Friday, 21 December 2012

Padams and javalis in the Telugu devadasi tradition

By Siddhartha Jagannath

The Music Academy
19 December 2012

The first lecdem on Wednesday, titled “Padam and Javali Renditions in some Telugu Devadasi traditions”, was presented by Ms Yashoda Thakore from Hyderabad. She was accompanied by Daniel who sang while Ms Thakore explained and danced during the demos. 

Yashoda Thakore said that the courtesan was a big part of elite cultural life in colonial south India in the 18th and 19th centuries.  In the Madras Presidency the flow of artistic practices was continuous between cultural hubs like Tanjavur, Madras and zamindari samasthanas like Karvetinagaram, Eluru and Gadwaan. The dance and music repertoires which became embedded in localised practices were often from pre-existing practices and taste habits present in a particular region. 

She said that dance and its music had a long history in the Telugu coastline area. The repertoire of these Telugu dance performances included varnams of Karvetinagaram Govindasami Aiya, salam jatis and sabdams of the Maratha courts of Tanjavur, javalis from the colonial Madras city and some varnams of the Tanjavur quartet. She cited evidence provided by the work Abhinaya Svayambodhini of Devulupalli Veeraraghavamurti Shastri. She gave an example of a javali of Patnam Subramania Iyer in raga Khamas which was composed in colonial Madras but performed extensively in the Telugu abhinaya tradition. 

Yashoda Thakore then played a beautiful recording of Chitoor Subramania Pillai singing his own javali Madhura nagarilo. Daniel performed the same piece as it was used in the Telugu style of dance in which the mood and tempo had been changed. It was quite humorous to listen to this version. It contained emphasised suffixes to Madhura nagarilo such as Madhura nagarilo ayyo.

Yashoda Thakore and Daniel performed some padams for which she danced while he sang.  She briefly noted that padams were performed sitting down with hand gestures and facial abhinaya. She also demonstrated a javali - Atavaru nannu piluva. She ended her lecdem by touching upon the meaning of pandrayitu, which means an abstract dance performed as a finale. 
Though I know almost nothing about dance and struggled to write this report, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms Yashoda Thakore’s lecdem and look forward to many more like it.           

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