S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Monday, 31 December 2018


I am overwhelmed by the congratulatory messages from our subscribers and members of the arts fraternity on my taking charge as Editor-in-chief of Sruti. Am aware of the great responsibility that comes with it in carrying forward the high standards set by our Founder-Editor N. Pattabhi Raman in maintaining objectivity, providing variety, and upholding integrity. It is sixteen years since he passed away on 23 December 2002, but the magazine has been growing from strength to strength under subsequent editors, and will continue to do so with the support of the readers. As mentioned in Sruti’s manifesto in 1983, our objective is to promote excellence, preserve valued traditions and encourage innovation and adaptation.

This line came to mind during the inaugural speech by the chief guest Indra Nooyi at the Music Academy, which was the buzz of the Season. Even as she congratulated the Music Academy, she said 92 years at the top should not be taken easily. The Academy should not rest on its laurels because the digital revolution has had a global impact on various aspects including art and culture and it’s practitioners and audiences.

With the Internet democratising music and opening up new avenues, the concert hall is no longer the only venue for music—there are several digital concert series available, some curated even by the listeners. There is tremendous competition all around for the ears and the eyes. What then could be the vision of the Academy for the future? She said she did not have the answers but she gave examples of how PepsiCo, Lincoln Centre and a few other organisations had adapted themselves to cater to the changing tastes of the new generation. Stating that we must embrace change or be overtaken by it, she appealed to the Academy to invite new ideas across the board, to gear itself at every level to understand the changing scenario, adapt itself to changing trends, leverage technology adequately to preserve and propagate the past and to cater to the new generation of rasikas. She called upon every stakeholder who cares about the Academy to involve himself in its renewal and rejuvenation, to reimagine and celebrate the future of culture for Chennai and southern India.

True, change is inevitable, but the success of any organisation depends on how it negotiates change while retaining its core values. So it is with individuals; some go deeper into the core, some diversify. In this issue, our focus is on three eminent women artists—Vyjayantimala Bali, Girija Devi and Aruna Sairam. Vyjayantimala is an icon who has maintained high standards of excellence in every field, be it classical dance, cinema or sports. She chose to delve deeper into the tradition and culled out compositions which have enriched the dance repertoire. We salute this incredible artist who celebrated 75 years in Bharatanatyam with a memorable performance.

Hindustani musician, the late Girija Devi, was a woman of grit who took the thumri to great heights. This traditionalist, after much pursuasion by her two young sishyas, overcame her apprehensions about modern technology and agreed to be filmed—thereby leaving behind a rare documentation of her musical journey for posterity. As mentioned in the previous issue, we also present the concluding part of the special feature on Aruna Sairam. On a quest to enhance her voice and her music, she embraced change and has emerged a winner.

Veteran writer Charukesi has written about Chennai’s oldest sabha which is still going strong. There are of course, the regular features including reports of events from different parts of India, showcasing tradition and innovation and also a peek into some apps. Our team in Chennai is busy attending the season concerts and lecdems, and we hope to present our perspective in the coming issues.

We wish our readers a happy and artistically fulfilling New Year 2019.

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