Song of Surrender

Friday, 16 March 2018

VV. Subramanyam

Birthdays & Anniversaries

VV. Subramanyam is a musician who, even his worst detractors will admit, has reached regions beyond mere technique and dwells in them. As a probable corollary, he is not very facile with the world of everyday interactions. His refusal to accept anything less than perfect lies at the root of his musical achievements and that same attitude perhaps underlies what is seen as his somewhat intractable disposition towards men and matters.

A complex personality, Subramanyam has one consuming passion – music; and this has led him into deep explorations of religious belief and spiritual techniques. His is a world of mysterious connections, of kundalini yoga and mantra sastra, and, above all, nada – that all pervading, primal sound energy mentioned in esoteric philosophical traditions.

Born at Thoattuvay in Kerala on 16 March 1944, Vadakkencheri Veeraraghava Subramanyam (VVS), is among the great Carnatic musicians that verdant green country has produced.

Among VVS’s earliest memories are concert tours with his guru Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar. One of them stands out clearly: a visit, when he was barely ten, to Poomuli Mana in Kerala – a household where prosperity wafted through the air like cool fragrances. An old, orthodox namboodiri in that household murmured “Saraswati kataksham” whenever he looked at the boy VVS, convinced that he was blessed by the goddess. During that visit VVS also remembers a little girl offering him a flower as devi prasadam – Saraswati’s blessings. It all fits with his worldview: a world where the divine is as much a matter of experience as normal sense experiences.

                                            To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 334

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Bharatanatyam guru honoured

The queen receives Chamundeswari Pani

Guru  Chamundeswari with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

Chamundeswari Pani, senior Bharatanatyam artist, choreographer, guru and producer of several dance dramas in the UK,  was invited to a reception at the Buckingham Palace on
14 February 2018, ahead of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be held in April.

The reception is held to recognize the achievements of "those in the Commonwealth diaspora from across the UK who have made a notable contribution to the wider community."

Chamundeswari, a disciple of Dandayudapani Pillai, left India 30 years ago for the UK after marrying  Col.Pani, a doctor in the British Army.

S R G Rajanna

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries


Zia Mohiuddin Dagar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

14.3.1929 - 28.9.1990
One of the foremost presentday practitioners of dhrupad, Umakant Gundecha has an interesting name for Seattle, USA. He calls the city “Dhrupad Nagari” meaning “City of Dhrupad”. For, true to its reputation of providing a vibrant blend of cultural activities that draw upon its rich ethnic diversity, Seattle is home to a large number of practitioners of the Dagarvani style of dhrupad.

It all began with the visit by an eminent rudraveena maestro from India, the late Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, who came as a visiting faculty member more than three decades ago at the invitation of Robert Garfias who headed the University of Washington’s (UW) Ethnomusicology programme in the mid 1970s. Over a period of four years spread over the mid-to-late-1970s, the ustad, a representative of the 18th generation of the Dagar family of musicians, trained several students in the art of dhrupad. He also taught khayal to beginner vocalists and trained instrumentalists who specialised in playing Indian stringed instruments such as the sitar, surbahar, violin and sarangi. Fred Lieberman and Daniel Neuman who succeeded Garfias at the ethnomusicology department at UW also actively supported the visiting artist programme. Over the years, musicians interested in learning dhrupad moved to Seattle from states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and California.

Mohiuddin Dagar groomed two disciples of Indian origin, Shantha Benegal and the late Prabha Rustagi, both committed to learning dhrupad.

                                               To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 347

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

D K Pattammal Centenary

By Samudri

Sangita Kalanidhi DK Pattammal's centenary celebrations are being planned on a grand scale by a trust comprising her family, disciples and admirers. Her 100th birth anniversary falls on 19 March 2019, and the celebrations will be inaugurated on Saturday 17 March 2018 by Vice President M Venkiah Naidu at the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai.

The year-long programmes which will reflect Pattammal's life and contribution will include the following:

A heritage walk at Kanchipuram
A ragam tanam pallavi festival
Workshop on training students to sing in Pattammal's pathantaram
Group singing of patriotic songs by children
Discussion on her film song and 78 rpm record hits
A Muthuswami Dikshitar festival
A seminar on her multifaceted contribution
A Tamil Isai festival
   The production of a documentary film on her.

The patrons of the DKP 100 committee are Sri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Sri N Murali, Sri Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar, Sri N Gopalaswami and Sri R Seshasayee.

Season Awards

Visakha Music Academy conferred its title Sangeeta Kala Sagara on Trichur V. Ramachandran, during  its 48th annual festival of music, on 26 November 2017 in Visakhapatnam.

Mudhra (Radha and Mudhra Bhaskar) celebrated the 15th anniversary of Samudhra magazine and 250 weeks of Paalam Free Webcast on 19 November 2017 at the Infosys Hall on Bazulla Road in Chennai. Sudharani Raghupathy, veteran Bharatanatyam dancer-guru inaugurated the function and Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, presided over the proceedings. This was followed by conferring of the title of Gnana Samudhra on Rama Kausalya, for her outstanding contribution as a musician and musicologist, and presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to ace photographer Yoga. The much sought after Music Planner cum Directory 2018 was also released on the occasion.

The book Sita Kalyanamu—a Bhagavata Mela natakam edited by N. Srinivasan and Dr. N.V. Deviprasad (1st and 2nd from L) was released on 22 December 2017 in Chennai. The first copy was handed over by Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti to V. Ramnarayan (4th and 5th). Madabhooshi Sampath Kumar and Revathy Ramachandran felicitated Melattur Mali (extreme R) and his team. This was followed by the staging of Rukmini Kalyanamu by members of the Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Vidya Sangam.

Purnakumbham, a musical album comprising 30 original compositions of ‘Ghatam’ Dr. S. Karthick, was released on 23 November 2017 at the R.R. Sabha Hall in Chennai. It marked Ghatam Karthick’s completion of 30 years as a musician. His guru, vidwan T.H. Vinayakram, launched the album online and also released three CDs titled Kumbham, Kalasam and Kataksham.   Karthick’s teachers Prof. Va.Ve.Su, Dr. S. Ramaratnam and vidwan T.H. Subashchandran, blessed him and also received the logo  as a mark of the online launch. The release function was followed by Sudha Raja’s Sargam Choir singing a few songs from the album, and Bharatanatyam dancers Shweta Prachande and Sudharma Vaithiyanathan dancing to a few songs from Purnakumbham.

The Tamil Isai Sangam has been doing yeoman service in pann research from 1949. This season the pann research conference took place on 24 December 2017, and the panns Narayani and Velavali were discussed. Dr. M.A. Bhageerathi presented a paper on pann Velavali which is the present day raga Gaurimanohari. Mylai Sadgurunada Oduvar presented the kattalais for the pann Nattapadai. Also seen in the picture are Dr. Sirkazhi Sivachidambaram, Dr. Thangarasu, Justice P. R. Gokulakrishnan and T.K.S. Kalaivanan. The Tamil Isai Sangam conferred the title Tamil Isai Perarignar on vidwan T.M. Krishna.

Awards for artistic couple

Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Indira Kadambi receiving the Vidhya Tapasvi award instituted by Tapas Cultural Foundation, Chennai, from Dr. R. Nagaswamy and 
N.S. Jayalakshmi on 18 February 2018.
Carnatic musician T.V. Ramprasadh receiving the Dasa Kala Rathna award instituted by Purandhara Daasar Trust, Chennai, from the Bombay Sisters on 10 March 2018.

The Gentle Rebel

Gnani: an appreciation

By Charukesi

Gnani Sankaran, a fiery writer of gentle demeanour, passed away at Chennai on 15 January 2018. He was 64, and had been suffering from a kidney ailment.

It was exactly four years agoin February 2014that I requested writer and ideologue Gnani Sankaran to review a book of essays by the octogenarian Tamil writer Indira Parthasarathy for Tamizh Puthaka Nanbargal, a group that met once a month to review the works of living Tamil authors and interact with the author.  Gnani accepted my invitation without any hesitation.  In the course of his speech, he mentioned that in the beginning of his career as a budding journalist of a local daily, his maiden interview was with the doyen of Tamil literature, Indira Parthasarathy.  (Incidentally, in the recent Hindu Litfest 2018, Indira Parthasarathy dedicated his Lifetime Achievement Award to Gnani who had just passed away.) 

I do not remember when I met Gnani first, but at he straightaway endeared himself to me.  He was frank in his speeches and writings and did not mince words while expressing his views or opinions.  He never hurt his readers or viewers with harsh words.  This was evident in his popular column ‘O Pakkangal’ he wrote at different times for Vikatan, Kumudam and Kalki, which carried his commentary on society and politics. When he disagreed with one magazine, he continued his comments in another without any fear or favour.  That was the quality of his remarks

While he was running his own monthly ‘Dheem-Thari-Kita’, I was asked by the late Balyu of Kumudam subscribe to it, to encourage Gnani in his new venture.  I obliged immediately and enjoyed reading it month after month, until it folded up for want of financial support.   The emblem or logo of the magazine was the powerful pair of eyes of Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati with his up-twirled moustache below. Gnani zealously protected its copyright. 

Gnani’s contribution to Tamil theatre was laudable; besides running his own experimental theatre group Pariksha, he introduced Badal Sircar, Vijay Tendulkar and other eminent playwrights to the Tamil stage, besides Tamil playwrights Indira Parthasarathy, Ashokamitran and Na. Muthusamy.  Pariksha had a decent run before it folded up, and Gnani was trying to revive it before he fell ill. I came to know of his enormous interest in theatre, when he staged Tamil plays for thirty consecutive days in the mini hall of Narada Gana Sabha, when the late R Krishnaswamy of the sabha insisted on a play a day. Gnani loved challenges.

Gnani used to have a stall in the Chennai Book Fair where he conducted opinion polls on social and political themes.  He would announce the results on the concluding day of the Fair.  These were interesting probes into the minds of the public to elicit their views on important issues.

Gnani had friends in all political parties, but he had no enemies despite his frank criticism of their announcements or actions. He was respected for his sharp opinions.  He made a documentary on Periyar E.V. Ramasami Naicker for Doordarshan as he was convinced of the leader’s role in social reform.  He was a rebel in the real sense of the word but did not show off. 
At any meeting, Gnani came to your seat if he noticed you among the audience and greeted you with a warm handshake. He was so simple and cordial.  I attended a few of his popular meet-the-author ‘Keni’ meetings at his home in K.K. Nagar.  He would talk about the author matter-of-factly and leave the platform for him to reveal his thoughts. 

Despite having to undergo dialysis on alternate days, Gnani cheerfully attended most important functions in the city, never complaining of discomfort.  

Gnani was a rare kind of journalist. He would never argue, but place his points gently.  He was a regular invitee to television channel debates, where he was always brief and to the point. 

Gnani’s demise is a loss to journalism and Tamil theatre. His political comment, marked by decency and depth, will be missed.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

K J Sarasa

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

10.3.1937 - 2.1.2012

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Compleat Rasika

A Seshan

By Seshan Ramaswami

A Seshan, a Sruti subscriber since its inception, and a regular contributor (often under the nom-de-plume Sankarabharanan) of articles and letters to the magazine, passed away in Mumbai on 7 January 2018.

Seshan was an accomplished economist, with a lifetime of service at the Reserve Bank of India. He retired voluntarily as Officer-in-Charge, Department of  Economic Analysis and Policy, in the early 1990s, to take up assignments as the IMF-appointed Advisers to the central banks of  Kyrgyzstan, and then Sierra Leone. He excelled academically, topping Madura College in his B.A.  (Economics) degree, and  earning  a  gold  medal.  He had an M.A. from Madras Christian College, before proceeding to the University of Hawaii on an East West Centre scholarship for a Masters in Agricultural Economics, when  he spent a semester at Cornell University.  Of his lifetime of work in the RBI, former RBI governor Y.V. Reddy is quoted in a Business Line tribute published on 11 January  2018, as saying, “He was absolutely thorough, well-respected and one of my earliest gurus in the RBI.”

Throughout his work life, he would type all communications, personal and professional, on a small portable typewriter, with an unusual cursive/handwriting font, which was his lone material acquisition from his years in the USA!  One look at the envelope, and you could recognise the sender from the font! Later, he mastered the use of word processing software and the Internet, and was a regular contributor to the pink papers on monetary policy matters. He would listen to the policy announcement each quarter, and within a couple of hours, send the commissioned commentary to the press for publication the next day. The Business Line and Business Standard, carried many of his articles, and letters, but he wrote for almost all the Mumbai dailies.

His passion from his childhood days was Carnatic music, which gradually expanded to Hindustani music, Bharatanatyam, Western music and all forms of the performing arts.  When he first moved to Mumbai in the sixties, he became the close confidant of the late vainika maestro Devakottai Narayana Iyengar, and would do all the correspondence to AIR, Sangeet Natak Akademi, and sabhas for “veena master,” as we used to refer to the vidwan. He also taught Seshan’s wife, Bhanumathi (grand-daughter of the late F.G. Natesa Iyer, and from a very illustrious musical family), and Seshan himself learnt to play for a while, and would forever proudly tell everyone, with a twinkle in his eye, about his own prowess in playing the Abhogi varnam.  As a patron member of the Shanmukhananda Sabha, and a member of the NCPA in Mumbai, he would insist on attending practically every concert offering of all genres, much to the despair of his family who were increasingly concerned with the strain on his body as he aged!  

With his scholarly bent, and general intellectual temperament, Seshan was a thoughtful and serious rasika, and an obsessive collector of books on music and dance. He had a massive collection of spool tapes of concert recordings, records, cassettes, CDs, and DVDs.  A Madurai-vasi for much of his childhood, he would reminisce about the huge crowds at Sethupathi High School for concerts of the great vidwans and vidushis of the 1940s and 50s. He was an obsessive fan of M.S. Subbulakshmi, and  collected all her Meera film songs on 78 rpm records. And he then would dutifully purchase every single new LP release of her (on a “first day first show” basis). He assiduously recorded on a spool player, radio concerts of all the great masters, and then type up the song lists and file them carefully. And then he would disrupt our sleep early each morning by blaring those concerts at full volume as a sort of suprabhatam to the neighbourhood! And then, by osmosis, both my brother, Ananthanarayana Sharma, and I could not resist the absorption of this music into our very living cells and we are both today rasikas, but not of the stature and passion of our father.  We ourselves learnt some music formally later, my brother learning the tabla, and I learning veena and Hindustani vocal music.

Seshan was extremely excited by the launch of Sruti and was in regular correspondence with the late Sruti Pattabhi Raman, and then with V.  Ramnarayan. He would regularly write letters and had several articles published in the magazine on a variety of topics. His superb command of the English language, combined with his vast experience of passionate, thoughtful listening to music, and his deep interest in and knowledge of the history of Indian music, gave all his articles that touch of class.  He once wrote an award winning essay in a Sruti competition, on M.S. Subbulakshmi, which he titled the 'Compleat Musician' (an obscure reference to The Compleat Angler, a classic work on fishing), and was dismayed when the editor attempted to correct his spelling to “Complete”, which did not quite convey the exceptional completeness of MS’s music.  He was a devoted fan of  Madurai Mani Iyer, D.K. Pattammal, G.N. Balasubramaniam, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.D.  Ramanathan, M. Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam, D.K.  Jayaraman, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, and the Bombay Sisters.  Among Hindustani singers, he had a particular passion for Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal and Parveen Sultana.

Having lived his entire adult life in Mumbai, with much exposure to Hindustani music, he gradually began taking greater interest in it too, and would attend many seminars and music appreciation courses, peppering the speakers with questions to improve his understanding.  With that knowledge, and from hours of dedicated reading, he began writing articles on Hindustani music too; the academic in him would lead him to seek “peer review” from many artists and scholars before submitting the article for publication.  He also was invited by the Shanmukhananda Sabha in Mumbai to be a part of their programmes committee, an advisor to their music and dance school, and on the editorial team of their publication Shanmukha. A collector’s issue of Shanmukha that he conceived and executed was on the banis of Bharatanatyam, which involved meticulous follow-up with dancers around India to get them to describe the niceties of their individual banis.  He also designed a regular quiz on music and dance for the publication.  His creative, constantly curious mind  led him to curate conferences, for the sabha, notably one on the use of Western instruments in Indian music.  He also contributed articles in Tamil to Kalaimagal magazine, notably a profile of  DKP, which led the maestro to inquire around about the identity of this mysterious “Sankarabharanan” who knew so much about her. 

Seshan regularly contributed dance reviews and articles to and to the dance publications, Nartanam and Attendance. Leading dancers soon realised that they had a discerning (but friendly and exceptionally fluent and expressive) critic in Seshan and began regularly calling him in advance, beseeching him to attend and review their concerts in Mumbai.  And he could not “just say no”, so would always oblige, attending the recitals, taking copious notes, and within a day of the concert, turn in a sparkling review to, excerpts of which would soon enter the “press review” sections of these dancers’ resumes. Last year, we in the family decided that he could not continue to brave the Mumbai traffic and senior-unfriendly sabhas to attend concerts.  He chafed at the restrictions muttering, “Stop treating me like a sick man”, and would beg to be taken to concerts, from arangetrams to major dance productions and concerts.

The art historian in him led him to discover, important impending birth and death anniversaries of composers, musicians, dancers and gurus, and he would research and write profiles of these artists, and also write to sabhas worldwide urging them to organise commemorations.

Seshan was a devoted follower of the Paramacharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, and instituted the Ramaswamy-Seshan-Ananthanarayanan (RASA) Awards (in memory of his ancestors) for excellence in Vedic Studies, administered by the Veda Rakshana Nidhi Trust (VRNT) of the Peetham. These annual awards have been given, since the beginning of the millennium to the best scholar, teacher and student of Vedic studies as judged by the VRNT.

Seshan was also a passionate tennis fan, and wrote commissioned previews of all Grand Slam tournaments for Mumbai newspapers, with detailed statistics of the past history of these tournaments, and his own pick for singles winners. When we were children, he would type up his prediction, seal it in an envelope before the start of the tournament, and reveal the contents after the final. I can’t remember how accurate he was, but we loved the performance spectacle of the opening of the “Grand Slam envelope.”  He was overjoyed to be able to personally witness Serena Williams and Sania Mirza/Cara Black, win the singles and doubles 2014 WTA finals in Singapore.

To the extended family, of some forty plus cousins, he was “Durai Anna”, the unquestioned head, and chief counsel and advisor on personal and professional matters. His generosity at times of distress and family weddings could be reliably counted on.  As he aged, he found it difficult to travel to Chennai, and Madurai, to meet family members individually, so he made arrangements for a high tea party for the entire family of some 150 members to gather in a rented bungalow in Luz, Chennai, for a family get-together for a celebration of his 80th birthday, and then sent CDs with photos of the event to every one of them. 

Seshan is survived by his wife, and two sons. His daughter-in-law, Dr. Siri Rama is a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer, and founder of the Kanakasabha Performing Arts Centre in Mumbai and Singapore. His grand-daughter Amara Rama, is an aspiring student of  Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak, and Hindustani vocal music, in Singapore. 

This combination of complete (dare I say “compleat?”) professional and devoted family man is a rarity these days when professional and personal matters all co-exist and much writing is done informally, and at a fairly superficial level on the same social media platform.   If he could have read this piece, he would no doubt have whipped out his editing pen and done a few edits, of  both content and form.  If only this article could have been sent to him for a friendly “peer review” before publication!

May the music of the late greats continue to resound around him in the afterlife!


Zakir Hussain

                                                            Birthdays & Anniversaries


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

T V Sankaranarayanan

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The tavil in focus

T.R. Govindarajan presenting the Parlandu Award to tavil-maker Paramasivam 
as Lalitharam of Parivadini looks on 

The Parlandu Award for Music Craftsmen instituted by Parivadini was presented to tavil-maker Paramasivam by renowned tavil vidwan Tanjavur T.R. Govindarajan, at a function held in December 2017 in Chennai. V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-chief, Sruti and Lalitharam of Parivadini participated.

'Parlandu' alias Fernandes was the trusted mridangam-maker for Palghat Mani Iyer for years. The annual award in the name of this master craftsman is given to those engaged in the making as well as maintenance of musical instruments. The previous awardees are Selvam, son of Parlandu (for mridangam in 2013), Varadan (for mridangam in 2014), Raju (for veena in 2015) and Ramesh (for ghatam in 2016).

The awardee for 2017 was Paramasivam whose contribution lies in simplifying some of the processes in  tavil-making without compromising on the aesthetics of the traditional instrument with respect to either appearance or output of the nadam. The innovative improvisations (like replacing the tough bamboo rims of the tavil with steel)  have been made in consultation with veteran tavil vidwans like Govindarajan who said that modifications are inevitable. He recalled   bygone times wherein maintenance of instruments posed grave problems to artists as well as instrument makers. The metal rim is quite a revolutionary innovation, he said.

V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti who spoke on the occasion, appreciated the initiatives of  Parivadini  in recognising the contribution of craftsmen in the field of performing arts. He paid rich tributes to traditional arts and artists and the need for projecting them in the mainstream.  In his acceptance speech, the awardee Paramasivam thanked Parivadini, the tavil vidwans, as well as other artists and institutions who endorsed his innovations and continue to encourage him  in his pursuits.

Lecdem by T.R. Govindarajan
This was followed by a lecdem titled The Majestic Tavil presented by tavil maestro T.R. Govindarajan who explained the basic techniques of tavil-playing with reference to the preliminary lessons and modes of accompanying the  nagaswaram. He said that customarily, lessons in tavil would normally begin with Pillaiyar sollu. He revealed that the instrument, that may not apparently give out a pitch, has an inherent quality to merge with the mainstream sruti. Probably this could be the reason why the tavil has been included as percussion support for sensitive stringed instruments of  Carnatic music like the mandolin and the chitraveena (T.R.  Govindarajan has successfully accompanied Chitraveena Ravikiran in recent times).

Any 'melam' performance would start with the tavil beats (which, of course is preceded by sruti) and there are dictums of playing during various segments like alapana, pallavi, the interludes between pallavi - anupallavi, and anupallavi - charanam,  apart from the ethics of accompanying the kriti. The tavil vidwan may not be able to take a break during a nagaswaram recital and his duty would be even more tiresome during temple processions extending hours on end. This also necessitates a comprehensive knowledge of techniques of playing besides mastery of laya as the tavil vidwan has to offer varieties and patterns to avoid repetition and participate competently in tanis with the co-artist.

Govindarajan also reminisced about his gurukulavasam which was "not easy as now".  He also reverentially remembered  some great tavil vidwans of the past like Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai and their absolute mastery over  the instrument, as well as celebrated nagaswara vidwans.

Govindarajan presented a short, brilliant  laya vinyasam, ably assisted by one of his disciples to demonstrate the basics of tavil playing.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Gangubai Hangal

Birthdays & Anniversaries
5.3.1913 - 21.7.2009

Gangubai was born on 5 March 1913 into a musical family of Dharwad. Her parents were Chikkurao Nadgir and Ambabai. At birth the child was named Gandhari but years later her name was changed to Gangubai by a recording company, and it came to stay. Hangal is the name of her native place, a small town in Hubli. Her mother and grandmother were established practitioners of Carnatic music.

Gangubai had initial training in Carnatic music from her mother, a musician of extraordinary abilities. She was known to be adept at notating songs and well versed in Sanskrit as well. It is said that her private concerts were attended by stalwarts like Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of the Kirana gharana, Hirabai Barodekar, Sunderbai and Sawai Gandharva.

Gangubai was, however, interested in Hindustani music. The family therefore shifted to Hubli in 1928 to fulfil her wish. Thirteen when she learnt her first lessons from a certain Krishna Acharya, she continued her tutelage with Dattopant Desai. From these two teachers, she mastered about sixty compositions before becoming a disciple of the Hindustani vocal virtuoso, Sawai Gandharva. As he was on tour most of the time, Gangubai’s training was sporadic in the beginning. Only after a few years, when Sawai Gandharva settled down in Hubli, did her classes become regular. The training was rigorous, intense and thorough. He was a taskmaster and the training generally stretched to ten hours a day. (Her guru-bandhus were Bhimsen Joshi and Firoz Dastur.) The training lasted only three or four years as Sawai Gandharva passed away in 1942. However, by that time, Gangubai had assimilated the best of the Kirana style.

                                  To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 344 , 380

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Ghulam Mustafa Khan

                                                                Birthdays & Anniversaries

Puttaraj Gavai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

3.3.1914 - 17.9.2010
When Pandit Puttaraj Gavai, a Padma Bhushan recipient, and head of the Veereshwara Punyashrama at Gadag in Karnataka, attained samadhi on 17th September 2010, the whole state seemed to go into mourning. A blind musician with a spiritual stature that few saints command, Puttaraj Gavai, a teacher of music of the rarest kind, was the object of fervent respect and love from his many students. Gavai was also a writer and dramatist, who authored over 80 books, and a social worker, who touched the lives of many. He and his guru Swami Panchakshari Gavai are worshipped and revered as saints by many in Karnataka.

The story of Puttaraj Gavai is also the story of Swami Panchakshari Gavai, founder of the Veereshwara Punyashrama in Gadag, a small town and incidentally, the birthplace of Bhimsen Joshi. Panchakshari Gavai was well trained in both Carnatic and Hindustani music. By some twists and turns of fate, guided by a saintly disposition, he took upon himself the mission of imparting music education to young boys, many of them blind, from the villages in Karnataka. Most of these students came from families of grinding poverty. The guru not only gave the boys sangeeta-vidya but also two meals a day.

                                          To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 317

Friday, 2 March 2018

Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries

2.3.1878 - 1921

Thursday, 1 March 2018


A versatile percussionist, S. Nagarajan has been accompanying senior Bharatanatyam artistes for the past two decades. He founded Kaladarshanam along  with his wife Kirushanthy where they train students in Bharatanatyam and Mridangam. An artiste who aspires to take percussion to the layman, Nagarajan believes that an artiste should be adaptable and true to his art.

All your family members are involved in the arts. Do tell us about them.
My father, Shnamugalingam, an Odhuvar murthy,  was active in singing Pann isai at the temple in Yazhpanam, Srilanka. He was also a tambura artiste though he was a goldsmith by profession. All his activities were connected to the temple. He specialized in making ornaments for deities.  My mother is a rasika and is still involved in singing bhajans. They have been a tremendous influence is my life. My father passed away some years back, within a week of being diagnosed with cancer. I think it was his devotion to Goddess Kamakshi that allowed him to leave this world without suffering.
All my siblings are involved in the arts. My brother, Gnanaguruparan is an artist (painting). Another brother, Davaguruparan is a table artiste. Umaguruparam is a vocalist. Kumaraguruparan is a a drama actor while my sister Sarumathy is a Veena artiste. I married a Bharatanatyam dancer and my children are learning Bharatanatayam under her guidance.

What was your early exposure to music like?
I was born in India but spent my early years in Srilanka. Jaffna was very active in promoting music through the university. My father was the tambura artiste for many senior visiting musicians. I started my training in mridangam my guru, Kalaimamani Durairaj, a disciple of A.S Ramanathan. Besides learning formally, I used to accompany my father in pann isai kucheris. My life revolved around school, the temple and kucheris.

Yazhpanam was unique in its nurturing of artistes. Can you tell us about your experience?
Yazhpanam was very rich culturally. I got a lot of exposure playing for senior artistes as musicians encouraged young artistes like myself. Looking back, my early years in Jaffna shaped my approach and understanding of music. It was such an open minded  cultural ambience. A good mridangist was expected to play for all genres of music, be it kucheris, bhajana sampradaya or Bharatanatyam. We learnt to adapt to different ways of playing depending on the kind of music being performed. If it was a Bharatanatyam kucheri, a percussionist was expected to know the adavu system, the nuances of bhava, the entry and exits of characters and the modulation involved in playing for nrtta and abhinaya. The same mridhangist was adept at playing for a full - fledged kucheri. I grew up in that kind of atmosphere, watching my own teacher play for different art forms.

How did you decide to pursue a career as a mrihangist?
I completed my degree at Hindustan engineering college. I was keen to further my training in mridangam and joined the Music Academy for a course under Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman sir. It was a six year course but I was fortunate to get admission into the fourth year. I completed my Diploma in Mridangam in 2002.

My entry into dance was through Hariharan and Prameela in 1994. As I said earlier, I was open to playing mridangam for all kinds of performances so it was a welcome opportunity. At that time, I was working for the Sriram group. I was leading a team and had a lot of responsibilities. Soon, I found it difficult to do justice to my music and a full time job. In 2003, with encouragement of all my peers, I quit my job and became a full time musician.

I was interested in Western and Indian rhythm. I decided to do an MA in Indian music (Rhythmology – Mridangam) at the Madras University. I graduated in 2009 with a first class. In 2011, I went on to complete an M.Phil in Indian music (Rhythmology  - Mridangam).

In what way can dancers and accompanying musicians work to ensure quality of performance?
As a mridangist, I find it easy to work with dancers when they are very clear about the compositions or choreography. This way we can support them to the best of our ability. It helps us if they send us the jathis before the rehearsals and clear any doubts regarding kanakku before other musicians arrive. This will ensure that time is not wasted unnecessarily during full rehearsals.

How should aspiring mridhangists for Bharatanatyam prepare themselves for a career in this field?
I think sincerity and humility are important traits to develop. Regardless of the standard of the teacher or performer, our job is to support the dancer and aim for a successful performance. There are many things for us to learn on this journey even if we have received the best training. Being open to working with fellow artistes and improving our knowledge will go a long way in enhancing the quality of performance. I find every performance contributes to my learning. The same composition is handled in a multitude of ways depending on the dancer’s bani and creativity. We have to be ready to adapt without having rigid ideas. To do this, a sound foundation in technique is important. With that we can create wonders.

I think the reverence we have for our instrument is something we should never forget. My first allegiance is to my mridangam. Till today, I only play after doing puja to my instrument. It is not something I can be careless about. Whether it is for Bharatanatayam, kucheri or for a bhajan, the moment I touch my instrument, it is with full dedication.

What are the challenges when playing for recordings?
Time constraint. Within our scheduled time, we have to finish our parts understanding what is required by the choreographer. I feel it will be more effective to have a rehearsal before the recording so that time spent in the studio is maximized.

Do you play any other instruments?
I have formally learntthe  Mridangam but along the way, picked up  Kanjira, Tabla, Tavil, Morsing and Dholak while playing for bhajans. This helped me when I started using the Rhythm Pad. It is important to know the basics of these instruments to create an authentic soundscape on the rhythm pad.

Tell us about your new venture – the Madras Drum Circle.
My friend Soundarajan and I were very keen to take percussion to the masses. We bought some Djembes(an African percussion instrument) and started conducting workshops for interested groups. Till date we have worked with IT professionals, children and teenagers at different events. We were recently invited to conduct a birthday party event where children enjoyed themselves thoroughly. In fact, the parents joined in too. The best part about these workshops is that there is no hierarchy. Everyone plays simple rhythm patterns together and the output is amazing. This has been useful as a team building activity in the corporate world as it promotes camaraderie amongst team leaders and their group members. We are very active on Facebook.
It takes a lot of time and energy as my friend and I handle the events personally. However, the reward of seeing the smiles and enthusiasm of the participants is worth every moment. It gives me great satisfaction to reach out to people.