Aalaap

Monday, 10 September 2018

Trinity and Nandhikeshwara festivals in Melbourne

By SOUNDARAJAN IYER

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.

SOUNDARAJAN IYER
(Scholar and arts aficionado)

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