Saturday, 18 August 2018

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

18.8.1872 - 21.8.1931
Vishnu Digambar Paluskar belonged to the fraternity of Haridasa-s, but he would likely have not turned to music seriously except for an accident which affected his eyesight adversely. But once he did, he worked at becoming an accomplished singer. In the event, what earned him undying fame was his missionary work to spread the glory of music and his contribution to the renaissance of Hindustani music. Despite heavy opposition to teaching music under institutional auspices, he established schools the graduates of which would, in his reckoning, at best become Tansens or at least kaansen-s, that is sensitive rasika-s. He spearheaded the movement to propagate Hindustani music. He established the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, first  in Lahore in 1901, and later in Bombay in 1908. In course of time, the pick of students he himself had trained established more centres under the same rubric and with the same missionary goals. His interest extended beyond classical music to devotional and patriotic songs; his aim was not merely a musical renaissance but a recovery of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the nation. Through personal example, he brought respect to the profession of music, even as he popularised the art.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Kalpagam Swaminathan

Birthdays & Anniversaries
15.8.1922 - 6.5.2011

Kalpagam Swaminathan has been upholding traditional values in Carnatic music. Born in Setalapathi village in Tanjavur  in 1922, she belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother Abhayambal and  grandmother Dharmambal were considered good singers of their times.  Her  mother, who was also well-versed  in playing the veena and the harmonium, was  her  first veena teacher. Other guru-s were A. Anantakrishna  Iyer and T.L.  Venkatarama  Iyer from whom she acquired her enviable repertoire of Dikshitar kriti-s; and Budalur Krishnamurti Sastri, from whom she  learnt several Tyagaraja  kriti-s. In 1947, Kalpagam Swaminathan joined the music faculty of the Kalakshetra's College of Music and Fine Arts where she served for six years.She joined Central College of  Carnatic  Music in Madras  in 1964 as a veena teacher when Musiri Subrahmania Iyer was its Principal. After her retirement, she taught  veena  to students at Kala Peetham in Madras for a few years. Kalpagam Swaminathan has been  a regular  performer on AIR and Doordarshan. The Music Academy in Madras has honoured her  with a special certificate and the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram with  the title of Kalaimamani in recognition of her services  in the field of Carnatic music.

Ustad Amir Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries
15.8.1912 - 13.2.1974
Ustad Amir Khan was easily the single most influential Hindustani vocalist of the 20th century. He was a rare musician, whose music deeply influenced his contemporaries and, more than forty years after his demise, continues to shape the dominant tendencies in vocal, as well as instrumental music. An eclectic, who enriched his basic grooming with several other influences, he set standards of musicianship that have yet to be bettered. With no interest in accumulating audiences, wealth or rewards, he represented the essence of the Indian tradition,which regards music as a mystical pursuit, with spiritual evolution as its primary reward. He sang for himself and drew his listeners into a trance.

Amir Khan was born Amir Ali at Akole (Maharashtra) on 15 August 1912, and was brought up in Indore, where his father, Shahmir Khan served the princely court as a sarangi player. Young Amir Ali began his training in vocal music and the sarangi at an early age.

His father once sought the documentation of the Merukhand discipline from a colleague at the Indore court, Ustad Nasruddin Dagar, for his son’s training. The Ustad refused on the grounds that such knowledge was not available to “the son of a mere sarangi player”. The remark stung Shahmir Khan, and he started coaching young Amir Ali in the Merukhand discipline on his own.

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T Viswanathan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

The New York Times called him “one of the most influential south Indian musicians in the United States.” He was the third Sangita Kalanidhi in his family of extraordinary musicians and dancers, with his sister Balasaraswati the only dancer so far to have received what has come to be accepted as the highest accolade in Carnatic music.

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Vyjayantimala Bali

Birthdays & Anniversaries
Number 13 is lucky for this lady. She was born on 13thAugust  1934.  She  performed  her  Bharata­-natyam arangetram on 13th April 1945 on Tamil New Year’s Day. It was also the date on which she signedher  first  film  contract.  Thirteen  has  been  favourably associated with landmarks in Vyjayantimala’s life.

“Although  I  was  born  in  1934,  my  elders  entered  it  as 1933  in  my  school  records,  and  so  it  has  come  to  stay,” she tells you as she recalls the past. “I am proud of being  a Tiruvallikeni girl. I was born on Adi Kritikai day in a house opposite the Parthasarathy Swamikoil in Triplicane. I came into this world moving my toes not on my head”, she   chuckles. “You see, I was born with “dancing toes”.

Vyjayantimala is one of the most versatile artists in the history of south Indian performing arts. A sprightly septuagenarian, she is a consummate Bharatanatyam artist who has aged gracefully and is a role model for young aspirants in every aspect of her art. She is an upholder of tradition, and its outspoken champion.

Vyjayantimala’s life can be broadly divided into three interesting phases. A gifted child, she blossomed into a sparkling Bharatanatyam dancer. Her grandmother Yadugiri Devi moved heaven and earth to ensure that her dancing skills were honed to perfection. The next phase saw Vyjayantimala take the world of celluloid by storm. She reigned supreme for more than a decade acting with the top heroes in Tamil and Hindi films. (See article titled She brought lustre to the silver screen by V.A.K. Ranga Rao). She was invited to participate in national and international film festivals as a member of the jury, and won many national awards for her films. She created a furore when she refused to accept the award for best supporting actress in the film Devdas as she felt her role of Chandramukhi was on par with that of Paro played by Suchitra Sen. Her marriage to the debonair Dr. Chaman Lal Bali saw her bid goodbye to films, taking care of her family and immersing herself in the art of Bharatanatyam. She has no regrets on retiring from films when she was right at the top, and feels she continues to command respect and has a great fan following because she did so with dignity. This period saw her win national titles in golf. She was the first classical dancer to have contested and won a Lok Sabha seat for two consecutive terms in 1984 and 1989 representing the South Madras constituency. After a break of three years, she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for her contribution to the field of fine arts.

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T K Murthy

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Mridangam maestro T.K. Murthy is a short man but he stands tall as a percussionist in the arena of Carnatic classical music.The contrast was highlighted last year by musicologist B.V.K. Sastry of Bangalore when he wrote in the Deccan Herald:

"[Murthy] makes an interesting picture on the stage. Being  short,  he  has sometimes to overstretch his hands to play on the mridangam, which gives an impression of embracingthan playing the instrument. But his nimble fingers execute fascinating rhythmic ideas. His sense of anticipationis highly impressive. The figures aresprightly, clean cut, setting off a  wide variety of sounds, and converting the whole into a tantalising structure of sound and rhythm. Naturally he has been a popular figure on the concert stage, desired, welcomed and appreciated by all musicians of consequence for  nearly half a century."

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Sunday, 12 August 2018

Raja Bhaiya Poonchwale

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries
12.8.1882 - 1956

Shanta Dhananjayan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Shanta was born on 12 August 1943 into a well to do Indian family in Malaysia, her ancestors having migrated there from Kerala. A child prodigy, she showed enough promise even as a three-year-old for her parents to decide to send her to India for her education. She joined Kalakshetra in June 1952, when she was eight.

After a brief period in Kerala, her parents wanted to send her to Shantiniketan, which was then a great center for the arts. With the encouragement of her uncle Achuta Menon, they sent her to Kalakshetra. Shanta earned her Post Graduate Diploma with distinction in Bharatanatyam and also learned Kathakali and Carnatic music. She was a prominent dancer in Kalakshetra’s productions from 1955 to1968, the year she left the institution.

She was the first girl Dhananjayan was introduced to when he, a village boy, who knew nothing except Malayalam, arrived at Kalakshetra. Shanta was a serious girl totally devoted to her dance and she secretly made up her mind even at the age of 12 to partner Dhananjayan in life.

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Saturday, 11 August 2018

Lalmani Mishra

                                                             Birthdays & Anniversaries

11.8.1924 - 17.7.1979

Vidwan T H Vikku Vinayakram

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Among the senior ghatam vidwans of southern India, Vinayakram has enjoyed a long and successful career as a professional musician. In playing the ghatam, he has evolved a style, which though rooted in the conventional technique, is highly individual in spirit. His is also a style that is responsive to other systems of music, accounting for his success with Western ensembles. He has exhibited his improvisatory genius playing complex rhythms for various fusion groups such as Shakti, and for J.G. Laya— an experimental group of musicians including pianists and percussionists.

Vinayakram was born on 11 August 1942 at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. He received his training in playing the ghatam initially from his father T.R. Harihara Sarma, and later systematic instruction in the art at the Sri Jaya Ganesh Tala Vadya Vidyalaya, Chennai. He made his concert debut at the age of 13. As a ghatam accompanist, Vinayakram has performed with a host of eminent Carnatic musicians.

Among musicians of both the West and the East, he is known for his crisp play and deep knowledge of rhythm. Vinayakram has trained a number of students and lectured on percussion at institutions in India and abroad. He briefly served All India Radio (1970), and worked as Lecturer in Ghatam at the Centre for World Music, Berkeley (1974). He has been Principal of the Sri Jaya Ganesh Tala Vadya Vidyalaya since 1978. The school, which has about 100 students on its rolls, imparts training in percussion free of cost.

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Friday, 10 August 2018

Alladiya Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

10.8.1855 - 16.3.1946
At birth, he was named Ghulam Ahmed, but people began calling him Alladiya [Given by Allah] because he was born in answer to the prayers of his parents who had lost all their earlier children as infants. 

A superlative musician whose singing was marked by grace, power and aristocratic mien, Alladiya Khan created a new style of music which came to be identified as the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana (out of the many styles which were represented in Jaipur in his time). Led by him, the gharana has given voice to hundreds of raga-s. His style of music “made even common raga-s appear more beautiful and full of unexpected twists and turns.... It was full of intricate but beautiful tana-s....” (B.R. Deodhar). The spirit and liveliness of Khan Saheb lives in the music-making of his legatees, though the style itself has undergone mutations in recent times.

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

10.8.1860 - 19.9.1936
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A class act

Leading musicians perform Ramesh Vinayakam's compositions
By S Sivaramakrishnan

In a programme entitled Class of Class, composer Ramesh Vinayakam got together some dozen leading artists from the Carnatic music world to perform his kritis  (and a varnam in Niroshtha) on 28 July at the Mutha Venkatasubbarao Hall at Chennai. 

Here is a complete list of the musicians who performed that evening:

Ramesh Vinayakam, Aruna Sairam, P Unnikrishnan, Nithysree Mahadevan, Sriram Parasuram & Anuradha Sriram, Sikkil Gurucharan, Gayathri Venkataraghavan, Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, Abhishek Raghuram, Trichur Brothers.

As an unusual part of this chastely classical event, Ramesh Vinayakam  brought Beethoven to Chennai but clad in a Carnatic raga he has named Beethovenapriya. And  Carnatic music buffs responded jubilantly. Ramesh's adaptation of celebrated Beethoven composition had lyrics in praise of the Tamil god Muruga with a pallavi that goes

Tiruvarul tara varuvaai azhagane Murugane
Tirumagal urai Tirumaal marugane kuzhagane.....

Abhishek Raghuram rendered this innovative version with L Ramakrishnan on the violin, Mylai Karthikeyan on the nagaswaram and Sreesundar Kumar on the khanjira. Ramesh Vinayakam introduced his novel concept with an excellent rendering on the piano.

Ramesh has developed the tune into a gamaka-rich kriti with a fitting anupallavi and charanam, besides the pallavi. The refrains were beautifully supplemented by the young team of accompanists.

If you ask which raga Beethovenapriya would resemble, I would answer it would owe allegiance to the Beethoven original but you are likely to come across shades of  Keeravani or Simhendramadhyamam. A careful examination would seem it could accommodate almost all swaras in the octave except the suddha rishabha! Abhishek infused manodharma including swaraprastara to make it hugely impressive.

The stage effects were terrific, with a picture of Beethoven and  Balamuruga adding to the the impact of the recital. The other slots by popular singers also showcased Ramesh's emergence in the Carnatic music field as a vaggeyakara of merit.

Ramesh Vinayakam was kind enough to share the lyrics of the song composed  by him in authentic Tamil as reproduced below:

Composer : Ramesh Vinayakam
Ragam : Beethovenapriya. 
Taalam: Rupakam

திருவருள் தர வருவாய் அழகனே முருகனே
திருமகள் உறை திருமால் மருகனே குழகனே
கருணையால் அடியவர் கலிதகர் பரமனே
குருபரா சரவணா பரசிவக் குமரனே ( திரு)

அரு மறை உறை கருவே
அறு முக சிவ குருவே
அருந்தமிழ் அமிழ்தினில் மகிழ்ந்திரு திருவே தருணமிதுவே.  ( திரு)

ஆ டும் பரியேறி தெய்வானை வள்ளி யுடன் கூடி
நாடும் நெஞ்சம் கோவில் கொள்ளும் வேளே   பெருமாளே
இனியொரு பொழுதிலும் நான் உன்னிரு  பதம் மறவேன் 
மரகத உமையவள் அருள் சுரர் பதியே இது ததியே ( திரு )

Stage images by S Sivaramakrishnan.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

E Krishna Iyer

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

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Choodamani awards 2018


YCPA, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Trust will be honouring saxophone artist Kadri Gopalnath with the “Sangeetha Choodamani” award and vidushi Suguna Varadachari with the “Acharya Choodamani” award on the inaugural day of the 63rd Gokulashtami Sangeetha Utsavam on  1st Sept 2018 in Chennai. The festival of carnatic music will be held over 30 days in September.

At 80, still fresh in his music

Veteran violinist Chanrasekharan feted
By S.Sivaramakrishnan

Here is a report on the 80th Birthday Celebrations of M Chandrasekharan 8 July at Chennai

Celebrations for living legends lend a special charm – we  have the celebrity right in the middle to savour as well as respond to the heap of accolades!
Sangita Kalanidhi, Akademy Ratna  M Chandrasekharan’s 80th birth anniversary celebrations on 8 July 2018 was an example. The TTK auditorium of the Madras Music Academy saw a very good turnout of rasikas, musicians and disciples of the violin maestro. The event was significant as it marked 70 years of service to Carnatic music by the vidwan. His association with generations of musicians was illustrated in a beautifully designed invitation card. A grand line-up! In addition to accompanying many  musicians he has been prolific as a solo violinist and with his performances supported by his daughter. A much-preferred violinist for all vidwans he has accompanied them with much involvement adding to the overall impact of recitals. He has toured many parts of the world.
The event, meticulously organized by the vidwan’s family and disciples started with the rendering of his select compositions by his disciple Bharat Kumar, a son of vidushi Suguna Varadachari, accompanied by another sishya R Raghul (violin) and Kumbakonam Swaminathan (mridangam).  ‘Maravaavaram Taruvaai Sri Mahaaganapate’ in Amritavarshani was followed by kritis in Malavi and Suddhasaveri. It is a less known fact that the maestro apart from his excellent abilities also as a vocalist, is a composer of merit.
Next came the screening of a short film on the man and his music.  Accolades from several musicians, rasikas and disciples laced with jovial retorts from the vidwan made the film interesting and informative. Many rasikas and disciples presented  mementos  to honour  the octogenarian.   Endowed with a great memory power and sense of humour, Chandrasekharan  gave a short speech decked with several anecdotes. He did not hesitate to admit his ‘obsession’ with good food.  Rasikas present at the event were happy to see all family members of the vidwan including the most familiar face of Bharati- his daughter- who has been playing in tandem with him in violin solos for several years now.
The felicitation function had N Murali, President, Music Academy, Cleveland V V Sundaram and Madurai T N Seshagopalan offering their tributes to the vidwan who has just celebrated his Sathaabhishekam. While Murali said it was also an occasion to celebrate the human spirit of overcoming adversity and the challenges of life, Sundaram spoke about the maestro's astounding vidwat and great sense of time.  T N Seshagoplan, a long time associate of Chandrasekharan considered it a blessing that he had been performing with the vidwan for several years now. He also explained his extraordinary abilities in presenting the quintessence of ragas and his grip over laya. All spoke of his child-like innocence and willingness to encourage good music and musicians then and there.
A jugalbandi featuring Sangita Kalanidhi N Ravikiran (chitraveena) and Sangeetha Shankar (violin) formed the concluding session t of the evening.  Sangeetha, daughter of Dr N Rajam- chose the occasion to convey the fond regards of her family members to the respected maestro. She was perhaps representing the whole of fraternity of Hindustani music! In their solos, Ravikiran presented Anandabhairavi (Marivere gatiyevaramma) and Varaali (Kaa vaa vaa) and Sangeetha rendered a compact suite of Gorakh kalyan. In the jugalbandi proper, they presented a ragam-tanam-pallavi dedicated to the maestro with a pallavi referring to Chandrasekharan the great musician. The accompanists were Akkarai Subhalakkshmi (violin), Srimushnam Raja Rao (mridangam) and Saurav Kardikar (tabla)

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Siddheswari Devi

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

8.8.1908 - 18.3.1977

Devoted to her father's legacy

Geetha Bennett (1950-2018)
By Anjana Anand

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, USA, 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 Dr.Ramanathan’s hundredth birth anniversary, she embarked on a project to upload on You tube, 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 the Sruti editor visited her at her US home, she happily agreed  to his request to write an article relating to her father's centenary for the magazine. The affection and goodwill from the Bennett family made it a memorable emotional experience for the visitors.

Geetha Bennett was also a well - known Tamil author who had 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, and was awarded the ‘best veena player award’ by Narada Gana Sabha and Indian Fine Arts, Chennai.

An artiste 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.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Mike Hussey’s stylish new footwork

By V Ramnarayan

Some former Australian and New Zealand international cricketers have embraced Tamil culture wholeheartedly ever since they came over as TV commentators covering the Tamil Nadu Premier League now in its third season. Matthew Hayden, Brett Lee, Mike Hussey and Scott Styris not only seem perfectly at home in Chennai, Tirunelveli, Didigul and other centres, enjoying the local cuisine, veshti-kurta, and temple visits, they have been generous in their appreciation of local talent, completely unknown though most of them may be tto these great cricket personalities.

Hussey delighted fans by putting on a smart kurta and veshti and doing some impressive Bharatanatyam steps, even a very passable atami, the neck movement unique to Indian dance. I was reminded of the brilliant Maori Hakka dance that three New Zealand Youth cricketers did in response to a brief Bharatanatyam recital by three youngsters of Kalakshetra, where I had taken the boys under the supervision of Sir Richard Hadlee and Dayle Hadlee back in 2001.

Perhaps sport is the route by which we should promote our arts worldwide. Former BCCI and ICC chiefN Srinivasan whose brainchild TNPL has been, has (unwittingly) shown the way!

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

A few decades ago, when any two or more Carnatic music aficionados talked about topnotch violin accompanists, in most cases they would come up with just two names: Kumbakonam Rajamanickam Pillai and Mysore T. Chowdiah. These two were the undisputed leaders in the field and the others were far behind.

The advanced in years among music buffs still fondly recall the days of Pillai and Chowdiah. This is not to say that violinists of their calibre are not around now; if anything, since the days of Chowdiah and Rajamanickam Pillai, there have been many who have brought to violin-playing great sensitivity and artistry. But the two oldtimers are  still admired for their commitment and ability to enhance the appeal of the concerts in which they played the role of sideman.

Rajamanickam Pillai was a remarkably able and astute accompanist, as well as a successful soloist. But his popularity rested not merely on his abilities with the violin but perhaps also on his other qualities— kindness, magnanimity, generosity and friendliness — as well as his wit. He was a largehearted teacher who trained many disciples.

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Saturday, 4 August 2018

Nookala Chinna Sathyanarayana

                                                              Birthdays & Anniversaries

4.8.1923 - 11.7.2013

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Vellore Ramabhadran

Birthdays & Anniversaries

4.8.1929 - 27.2.2012
Born on 4 August 1929, Vellore Gopalachariar Ramabhadran was a celebrated name in percussion, a master of the mridangam.

Ramabhadran was fortunate to have been initiated into Carnatic music by his father, T.P. Gopalachariar, a konnakol artist and one of the founders of the Vellore Sangeeta Sabha which had conferred the title Sangeeta Ratnakara on Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. Gopalachariar’s residence in Vellore was frequented by stalwarts such as Tiger Varadachariar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, GNB, M.S. Subbulakshmi and D.K. Pattammal, and it was during one such visit that Ramabhadran had the privilege of accompanying Tiger Varadachariar at an in-house concert.

Ramabhadran’s first stage performance was at the age of 14 when he accompanied the doyen Madurai Mani Iyer at the Jagannatha Bhaktha Sabha, Egmore, in 1943. This marked the beginning of an illustrious career spanning over six decades and as many generations. Ramabhadran’s gentle and effortless way of playing the mridangam came to be known as the “sarvalaghu” style.

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