S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Friday, 1 February 2019


The centenary of two stalwarts in the field of arts is being celebrated in February 2019. The 100th birth anniversary of the multifaceted musician, scholar, teacher and classical painter S. Rajam falls on 10 February this year. He was an integral part of Sruti and an invaluable asset to the magazine for over 26 years. TheSunada Trust—headed by his daughter-in-law Dr. Premeela Gurumurthy—is joining hands with the Narada Gana Sabha to celebrate the milestone on 9 February on the inaugural day of the sabha’s week-long diamond jubilee programme. A day before that, on 8 February, the S. Rajam Centenary Celebration Committee spearheaded by his disciples Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, T.V. Ramprasadh and ardent fan Lalitha Ram, has drawn up an elaborate programme comprising speeches, the screening of a film, a dance interpretation of his paintings and a Carnatic music concert to pay tribute to the centenarian at the Music Academy.

During the same week, the curtains come down on the centenary celebrations of the Bharatanatyam legend T. Balasaraswati organised by Dr. V. Raghavan Centre for Performing Arts, in Chennai.

In January, the annual Tyagaraja aradhana at Tiruvaiyaru drew musicians and music lovers to the bard’s sannidhi. Watching the live telecast of the Pancharatna kritis, we felt there was better synchronisation and less glamour this year. A welcome change! Soon after, I went to Thiagarajapuram in Mylapore and was lucky to be part of the unchavritti procession in which veterans and several young musicians participated with gusto. The rendering of the five gems at Tyagaraja’s sannidhi at the Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam is an experience non pareil. Sruti reigns supreme at this sangeeta sthalam as the mike is placed before the tambura, with no mikes for individual musicians. There is no one-upmanship and everything goes on at a leisurely pace. The rituals and the musical homage sans glamour make it a divine experience.

Close on the heels of the Tyagaraja aradhana, came the announcement of the prestigious Padma Awards on the occasion of Republic Day. In a country that boasts of so many classical dance forms, only two have come into its ambit this year! Bharatanatyam dancer Narthaki Nataraj and Paris-based Kathakali exponent Milena Salvini have been selected to receive the Padma Shri award. Hindustani music has fared better with veteran sitar maestro Budhaditya Mukherjee being conferred the Padma Bhushan, and three others the Padma Shri. Quite a few tribal, folk and theatre artists have made it to the Padma awards list. It is heartening to note that the dynamic Pandwani folk artist Teejan Bai is being conferred the Padma Vibhushan and Waman Kendre—leader of the Dalit theatre movement—the Padma Shri. It is quite shocking to find that no Carnatic musician figures in the list of 112 awardees. Have there been no recommendations from the south? And why?

There is no dearth of excellence in Carnatic music; you only have to look at the concert list featured during the music season. For almost two months Chennai was submerged in the sounds of music and dance. In this issue we bring to you reviews of several music concerts and a few lecdems as well, and an interview with mridanga vidwan Thiruvaarur Bakthavathsalam, recipient of the Tamil Isai Vendhar award from Kartik Fine Arts.

In a lighter vein, although the canteens were always buzzing with activity during the season, you could have a light snack with a hot beverage for nothing less than 80 rupees, while a copy of Sruti costs only 70 rupees!

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