Thursday, 3 June 2021

FROM THE EDITOR


The June issue of Sruti is a bouquet of profiles big and small, of personalities who have left their imprints on the artistic canvas. On the occasion of the late violin maestro M.S. Goplakrishnan’s birthday on 10 June, an old friend and rasika recalls the man and his extraordinary music in our Readers Write section.

The cover story focuses on the famous duo in Hindustani music—Rajan and Sajan Misra, who have been among the most popular singers in the past two decades. Representatives of the Banaras gharana and champions of khayal gayaki, they have earned a name for themselves for their  mature music embellished by bhava,  special thought  applied to lyrics and enunciation, their vast repertoire, as also for their religious music. I heard them often on the radio and television in the 1970s – 80s, but got an opportunity to listen to them live in 1980-81 at the RIMPA festival organised by sitar maestro Ravi Shankar in Varanasi. The brothers seemed to have an uncanny understanding of each other’s thought process and the way the cascading  alternate rounds of taans came in quick succession—Rajan’s sargam taan followed by Sajan’s akaar taan—was especially amazing. As a part-time music student of the Banaras Hindu University,
I even managed to get an autograph from Rajan Misra. Its now become a cherished memory with his succumbing to Covid in Delhi on 25 April 2021.  Writer Shailaja Khanna and eminent musicians have paid tribute to this versatile duo in this issue
of Sruti.

In continuation of our special feature on Lord Siva-Nataraja, veteran Bharatanatyam exponent and guru  Sudharani Raghupathy shares with us  her ‘vision of Nataraja’ gained over a lifetime dedicated to the arts. Scholar Sudha Seshayyan’s article on the ‘Sapta tandava’ provides rare insights into minute details.

We are delighted to bring to you small profiles of artists who have helped to popularise Indian culture abroad. Chatur Lal was a progressive tabla player who toured with sitar maestro Ravi Shankar in the mid 1950s and 60s and was among the first to participate in talavadya ensembles and successful percussion fusion experiments. Myrta Barvie was a ballet dancer who studied in Kalakshetra and returned to her homeland to become a pioneer in performing and propagating  Indian classical dances in South America. Famous natyacharya V.P. Dhananjayan has paid an endearing tribute to a collaborator Jacques D’ Amboise – a ballet dancer and master choreographer who, through his mammoth collaborations, taught and shared the joy of dancing with children belonging to underprivileged communities across the world.

The list of those snatched by the cruel hands of Fate grows longer by the day. Veteran sitar maestro and academician Debu Chaudhuri (85) and his son Prateek Chaudhuri (49) succumbed to the deadly Covid  within a week of each other. The demise of octogenarian writer Laxminarayan Garg, Editor of the long-running Hindi monthly Sangeet, on 30 April is a loss to arts journalism in Hindi. The passing away of the much respected veteran composer and musician Tanjavur Sankara Iyer has left a void in Carnatic music. The field of Bharatanatyam has lost a fine exponent, teacher and choreographer in the death of  B. Bhanumathi in Bengaluru on 24 May. She was a disciple of greats like natyacharya K.N. Dandayudhapani Pillai, Kadur Venkatalakshamma and Kalanidhi Narayanan. Sruti
fondly recalls her participation as a representative of the ‘Dandayudhapani school’  in the National Seminar on Bharatanatyam Traditions held in Chennai in December 1989.

To end on a positive note, the pandemic has seen several musicians and dancers rising  to the occasion and coming forward in traditional and innovative ways to contribute towards the welfare of artists and society. May the spirit of
caring and giving grow.

S. JANAKI

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Music video spills out powerful message on water resources

Priya Subramanian

Rivers of India - Music Video Launch (ICCW)

The symbolism of rivers has been used abundantly in poetry, music and story-telling. Rivers depict the entire circle of life and are revered as nature’s wonders. In the Indian context, they are worshipped and humanised to tell moving stories of civilizations. However, through the generations,  excessive use of these water bodies has led to their erosion and contamination. Today, we are faced with the colossal task of restoring them and sustaining them for future generations. This is the quintessential and compelling message of the recently released music video, Rivers of India.

Premiered on Earth Day, 22 April 2021, Rivers of India was conceptualised and composed by Kanniks Kannikeswaran, famous Indian-American music composer, in collaboration with The Center for Clean Water (ICCW), an initiative of IIT Madras, of which he is a distinguished alumnus (2019 awardee). The 6.5 minute-long video is a breathtaking salutation to India’s rivers, with a prayer to preserve them. Not only is the video a feast for the eyes, but also pools in leading Indian classical musicians Bombay Jayashri and Kaushiki Chakraborty and their sons, who are emerging artists.

To those familiar with his work, Kanniks is a firm believer in the sovereignty of ragas to bring people and causes together. His efforts in building global choirs and musical communities have brought him a flood of accolades. As a member of one his regional choirs in the US and also a miniscule part of the choral arrangement in the Rivers of India video, I feel privileged to share the story behind this musical video, which includes the names of 51 rivers from all over India.

In February 2020, a little before the global pandemic hit, Kanniks visited The Woodlands, TX (the choir chapter I am part of) and College Station, TX. It was while working with a group of 30 amateur singers in College Station, singing his composition Gange from his flagship production, Shanti, that the idea of creating something simple, featuring the names of rivers such as Ganga and Yamuna struck him. “I immediately found myself singing the first line of the composition, finding joy just in the names of the rivers. The manner in which they fit into a seven-beat Misra chapu tala and the addition of the prefix Sri to the river Saraswati, was something that naturally fell in place”, recalls Kanniks. He completed this inspiring piece of work on his way back to his home in Cincinnati.

When Kanniks resumed online lessons with us, we were indeed delighted to be amongst the first of all his choral groups to learn the Rivers of India composition from him on Zoom soon after lockdowns were imposed. During one of our sessions, he expressed his vision to see this song performed by prominent singers in India, along the lines of the iconic Mile sur mera tumhara. Little did we know then that some of our voices would trickle into this meaningful presentation a year later alongside celebrity musicians.

Moving along with his drift of thoughts, Kanniks reached out to his 1984 batchmate E. Nandakumar (CEO – International Center for Clean Water IIT Madras), with whom he discussed the idea of a music video. This was in continuation of a conversation they had in January 2020 during the  35th reunion of IIT Madras, where Kanniks had proposed creating a large-scale stage performance on campus, with the goal of promoting awareness about water resources. Given the changed circumstances around Covid-19, Nandakumar and Professor T. Pradeep, Director of ICCW, readily agreed to support an online production with the same theme.

The lockdowns of 2020 eroded a good part of the year, however Kanniks was determined to tide over them and make the video a reality. He reached out to Sai Shravanam, music producer/ace audio engineer in Chennai, with whom he had worked together on other projects. The two plunged into the project and came up with a deluge of ideas, from reaching out to artists, to recording and producing the music. It was an epiphany on Sai’s front that led the team to pursue the mother-son duos of Bombay Jayashri and Amruth Ramnath (Chennai), and Kaushiki Chakraborty and Rishith Desikan (Kolkata). Supporting singers Mayur Davay and Savitha Sai were added, much like the many tributaries featured in the video. The song was arranged and produced by Sai Shravanam with several layers of percussion and special effects.

Kanniks says he was excited at the prospect of working with leading artists as well as uniting the Carnatic and Hindustani streams together in one video. According to him, both Jayashri and Kaushiki perceived and internalised the central emotion of the song in its entirety - the flow and swathe of the rivers.

To be featured in the same video as such stalwarts was a thrilling prospect for all of us. Although spread out in different parts of the world, the 50 of us became uniformly immersed in the tune. We each sang the lone choral line, dressed in shades of blue, and shared our individual audio and video tracks with Kanniks, who programmed them into the video. Concluding recordings and edits were done by Bharat Vikram (a successful producer of several musical videos), and a trailer was released 22 March of this year. The final video was released formally on 22 April in a virtual ceremony hosted by IIT Madras.

If one were to dive deep into the composition, it can be best described as a “song that just flows”, as Kanniks states. Written in the beautiful raga Yamuna Kalyani, the piece is complete with a pallavi, anupallavi and a chorus, with the curves in the melody representing the flow of the rivers. The seven-beat cycle stands for the sapta-sindhavah (seven bodies of water revered in the Rig Veda). Yamuna Kalyani vibes with the name Yamuna that appears in the very first line. The tribute also indirectly salutes Muthuswami Dikshitar whose kriti, Jambupate in the same raga, reveres Siva’s manifestation in the form of ‘water’. The anupallavi is rich in swaraksharas; the lines rhyme with each other with alliterative alankaras such as antyakshara prasam. The Sanskrit equivalent names of rivers such as Sutlej easily glide with the tune, as do names such as Vaigai and Hooghly!

This music is not just about adulating the rivers of India. After the introductory celebration, the song makes a distinct transition into the raga Keeravani, with intense alaaps and percussive layers. At this juncture, the camera moves away from the singers and vistas of pristine waterscapes to scenes of human-induced pollution and the resultant devastation of water resources. Kanniks reiterates that he did not want the song to end in this gloom and therefore introduced a momentary pause, after which a surge of hope gushes in, with the well-known Tamil phrase from the Silappadikaram - nadanthai vazhi, juxtaposed with the Sanskrit phrase Jale asmin sannidim kuru. (You walked this land; may you be blessed; O rivers, please emerge in the water in front of me).  There is an immediate change in key and a dramatic emergence of the virtual global chorus of singers, splashes across the screen. The song comes to a climactic conclusion with images of the Center for Clean Water, the work done by them and an invitation to be part of the Clean Water initiative.

The video is nearing one lakh views within a month, and makes a statement that, the online audio-visual medium of expression is here to stay. The end result is as captivating as it is influential, in spurting out an indomitable message to preserve these invaluable resources. Lastly, intergenerational projects have a large impact. “These rivers are ours and this story needs to be told”, Kanniks pours his heart out passionately, “This is an attempt to call the rivers out by name. Knowing of their existence is a first step in creating awareness about water resources”, he expresses.

The entire project brings back for him, the memories of The Blue Jewel, a production from 1996 which he collaborated with the University of Cincinnati. “I am blown away by the relevance of the shocker images used then;  masked humans are now walking the globe – while at that time, we projected the reality of our disregard for the environment resulting in patients being treated with masks in hospitals”, he observes.  “Surely, what the world is going through is largely a result of our own callousness towards our precious resources”, he adds. The Blue Jewel touched only a few thousand people in Cincinnati, but in today’s digital world, Rivers of India is garnering a fast-growing viewership. Kanniks is soaked with gratitude for social media and complements online platforms for providing much-needed respite and sanity to music lovers in today’s turbulent times.

Talking to Kanniks is always an invigorating experience. Just like the lush waterfalls portrayed in the Rivers of India video, his mind is always overflowing with creative ideas and message-oriented themes waiting to be produced. He is particularly overjoyed to have been able to include the names of all hostels on the IIT Madras campus in this song (they are named after Indian rivers), transporting him back to his student days there. While for us, the members of his global choir, this mesmerising production has been instrumental in delivering a spate of important lessons - from water conservation, to adapting to online presentations, and finally, the names of Indian rivers.

(The author is a freelance writer and also a member of the Rivers of India choir)

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

TALENT SHOWCASE

Masters of tomorrow

Shailaja Khanna

In every generation, there come one or two superlative musicians who dominate the musical landscape during their time. In north Indian classical music, in the generations preceding ours – in the field of sarod, it was Amjad Ali Khan in the 1980s and 90s, indeed till today; before him it was Ali Akbar Khan from the 50s to the 70s. In vocal music, till the 1940s it was Fayyaz Khan, followed a decade later by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Kesar Bai, then Amir Khan and Kumar Gandharva, followed by Bhimsen Joshi, and lately, Kishori Amonkar and Jasraj.

In the world of tabla, the golden trinity -- Samta Prasad, Alla Rakha and Kishan Maharaj gave way to Zakir Hussain. Amongst sitariyas, Vilayat Khan and  Ravi Shankar  were followed by Shahid Parvez and Shujaat Khan; this cycle continues.

Today, with the advent of social media platforms for the dissemination of classical music, to discern who is going to rule the concert platforms in the next few years is harder to ascertain. There are also many more practitioners whose art is available to music lovers. Despite this, one can perhaps predict some from the younger generation of musicians, who will emphatically come into their own in the following decade.

Manjusha Patil (born 1971), is already amongst the top ten Hindustani  vocalists today. Acknowledged as a talent to look out for, she was awarded the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2012, and the coveted  Kumar Gandharva award in 2016, among other accolades. A self-made singer, who has had three gurus, Manjusha has a well-honed,  highly-practised voice that soars with ease in three octaves; an ever expanding repertoire, an ability to move between vocal forms with seamless ease -- her abhangs are as polished as her vilambit khayal or emotive thumri.                         

Manjusha’s journey started in her pre-teens. Born in the rich musical town of Sangli, Maharashtra, her talent was quickly spotted even as a child, and she was sent to the best singer in Sangli, Chintubua Mhaiskar. She started performing at a very young age, and was noticed on stage by her next guru, D.V. Kanebua, who lived in the nearby town of Icchalkaranji. She would spend the weekends with her guru, and would practise what she was taught during the week, after school. This continued for twelve long years.

Kanebua was an unusually erudite singer -- initially trained in the Gwalior gharana gayaki, he had also learnt in the Agra style from Vilayat Hussain Khan. His prowess in natya sangeet was well-known. He laid a solid music foundation for Manjusha, from which she could soar, taking guidance from other seniors like Shubhada Paradkar, Vikas Kashalkar and finally his star brother,  Ulhas Kashalkar from whom Manjusha continues to learn. Her innate interest in thumri led her also to pursue the craft from Narendra Kanekar. She is equally popular for her abhangs, which she honed under Kanebua who had learnt from none other than the great Bal Gandharva himself. 

Manjusha realises that this decade is an important one; she shared that in 2015, after she had the honour to be accompanied on the tabla by Zakir Hussain. It was a golden moment for her, and intensified her focus.               

Satyajit Talwalkar is hailed as one of the finest tabla players of his generation. Born in 1978, he has been playing solo and accompanying concerts for the last 25 years. Son and disciple of  Suresh Talwalkar and acclaimed vocalist Padma Talwalkar, Satyajit started his musical training as a toddler and impressively played his first solo concert at the age of nine.

Today, creditably he has accompanied several musicians of an earlier generation including Amjad Ali Khan, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma and Jasraj. He was awarded the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2011 as a recognition of his undoubtable mastery on the tabla. Today Satyajit is a much sought after accompanist. His musical approach in accompaniment is no doubt a result of his training under his vocalist mother, but father  Suresh Talwalkar too has always included vocal music very prominently in his solo acts, making it a part of the presentation. In fact, having the voice accompany the tabla is an innovation derived from his acknowledgement that laya is incomplete without swara. His solos are thrilling, innovative and executed with a crisp mastery that is breathtaking, and one expects to hear much more of Satyajit in the coming years.

Like other percussionists of his generation, Satyajit too has dabbled in experimental music with percussionists from other genres, and jazz musicians.   

Sitariya Shakir Khan (born 1982) is an eighth generation practitioner of the sitar; in his family, in his generation he is the only concert playing “sitariya”. He is the son of sitar maestro Shahid Parvez, great grandson of the surbahar playing Wahid Khan and great great grandson of  Imdad Khan, the founder of the gharana. Regarded as the premier sitar playing gharana of India, the Imdadkhani gharana, has, in the last 100 years produced the finest sitariyas in each generation, from Imdad Khan, Inayat Khan, Vilayat Khan and Shakir’s own father,  Shahid Parvez Khan. Shakir played his first concert at the age of eleven. As yet his undeniable talent is relatively unacknowledged, with very few awards to his credit, but his popularity and credibility as a performer are there for all to see. His recitals are polished, redolent with expertly executed movements. Holding a masters degree in music, Shakir is following in his father’s footsteps in keeping his family’s tradition alive, and teaches in the gurukul system at their ashram called Swara Setu in Pune, which has around 100 students. 

What stands out in Shakir is his openness as a musician; most younger musicians hesitate to communicate with other older artists on stage.  Laudably, Shakir has played jugalbandis with north Indian vocalists and instrumentalists, including Mewati gharana vocalist  Sanjeev Abhyankar.


Abhishek Lahiri (born 1983) is fast emerging as a sarodiya to watch out for. With a training combining the three major schools of sarod playing, Abhishek perhaps has an edge over his contemporaries. His father  Alok Lahiri has received musical training from the Senia Maihar gharana (with  Shyam Ganguly, disciple of Baba Allaudin Khan), Senia Gwalior gharana (from Amjad Ali Khan) and Senia Shahjahanpur gharana (from   Budhadev Ganguly). Each school has its specialisation and it is to Abhishek’s credit that he has seamlessly integrated the different approaches assimilated by his father, while of course remaining primarily a Maihar gharana sarodiya. His integrity to raga is matched by a correctly taught unfolding of the raga, combining lyricism with the sarod baaj. 

Abhishek has played in venues across the world, including at the European Parliament at Strasbourg. His albums have been nominated twice by GIMA (Global Indian Music awards) and he is already an A-grade artist with All India Radio. Described as the ‘wonder child of sarod’ in 2008, Abhishek is fast living up to expectations. He share: “I have tried to develop my own style of playing, not trying to copy anyone blindly. I feel that maintaining the integrity of the ragas is very important, and cannot be compromised. As I am an instrumentalist, I must show the special techniques of the sarod, the sarod baaj. It is not enough to only play with lyrics, where the specialities of my instrument are not exhibited. My performance should be 60 percent physical riyaaz and 40 percent thinking and introspective riyaaz. If I attempt to play exactly like a maestro of the 1960s or 1970s, I will not be able to attract a younger audience who can  listen to the greats on record.”

The coming decades promise to be interesting musically for north Indian classical music, with such talented musicians maturing into the masters of tomorrow.

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Wednesday, 5 May 2021

CENTENARY TRIBUTE

 Lingering memories of our Guru Pichumani Iyer

Ramnath Iyer and Gopinath Iyer



For eight years, the routine was the same. We would traipse through the noisy streets of Mylapore to our guru Pichumani Iyer’s house, veena picks and oil box gripped in one hand and meticulously copied notation notebook in the other. 

And even now, thirty-six years later, the memories of each class linger in our minds—our guru’s kind yet firm words, his watchful eyes following the fingers dancing on the strings, the echoes of the veena pulsing through the room. 

Born in Nagapattinam on 18 May 1920, Pichumani Iyer hailed from a family of musicians. As a boy he learnt vocal music from “Jalar” Gopala Iyer of Tiruchi. He later took to the veena and learnt from Tiruchi Kupanna.  He was fifteen by this time and had already established his talents by winning the prestigious award of the National College, Tiruchi in a Carnatic vocal music contest. He studied up to S.S.L.C. in the National College School before joining the Annamalai University. At the University he received the Sangeeta Bhooshanam for veena in 1942 after completing the four-year course under the tutelage of Tiger Varadachariar, K.S.  Narayanaswamy and Gomathi Sankara Iyer.

Soon after graduation, he relocated to Madras to join AVM Studios in their music troupe. He was a key veena player in the orchestra for over 16 years and his veena music in many film songs was highly acclaimed during that time when classical music ruled the roost in cinema. His veena playing for the films Penn, Sampoorna Ramayanam, and the hit songs Maalai pozhuthin mayakkathile, Veenai kodiyudaya vendaney and Indru poi naalai va, speak volumes of his talent. In 1959 he quit his job at the AVM Studios and started his career as a full-time vainika, teaching and performing concerts.

He was conferred several titles and awards by organisations and institutions—including the TTK award from the Music Academy, Madras, the Kalaimamani award from the State Government of Tamil Nadu and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award. He performed all over India and undertook his maiden trip overseas to Australia in 1999 at our invitation. He published a number of audio recordings;  some of  his early gramophone records brought out between the 1950s  and the 1970s were popular and regularly broadcast by All India Radio. He was a top-grade artist of All India Radio and Doordarshan. Pichumani Iyer was a composer of merit too, with a few swarajatis, varnam and tillanas to his credit. One of his tillanas is in the raga of his own creation called Vasanta Kaisiki.

Pichumani Iyer trained a number of students, many of whom are notable veena players in their own right. To name a few performing disciples: Vasantha Krishnamurthy, P. Vasanthkumar, R.S. Jayalakshmi, B. Kannan, Revathi Krishna, R. Raman,  Thayapari Niranjan (Singapore), Sastry Vedham, Shriram (U.S.A.) and the two of us called Iyer Brothers (Australia).

It is always difficult to capture the power of music in words. This reflection, however, from a press review by the highly respected music critic the late N.M.  Narayanan (The Hindu, Friday, 14 June 1991), encapsulates Pichumani Iyer’s impact. “It is a problem of discovering a point where the practical and the idealistic meet. It is a point from which the classical music that flows is practical without being over-practical and profane, and idealistic without being lost in useless and unproductive idealism. The modern kutcheri pioneers showed the way of sustaining classical music with dignity on this middle path… R. Pichumani has fashioned a method for himself. It is a method by which veena music retains character and is made entertaining at the same time.”

Any rasika who has attended his kutcheris can attest to the high calibre of performance. His supple fingering, unique attention to detail, and rich rendering of traditional compositions made each concert moving in its own way. 

Tracing the career of Pichumani Iyer demands reflection not only on his success as a professional veena vidwan but also celebration of the personal impact he had on the lives of his many students as a guru. Even when our IT jobs eventually took us out of Chennai, our lessons with him were a highlight of our annual trips to India. “Vadhyar”, as we fondly referred to him, gave us so much. Each class would go on for at least two hours, three times a week. It was like a gurukulam! Beyond the classroom, Vadhyar and Mami (his wife) treated us like their own sons; bequeathing us with the duty of getting ‘Kumbakonam vettalai’ and ‘vaasanai seeval’ from their favourite shop in Mylapore’s East Mada street before each class.

Every class was more than just a lesson on the veena. Without a tape recorder in the early learning years, Vadhyar would make us repeat the sangatis incessantly to ensure the music was etched in our memory. He also inculcated in us the discipline of notating songs promptly at the conclusion of each class. In this way, we absorbed a sense of discipline, responsibility and attention to detail that we try to apply in our lives.

Iyer Brothers with their guru at a practice session

We remember Vadhyar for his gentility and soft-spoken nature. Many of his musical peers were his close friends. The noted composer Tanjavur Sankara Iyer and veteran vocalist Calcutta K.S. Krishnamurthy were his classmates from Annamalai University. Tanjavur Sankara Iyer would visit him often and engage in musical discussions. We have watched and eagerly enjoyed some of these interactions during our class, relishing the lively back and forth between vidwans. Veena
S. Balachander and Chitti Babu were also close friends of our guru.

Vadhyar used to remark about the conversations with Veena Balachander, who would occasionally visit his house late in the night and take him to the Marina beach where they would relentlessly chat for hours! Balachander was very keen to understand how Vadhyar had such a fine “meetu” (plucking) technique without the plucking noise. Other musicians such as Seergazhi Govindarajan, Vellore Ramabhadran, Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Lalgudi Jayaraman, N. Ramani were also his good friends. Vadhyar teamed up with Seergazhi Govindarajan to conduct the Tyagaraja Aradhana at Tiruvaiyaru for a few years.

On the completion of the centenary of his birth, we celebrate our guru, Pichumani Iyer for his multitudinous achievements in Carnatic music. We can still recall his vibrant, gamaka-oriented playing and respectful adherence to the vocal style. Melodious rich tone, soft plucking and sensitive playing were the unique hallmarks of Pichumani Iyer’s style. Beyond this, we also remember his generous spirit, his humility despite countless accolades, and his genuine passion as a teacher.

We are blessed to have been his sishyas, and will be forever grateful for the lessons he taught us not only in music, but in life.


(The authors are well known vainikas and music teachers based in Melbourne, Australia)

http://iyerbrothersveena.com/

Friday, 30 April 2021

FROM THE EDITOR

Everything seems to have come full circle once again.  This time, last year so many of us were confused, cautiously trying to cope with the situation of lockdown, retrenchment, work-from-home,  living in  fear of the deadly virus, and rarely venturing out from home. Live cultural programmes, teaching-learning classes, had grinded to a halt throwing things out of gear for members of the arts fraternity; there was so much uncertainty all around. It was a totally new experience for all.

Things eased a bit and since the summer of 2020, the digital space started buzzing with online cultural activity as artists and social media commentators explored every avenue to give vent to their creativity.  The online music and dance season was a success and a morale booster for  many.  The scenario improved further in the new year 2021, and in January-February it was heartening to see sabhas opening their halls to live performances with Covid protocols in place.  The launch of the Covid vaccination drive ushered in hope that things would look up in the coming months. But the euphoria was shortlived.

Since March-April the second Corona wave has been more virulent.  The situation everywhere has turned grim with vaccines, life-saving  medicines and oxygen in short supply and Covid positive cases and deaths shooting up. As a consequence, curfew, lockdown and restrictions on gatherings and cultural activities have been clamped down once again. No respite, we are back to square one! Often we get news of deaths and bereavement in the artistic fraternity. Sruti extends it’s heartfelt condolences to the affected families.

It has become a time for introspection,   to draw on our inner reserves for strength  and sustenance.  A time to contemplate on a Higher Being for Hope; and what better subject than to dwell on Siva-Nataraja whose eternal, cosmic Dance is the embodiment of the activities of srishti, sthiti, samhara, tirodhana and anugraha. It is probably time for Siva-Neelakantha to once again come to the rescue of humanity and cleanse the poison pervading the environment. The cover story in the May issue of Sruti is devoted to Siva-Nataraja. We are indeed privileged to bring to our readers very insightful articles written by eminent personalities Padma Subrahmanyam and Sudha Seshayyan. And we hope to offer our readers some more in the coming issues.

In the News & Notes section too, we have reports on the natyanjalis held during  Sivaratri. We also have write-ups about Tyagaraja aradhana –  our way of  paying homage to the vaggeyakara whose jayanti is usually celebrated in May. The Iyer Brothers, renowned vainikas, have penned a sincere and moving tribute to their guru the late Pichumani Iyer whose centenary celebrations conclude in May. The birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore – famous for his Gitanjali, Rabindra Sangeet and Rabindra Nritya – is also celebrated in May. We bring to you a report on an interesting seminar (held in 2020) on Rabindra Nritya  which is now about 100 years old.

Our correspondent K.K. Gopalakrishnan has penned an obituary tribute to the veteran Kathakali doyen Chemmencherry Kunhiraman Nair who passed away recently at the ripe old age of 104. I got an opportunity to watch the centenarian— with an endearing smile and twinkling eyes—perform the navarasa at a felicitation function organised at BIFAC in Chennai a few years ago. He was amazing even at that age.

Even as we go to print we are shocked to hear about the sad demise of the famous Hindustani vocalist Rajan Mishra who succumbed to Covid. In this grim situation, we can do our bit by wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, sanitising and remaining safe at home as much as possible. Let’s listen to music, watch dance – online of course! And read a lot too!

S. JANAKI