S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Saroja Vaidyanathan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Saroja Vaidyanathan  is a choreographerguru and exponent of Bharatanatyam. She was conferred the Padma Shri in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013 by the Government of India.

Saroja is a prolific choreographer and has to her credit ten full length ballets and nearly two thousand individual Bharatanatyam items. She undertook a cultural tour of South East Asia in 2002, accompanying Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the ASEAN Summit in 2002. She has also published her renditions of Subramania Bharati's songs and poems and some of his works have also been set to dance by her.

Saroja Vidyanathan has written a number of books on Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music including The Classical Dances of IndiaBharatanatyam – An In-Depth StudyCarnataka Sangeetham, and The Science of Bharatanatyam.

Saroja was conferred the Padma Shri in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013 by the Government of India. She is also the recipient of the Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman of the Government of Delhi, the Kalaimamani title bestowed by the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She was conferred the title of 'Bharata Kalai Sudar' in 2006.

Indrani Rahman

Birthdays & Anniversaries
19.9.1930 - 5.2.1999

Indrani Rahman was an Indian classical dancer, of Bharata NatyamKuchipudiKathakali and Odissi, which she popularised in the west, and later settled in New York in 1976.
In 1952, she won the Miss India pageant. Later, she joined her mother Ragini Devi's company. She popularised the Indian classical dance form, Odissi during her international tours. Indrani had received the Padma Shri in 1969 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in the performing arts and also the Taraknath Das Award.

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). 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

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.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Raga Identification Competition for Carnatic Music Rasikas - 2019

C.K. Balagopalan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

The Natyarangam award could not have gone to a more worthy artist. For decades during the Rukmini Devi era, Balagopalan was one of the star performers at the annual Kalakshetra art festival. From his teen years to age sixty, when he retired, he remained the enthusiastic, devoted dancer, springing with the sprightly vigour that made him an early favourite of the grande dame of that institution. Ascene from Choodamani Pradanam, a Kalakshetra production in the Ramayana series several years ago. A forlorn Seeta is sitting under a tree and bemoaning her fate when Hanuman jumps down from a tree and surprises her into open-mouthed wonder. Even as the audience waits with bated breath, for it knows what power and artistry the dancer playing the monkey-god is capable of, the curtains have to be brought down hurriedly, as he has evidently twisted his ankle rather nastily. It is, indeed, a bad injury and the foot swells like a balloon. A doctor in the audience happens to have just the right medical supplies in hand, and soon C.K. Balagopalan, the veteran dancer playing Hanuman, is administered an injection that numbs the injured area, and he is able to resume dancing as if nothing has happened.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Kishan Maharaj

Birthdays & Anniversaries

3.9.1923 - 4.5.2008
Born  in  1923  in  Varanasi,  he is  a  disciple  of  the renowned  tabla exponent of the Benaras gharana Kanthe Maharaj. In a  career  spanning  five  decades, he  has come to be known as  a performer  and  teacher of  high distinction. He  has, over the years, accompanied almost every Hindustani musician of note, both vocalists and instrumentalists. He  has  also  excelled  in solo presentations and provided accompaniment to maestros of Kathak dance. Notable awards include Padma Shri (1973), the SNA  Award (1984),  Padma Vibhushan (2002); Honorary D.Litt. (Jivaji University, 2004).

Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Meenakshi born on 3 September 1894,was the only child of  Deivayanai Ammal and Subramaniam,alias Kutti Ayya, of Chavadi Agraharam, Ayyampetai. His mother died when he was only 27 days old. He was brought up by Kamalammal, his mother's younger sister,with great care and affection.

When Meenakshi was four, his uncle Singaram Pillai began giving him les­sons in the 'family art' of tavil-play. A swift learner, he was able to play immediately what ever he was taught. His quick grasp and his retentive memory, as also his 'piercing eyes', so impressed Govinda Pillai that he took the youngster under his own wings for further training.

By the time he was nine,Meenakshi began providing tavil accompaniment to the local nagaswara player.When­ever he was free,he would also go to the temple and play there during the rituals. Probably he was then hardly big enough to carry the tavil, let alone play it standing up.

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Sunday, 1 September 2019

Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

1.9.1896 - 16.10.1974
Ananta Bhagavatar's wife Parvati Ammal gave birth to Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar in September 1896, and younger brother Subrahmaniam was born a couple of years later. Chembai was a 'bhagavatar' even at birth, for the tag of bhagavatar was a traditional family title, But Chembai lived to more than justify the title as  devotee of Guruvayurappan.

Ananta Bhagavatar initiated Chembai into music when the latter was but three years old. He put the boy through rigorous practice in the swara-s, a strong foundation for Chembai's future unerring swara and sruti purity. Also included was intensive 'aakara' practice.

When Chembai was five years old, his father thought of his academic education also. But the little village had no proper school facilities and could boast only of a 'tinnai' school, an informal teaching facili ty run in one of the houses, on the 'tinnai' or pyol in front. It was there that Vaitha started his school education.

Saturday, 31 August 2019


In mid-August this year, Google announced a long-term collaboration with Prasar Bharati, under which the former will host livestreams and digitise content for the public broadcasting agency. What is interesting and important is that the tech giant will aid Prasar Bharati to digitise over two decades worth of content with Doordarshan and All India Radio, across 12 Indian languages, and this will be hosted on Google Arts & Culture. It will indeed be a big step in bringing the best of Prasar Bharati’s programmes on India’s rich history and culture to digital users across age-groups to a wide range of global audiences. It certainly augurs well for Indian art and culture.

Another commendable development in the storage and archiving of Indian art is the donation of the mammoth Mohan Khokar Dance Collection (MKDC) to the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi. The collection, preserved with care by dance writer Ashish Khokar, was initiated several decades ago by his father—the famous writer, performer and arts administrator Prof. Mohan Khokar (1924-1999)—with the grand vision of documenting dance. The treasure trove comprises a mindboggling number of photographs, paper clippings, publications, posters, artefacts and memorabilia of dancers over the decades. It is heart-warming that the MKDC has finally found a befitting space at IGNCA where a team guided by Ashish Khokar has already begun sorting, sifting, and categorising the material with the long term plan of digitising and setting up a gallery-museum. Sruti is well aware of the pioneering collection of Mohan Khokar who was a good friend and used to contribute articles with rare photos quite regularly to the magazine. In fact when N. Pattabhi Raman and Mohan Khokar (who had relocated to Chennai) decided to collaborate, the Sruti Foundation played a small role in helping to transport the MKDC collection to Chennai.

The past month has seen the sad demise of two veterans dedicated to the arts. RajalakshmiParthasarathy, popularly known as Mrs. YGP, Dean & Director of the PSBB group of schools, visionary educationist, and patron of art and culture, passed away in Chennai on 6 August 2019 at the age of 93. She was a multifacetedwoman who, apartfrom playing a pioneering role in education, has left her mark in journalism, theatre, women’s welfare, social causes, restoration of temples, and talent promotion. A major contribution of Mrs. YGP is that she propagated art and culture among the young in a big way because she believed in developing a holistic approach to education with emphasis on all-round personality development. Braving her illness, she was an inspiring presence in Chennai art circles.  She received several awards; Sruti too honoured her with the M. Venkatakrishnan Memorial Award for her role as‘sabhanayaka’ of Bharat Kalachar.

To those who have seen the Ramayana dance-dramas of Kalakshetra, C.K. Balagopalan is synonymous with Anjaneya. From his teens till the very end, “Balagopal” remained the dedicated, enthusiastic, sprightly dancer who poured his heart and soul into the diverse roles he played on stage and came up with a memorable performance every time. He was an integral part of Kalakshetra. After his retirement, the veteran dancer ran his own dance school, took part in dance productions, workshops, and mentored dancers at Kalakshetra. The dance world has lost a great artist in his sudden demise on 24 August in Chennai.

Sruti conveys its heartfelt condolences to the family members of Mrs. YGP and C.K. Balagopalan. (We have published cover stories in August 2015 and October 2010 respectively.)

In the September issue we offer varied fare with articles on Bhajan Sopori— veteran Hindustani santoor maestro, an interview with young but established Carnatic musician Amritha Murali, and the second article in the series on art pioneers in the Indian diaspora focussing on Houston-based classical dancer Rathna Papa Kumar. Apart from several news reports you can also read the first of a three-part article on Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s Melaragamalika.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

M.M. Dandapani Desigar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Ahumble temple singer and teacher of religious hymns to children, he went on to become a celluloid hero, charismatic classical performer and university music professor. He not only set high standards of teaching but also carved a niche for himself in musical innovation and composition. Here is a tale of continuing re-invention by a man of poor resources who did not go beyond the pyol school in his village but eventually became an icon of the Tamil isai movement. He did well by himself too, securing the best of bargains in a status and wealth conscious society. 

M.M. Dandapani Desigar (1908-1973). Thirty-five years after his passing, his ringing voice and evocative Tamil song continue to inspire artists and activists in the cause of ethnic Tamil music in his birth centenary year. In a milieu where language and culture have become focal points of identity and politics, the resonant example of Dandapani Desigar is a continuing source of inspiration. Some mainstream musicians too recognise his musical worth and value his Tamil oeuvre.
To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 288

T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai was a nagaswara wizard, a trailblazer and a legend. Rajarathnam was born in August in 1898 and breathed his last in December 1956 at the relatively young age of 58. He was popularly referred to as TNR. For nearly half a century he strode the world of Carnatic music like a colossus. By arduous and diligent practice over the years, he gained incredible mastery over music and his chosen instrument. His rendition of kriti-s were flawless and the swaraprastara sparkling. He  was popularly  associated  with  Todi  raga  – his  name  became synonymous  with  it because of  his  brilliant  exposition  and delineation of  the  raga.  Even  so,  he  also played, in  equal degree  of  excellence,  many  other  rakti raga-s.  Who  can  forget  his Simhendramadhyamam, Shanmukhapriya,  Ramapriya, Vachaspati, Pantuvarali and Kalyani?

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Saturday, 24 August 2019

Sanjukta Panigrahi

Birthdays & Anniversaries
24.8.1944 - 24.6.1997

" Sanju took Odissi dance to its pinnacle of glory," observed her guru of a lifetime, Kelucharan Mohapatra, lamenting her death. "Her Moksha transcended the limits of aesthetics and became a spiritual experience. Now she has attained moksha." 

Moksha is perhaps the right word to describe her destination. For her dance was an offering to the Lord.'l am doing pooja with my dance," she told an interviewer five years ago.

That dance would become the medium for her moksha likely never crossed the minds of her orthodox brahmin parents when she was born, on 24 August 1944, in Berhampur, Orissa. But, whether they realised it or not, she was born to dance. Even as a little girl, she showed a natural aptitude for it and her mother, a trained singer, decided that she would encourage her to learn Odissi, which itself was struggling at that time to gain a distinct identity and acceptance as a classical dance-form. At the request of the mother, Kelucharan Mohapatra took Sanju, then five years young, under his wings and gave her intensive training. He recently recalled that even as Sanju "danced" for him when he first saw her at her parents' house, he realised she was something.
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Birthdays & Anniversaries

A devoted teacher of Carnatic music

Vidwan  B.  Krishnamoorthy  is  a  multifaceted  artist  – Carnatic vocalist, musicologist, researcher, and passionate teacher. He was born  on  24  August  1932  at  Padarakudi near  Karaikudi, where he lived with his maternal grandfather for a while. He had three brothers,  the  eldest being  the  late Sangita  Kalanidhi B.Rajam  Iyer. Krishnamoorthy’s biological mother gave him in adoption to her childless elder sister Ananthalakshmi. So it was that little Krishnamoorthy grew up in his ‘Periamma’s’ house at Paganeri. Fond of music, he liked to listen to the songs of S.G. Kittappa, Subbiah Bhagavatar and others. The Sri Rama Navami Utsavam was a grand annual celebration at home. Attracted to the bhajana paddhati, the child started learning the songs when he was five years old from Atmanatha Iyer and Tirukoshtiyur Iyengar. He knew all the songs by heart – from the Todayamangalam to the final Deepa Pradakshinam. He can remember most of it even now.

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Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao

                                                               Birthdays & Anniversaries

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Remembering MDR

By S. Sivaramakrishnan

The annual 'MDR Day', celebrated under the banner of 'Kedaram',  at Tripunithura has found an important place in Kerala's   cultural calendar. Krishnamurthi, organiser of the event, who is noted for infusing new ideas to make the memorial event outstanding every year, had a Rasikas Forum this time to enable them to share their experiences of the music of the late vidwan M.D. Ramanathan. There was a very good turn out of music lovers.

The chief guest,  mridanga vidwan Palghat T.R. Rajamani, made a brief speech highlighting the brahmalayam innate in  MDR. He also pointed out that it was necessary to understand the basics of the Carnatic idiom to appreciate it properly. 

(L to R) Krishnamurthi,  Mavelikara P. Subramaniam, Palghat Rajamani, P.R.  Kumara Kerala Varma, Sreevalsan J. Menon and Santhala Raju.
A book containing 20 compositions of M.D. Ramanathan, aptly titled Varadadaasyam, and notated  by Tripunithura-based musician Santhala Raju, was released. The first copy of the book was received by  veteran vidwan P.R. Kumara Kerala Varma,  one of the senior most disciples of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The foreword has been written by vidwan T.V.  Gopalakrishnan,  who had a long association with MDR. The book contains compositions including the popular Hariyum Haranum (Athana), Sagara sayana vibho (Bagesree), and rare songs like the one on Lord Poornatrayeesa and on Madurai Meenakshi.
A section of the audience
The open forum on MDR's music in which several admirers, including musicians, participated, was moderated by musicians P. Subramaniam and Sreevalsan J. Menon.  Several admirers in the audience, including musicians, enthusiastically shared their views on MDR's music and the great yet simple man that he was. I too spoke about the experience of having listened to MDR's sublime music at the Trivandrum Navaratri Mandapam for about 20 years in a row during the  1960s to 80s. 

The concert in the evening featured the Mysore Brothers (violin duo) with K.V.  Prasad (mridangam).

Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awards

By Samudri
The Central Sangeet Natak Akademi presented the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awards on 19 August 2019, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA) auditorium at Imphal, in conjunction with the inauguration of the festival of music, dance and drama at the same venue. Governor Dr. Najma Heptulla presented the awards and honoured the artists.

Click the link below for the complete list of awardees.

Flautist J.B. Sruthi Sagar receiving his Yuva Puraskar award

Vani Kala Nipuna Awards

by Samudri

The 10th annual Sri Jayanti Music Festival of Sri Thyaga Bramha Gana Sabha was inaugurated on 17 August 2019 at Vani Mahal in Chennai. The sabha honoured V. Shankaranarayanan (vocal), B.U. Ganesh Prasad (violin), Mannarkoil J. Balaji (mridangam). J. Suryanarayana Murthy (Bharatanatyam) and Malathy Sampath (Theatre) with the title ‘Vani Kala Nipuna’.
Justice Prabha Sridevan inaugurated the festival and K. Harishankar, Secretary, Narada Gana Sabha, felicitated the artists.

Monday, 12 August 2019

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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Sunday, 11 August 2019

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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Saturday, 10 August 2019

V.N. Bhatkhande and Alladiya Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande was a true crusader. He pursued the study of music passionately as well as scientifically, collected cheej-s from all over the country, wrote books, established the 10-thaat system and developed a method of notating music—and, through these and other activities, succeeded in evoking in the people a sense of history and pride in this aspect of Indian culture. He had learnt music from eminent teachers and studied ancient treatises but, because his main vocation was law, musicians were initially hostile to him. They mocked the very idea that a lawyer could know much about music, let alone talk to them about its scientific principles and rules and regulations. In sum, their attitude was: “Who cares what he says!” But those who scoffed came to respect and admire him and his contribution to the development of Hindustani music.

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.

Friday, 9 August 2019

E. Krishna Iyer

Birthdays & Anniversaries

9.8.1897 - 1968
Rare indeed have been the pioneers who, like E. Krishna Iyer, realised early enough the great value and importance of India’s art and culture,  as much as political freedom and economic  improvement, for national regeneration and welfare.

Few have slaved so selflessly with singleminded devotion as he, for the revival, revitalisation and [popularisation] of many of the forgotten arts even before the dawn of political freedom.

Many indeed have been the fields of Krishna Iyer’s activity; and yet he was able to achieve substantial results in whatever he undertook for the good of the country and its people.... He and his services  and  achievements  are valuable  assets to the country. They are a source of inspiration for others.

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