Sunday, 1 December 2013

Of titles and initiatives

There have been former Sangita Kalanidhis who received the Music Academy honour when they were younger than this year’s nominee will be at the end of the forthcoming annual music conference, but Sudha Ragunathan will certainly be a youthful awardee at the sadas. As Sangita Kalanidhi R Vedavalli states in her appreciation of the vidushi, Sudha wears her success lightly, despite all the popularity she enjoys across continents. Visible during our recent interactions with her were her quiet enjoyment of the prospect of arguably the greatest day of her music career, her self-belief and her awareness of the new responsibilities that go with the title. The honour has come when she is at the peak of her powers, which means that she still has the years ahead of her to ripen into a musician of greater depth and poise.

Speaking of Sangita Kalanidhis, we have in our midst a grand old man known for his mastery of an instrument he has made known across the world. It will be a momentous day for the ghatam when TH Vinayakram receives the ultimate accolade in Carnatic music. No upa-pakkavadya artiste has so far received the title of Sangita Kalanidhi in the eight decades of the Academy. That will change when the little master is duly honoured—in the near future, we hope.

To most of us following Indian classical music, 2013 has been an unhappy year. In the South, we have lost two of our greatest violinists and the life-partner of one of them, an iconic musician-musicologist, and a devout disciple of Semmangudi Srinivasier in recent months. Such a succession of losses is perhaps inevitable at this time in history as many of our titans began their careers in the first half of the 20th century. 

Over the years, Sruti has made strenuous efforts to record the lives and reflections of many of these stalwarts during their lifetimes, as well as those of past masters, but the task is substantial, and we need volunteers to come forward with material in their possession to facilitate such documentation, or to point out omissions on our part in this regard.

Ashish Mohan Khokar’s AttenDance, The Dance Annual of India celebrates its 15th anniversary this month. This one-man mission is a commendable initiative that centrestages the varied perspectives of the different genres of Indian dance, often presented by the leading lights of natya today. Guest-edited by SD Desai, the 15th anniversary issue focuses on the topic Classical Dance and Modern Times. Much of it seems to address the classic modern conundrum of tradition versus the compulsions of an increasingly homogeneous, globalised environment. Appropriately, Have Faith in Tradition, Be Open to New Ideas is the title of a chapter by Arushi Mudgal. What a delicate balancing act that is, in life as in the arts, is a message that confronts us everyday. Khokar has in his own way been attempting it for 15 years. We congratulate him and compliment him for his perseverance.

A variety of aspects of dance and choreography will be taken up for discussion by expert panels in a lec-dem series on Bharatanatyam to be co-presented by Sruti and Apsaras Arts Academy of Singapore from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm during 16-18 December 2013 at Tattvaloka, Eldams Road, Teynampet, Chennai. Dance aficionados are cordially invited to attend.

 V Ramnarayan

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