2018)

Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, musician (and Tamil short story writer), passed away on 7 August 2018 after a long battle with cancer. A daughter of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. S Ramanathan, Geetha was a vainika and vocalist who was active for decades as a performer and teacher in the US.

Geetha Bennett who lived in Caifornia, U.S.A., also experimented with fusion work. Some of her performances have been with the Colgate University orchestra and a veena concerto composed by her husband Frank Bennett for the Catskill Symphony Orchestra. Geetha sang for the Hollywood feature film The Guru and her veena can be heard in the Imax film Everest. She was recorded by Sangeetha Cassettes and Inreco, India.

In 2016, on S. Ramanathan’s 100th birth anniversary, she embarked on a project to upload on YouTube, at least a hundred songs sung by her father as a homage to him. She was assisted by her musician husband who managed the technical side of the project. Though extremely ill when Sruti editor V. Ramnarayan and friends visited her at her US home, she happily agreed to write an article for her father’s centenary for the magazine. The affection and goodwill of the Bennett family made it a memorable experience for the visitors.

Geetha Bennett was also a well known Tamil writer with about 350 publications to her credit. She received the prestigious Illakiya Chintanai award in 1984 and was the first female editor of Kumudam’s ladies magazine Malar Malligai.

An ‘A top’ graded musician of Doordarshan, she received the ‘best veena player award’ from Narada Gana Sabha and the Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai.

An artist who never let her health come in the way of her music, Geetha Bennett remained in touch with music through her years of chemotherapy and surgeries. She always acknowledged the loving support of her family and students. She will be remembered for her passion for music, her determination to carry forward her father’s legacy and to live and die on her own terms.

Trinity and Nandhikeshwara festivals in Melbourne


Narmatha and Ravi Ravichandira, acclaimed long-time principals of the Academy of Indian Music and Cultural Studies, have been organising the Mum-Moorthigal festival in Melbourne for 32 years. The Nandhikeshwara festival was inaugurated in 2017 in Australia and this year it was coupled with the Mum-Moorthigal festival. There was a panoply of events starting with the congregational rendering of the Tyagaraja Pancharatna kritis and ending with Aadum Arul Jyoti, a dance production by Apsaras Arts of Singapore. In between, the audience was treated to thematic works, deep and diverse, by the constellation of Carnatic music schools in Melbourne that come together for this flagship event. Most of the schools have been extant for well over 25 years. The students and alumni of all these schools were well in evidence, either on stage or helping deliver the events. The sheer diversity and number of presentations allow no more than a brief sketch of some segments.

Senior teachers Rama Rao and Sundari Saripalle brought their deep knowledge of the works of Tyagaraja and Telugu to the fore in their respective mini-concerts on the Nauka Charitramu and select pieces of Tyagaraja. The Iyer brothers, Ramnath and Gopinath, presented five gems of Muthuswami Dikshitar with their customary gravitas and strict conformance to classicism. They were well supported by three of their senior students in this Pancha Veena segment.
A group presentation
Making its appearance for the first time at the festival was a panel discussion on the works of the Trinity, featuring some veteran gurus. As the subjects discussed ranged from Hindustani music’s influence on Dikshitar to the iconography of the Tiruvarur utsavamoortis, the time allotted was sadly inadequate.
However, judging by the popularity especially of the interactions aspect with the audience, we can expect this feature to be back in an expanded format in future editions.

The dance collation on the Navagrahas with each planet presented by a different dancer was eye catching. The curation by dancer Govind Pillai, who explained each segment, followed by a Q&A with the performers was notable for its amalgam of brevity and content.

A classical dialogue between Indian and Western classical music, directed by Adrian Sheriff was Rhythms of Grace. This featured the mridangam, tabla and khanjira conversing with the violin (Western and Indian), slide guitars, saxophone and drums. This was an exemplary bridge built between complementary schools of music, in this case the Sruthi Laya Kendra and the Melbourne Polytechnic. Guru Karaikudi Mani’s tireless effort over the past eighteen years with the Australian Art Orchestra has enabled such collaborations to come to fruition. To him must devolve the credit for this event metamorphosing into the Nandhikeshwara festival, one of three around the world.

A segment on Nandikeswara was coordinated by Jayashree Ramachandran, featuring a host of senior students. Mention must bemade of the performances by the troupes led by Shobha Sekhar and Narmatha Ravichandhira as also the solos by Sudha Srikumar and Vidya Kanthan.

A fourth string, that of vocals by Ahilan Sivananthan was added to the veena-venu-violin trio of Hari Sivanesan, Suresh Thiagarajan and Sughosh Seetharam. Veterans Sridhar Chari and Murali Kumar on the venu-violin left the audience wanting more in their brief slot.

An enduring feature over the past three decades has been the grand finale by artists visiting from overseas. This year, the Apsaras Arts Dance Company from Singapore presented the dance production Aadum Arul Jyoti featuring the music and lyrics of Rajkumar Bharati. Mention must be made of its principal Vijaya Natesan, director Aravinth Kumarasamy and principal dancer Mohanapriyan Thavarajah.

The combination of two festivals was a behemoth of planning and coordination, well executed by the Sruthi-Laya Kendra Australia and Academy of Indian Music and Cultural Studies, Australia. The reward for the rasikas lies in the starburst of music, dance and literature which entertain and elevate.

(Scholar and arts aficionado)