Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Kedar Bodas to sing at Music Club IIT Madras on 4th March

By Lakshmi Sreeram

The National Centre for Performing Arts, committed as it is to the propagation of India’s rich cultural heritage, in collaboration with Music Club IIT Madras, presents Gwalior gharana singer Pt. Kedar Bodas in a Khayal recital in Chennai.

Kedar Bodas belongs to the direct sishya parampara of Pt Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, whose missionary work in propagating Khayal music made him one of the most influential persons in the world of Hindustani music in the 20th century.

Kedar Bodas’s grandfather, Lakshman Sripad Bodas, was Paluskar’s student who lived and taught music in Karachi until partition.  He was also Kedar’s first guru.  Kedar later learnt from Dr. Ashok Ranade, who, with his profound musicological vision, exposed Kedar to the stylistic specialties of various gharanas such as Gwalior, Agra and Jaipur.

Kedar Bodas also learnt from T.D. Janorikar of the Bhendi Bazaar gharana with its exquisite compositions and unique engagement with tonality.

Kedar Bodas is highly regarded among connoisseurs for the strong grounding he has in basics of sur, taal and raga grammar as well as his sensitivity to the composition itself.  How he amalgamates his exposure to varied styles into his presentations is also a matter for great admiration.

Kedar Bodas performs at the Central Lecture Theater (CLT) at IIT Madras on 4th March from 6.30 pm.   He will be accompanied by Dattatray Bhave (tabla) and Vyasmurti Katti (harmonium).  

Admission is free.

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Mandolin U. Srinivas - Buy Now

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

T.M. Krishna and the Magsaysay Award

By Rajiv Krishnamurthy
I was quietly browsing the Internet when suddenly my son popped up on Facebook Messenger and informed that T.M. Krishna had been awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award! It was a great surprise and I was quite keen to know under what category he had been honoured. Luckily, the citation was immediately out and it said Krishna was receiving the award under the ‘Emergent Leadership’ category. I had known T.M. Krishna and his projects for around a decade, and knew it was well deserved. I immediately called another ardent fan of T.M. Krishna and asked him, "Shall we go to Manila for the award function?"
Hariharan Sankaran, the popular `photographer uncle' of the Carnatic music circuit, was equally spontaneous in agreeing to my proposal. I have this bad habit of booking my tickets the moment I decide on travelling and this is precisely what happened. Even before we could review our intentions, both of us were neck-deep into the trip; the main reason was that no visa was required for Philippines if we had certain other visas!
Hari and I decided that we would land in Manila the day before the award function and stay for three nights there including a day for sightseeing. We met in Singapore and landed in Manila on 30 August 2016 and were booked in the same hotel as our awardee and his family. The travel from the airport to Diamond Hotel took us two hours for 8 kilometres and our conversation with the driver made us realise that we were in for some torrid weather in Manila.
Sangeetha and Krishna, flanked by their family comprising his mother Prema Rangachari, his brother Srikanth, and Krishna's children Arya and Anantha plus the charming young student Madhav Iyengar made the reception committee very lively. God only knows who spoke what and the cacophony was quite tough to manage. On Day 1, Krishna had arranged for a lovely dinner in Intramurous, the Spanish quarter of Manila at Illustrado for his near and dear. The dinner set the pace for the things to unfurl in the next two days.
On D-day, 31 August 2016 we had some insight into the kind of work the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation does. Its secretariat was an impressive tower on Roxas Boulevard, a prestigious address in Manila and bang opposite our hotel. We learnt that all it does is give away the prestigious award, often called the Nobel Prize of Asia. The Foundation led by the dynamic Ms. Carmecita Abella receives nominations, evaluates them, sends researchers to the nominees arenas, evaluates the reports of the researchers, further sifts the nominations. Then evaluations by various committees takes place and then a short-list is given to the Trustees for the final selection. It takes around 15-18 months for this work to be completed, and I am sure this must put to rest all unwarranted speculation.
Each of the awardees was provided a chaperon! His or her job was to maintain the schedules of the awards function and this starts at 8 am in the morning. Seminars are presented by each of the awardees to students and the public. They are so open that it gives enough opportunity for the students to know about the work done by each of the awardees. 
The awards ceremony was scheduled at the Philippines Cultural Centre on Roxas Boulevard for between 4.30 and 6.30 pm. Belonging to the awardee’s camp we had seats in the fourth row, which gave us a vantage view of the proceedings and of course, a lovely spot to place our cameras. The ceremony was already rehearsed on the previous day and Krishna was full of praise for the way it was done. The speeches of all the awardees were already submitted to the Award Foundation.
I went into the market in the morning with Hari and Krishna and bought myself a barong, the traditional dress of Philippines, to try to be one of the locals! So, when we all arrived at the venue, almost all the men were attired in a barong and above all the festive atmosphere was overwhelming. Here we were joined by R.K. Shriramkumar and K. Arun Prakash, too. They had the fortune of staying with an Indian family and enjoying sambar, rasam, and more kuzhambu. The lobby at the cultural centre was amazing—each awardee had a kiosk set up for him. Details of the Awardee were contained in the stall and hence, the ‘CV’ of each awardee was open to all. It was very heartening to watch youngsters in large numbers thronging these stalls and getting to know about each awardee.
The ceremony commenced with the trustees, awardees, and others marching on to the stage through the audience on both aisles. It was a great sight! Once the stage was set with these persons then we had the Vice President of Philippines marching through the audience and all in the hall paying their respects to her. It was business straight away.
There were no unnecessary speeches. Each of the trustees introduced the awardees and they did it to perfection. Their expression was flawless, no one fumbled even a word! Similarly, the acceptance speeches made by the awardees were equally succinct.
About 70 minutes into the ceremony, when all of us wanted to call it a day, came the speech by the Guest of Honour and Vice President of Philippines, Ms. Maria Leonor Robredo. This was worth every penny we spent. Maybe it was a prepared speech and she had a tele-prompter to aid her, but the manner in which she delivered her speech left us speechless. Ms. Robredo was not only eloquent but had taken the trouble to follow every awardee’s speech. She made it a point to include a few issues expressed in every one of these speeches. Her involvement and passion won over every one present in the hall.
Next was meeting the awardees in the lobby and at individual stalls. This was so informal that we could meet almost any of the awardees freely and take photographs with them. Krishna was, of course, overwhelmed by the occasion and the affection poured on him by the crowd that included many past awardees, too.
The following day, 1 September 2016, there was a concert for the Indian fraternity and others at the Hall of the Stock Exchange of Philippines. The audience was basically from the Asian Development Bank. The Embassy of India led by the charming Ambassador Lalduhthlana Ralte had arranged this concert by T.M. Krishna, R.K. Shriramkumar and K. Arunprakash. It was an amazing concert which kept the audience from diverse language regions spellbound. After conclusion the audience asked for some more music and Krishna readily obliged with two more songs. The concert was followed by a lovely dinner at Mr. Ramesh and Ms. Radha’s residence. Thus ended a very interesting visit to Manila which gave us an insight into what the Magsaysay Award is all about and the hard work that goes into the process.

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Monday, 20 February 2017

N. Sigamani

By Anjana Anand

Natarajan Sigamani is a senior violin accompanist for Bharatanatyam. Unassuming and  quietly creative, he is driven by his passion to excel. Rich in musicality, his violin accompaniment is an asset to the dance orchestra. Bharatanatyam is indeed enriched by musicians of his calibre. This versatile violinist believes that Bharatanatyam is as much a part of his life as Carnatic music.
Did music run in your family?
My father Sangeeta Bhushanam  Alandur  S. Natarajan was the brother of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. S. Ramanathan. He was a  professional violinist and worked at the Music College, Chennai and at Kalakshetra. Even as a child I observed my father’s playing for Bharatanatyam programmes and was attracted to it. He was my first guru and I later learnt violin from K.T. Sivaganesh who exposed me to different fingering and bowing techniques which came in handy as an accompanist for Bharatanatayam.
Which musicians have inspired you?
M.S. Gopalakrishnan, T.N. Krishnan, Lalgudi Jayaraman, N. Rajam and Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna.
Who were the artists you accompanied early in your career?
In 1985, I started accompanying for Prabha Nagarajan. Some of my early performances were for Udupi Lakshminarayana, S.K. Kameswaran, M. Swaminathan, K.J. Sarasa, Vyjayanthimala Bali and Uma Anand. 
Seetarama Sarma introduced me to Malavika Sarukkai for whom I played the violin for 17 long years. My musical association with Priyadarsini Govind also goes back several years.
I was exposed to the beautiful music of natyacharyas like Tanjavur Kitappa Pillai, S.K. Rajaratnam Pillai and Pandanallur Subbarayya Pillai. These experiences were milestones in my musical journey.
The memorable productions you have been involved in?
In 1994, I was part of the team of Jaya Jaya Devi composed by Lalgudi G. Jayaraman and choreographed by Rhadha. More than the performance opportunity, it was a learning experience for me to work under the guidance of the maestro. Rhadha is also one of the senior artists to have encouraged me.
My interaction with musical giants in Bharatanatyam helped me to cultivate my skills. Dance also afforded freedom for my creativity. All the dancers I have worked with to date have given me this musical space to create and to enhance their performance. For example, when we worked with Malavika Sarukkai on Thimakka (based on the story of inspiring Indian environmentalist from Karnataka), I would watch her movements and improvise on the composition to bring the scene alive. For this, I used different bowing and fingering techniques for musical impact.
You are out of India almost six months of the year! Any interesting experiences during your tours?
Yes, there are many. In Baltimore, U.S.A., as a member of Malavika Sarukkai’s orchestra. I was conferred honorary citizenship by the Mayor. I have had the honour of performing for several visiting dignitaries, as in the case of Hillary Clinton when she came to Delhi. While travelling with Malavika, I learnt much from discussions with her learned mother Saroja Kamakshi.
The performance in Israel with Priyadarsini Govind was also a memorable experience. The local crowd watched in rapt attention. I played a raga prelude before she performed the Kathanakutoohalam tillana, and the audience broke out in full applause.
My concerts with Alarmel Valli were remarkable for her onstage rapport with the musicians.
Besides touring with senior dancers, I also play for many arangetrams in the U.S.A. thanks to Bharagavi Sundararajan of New Jersey.
In Europe and America, I find that sound technicians at performance venues are now used to Indian music and are sensitive to our balancing needs and acoustics.
Can you mention a creative work which you enjoyed composing music for?
Many years ago, I composed music interludes for a 15-minute dance composition in a competition. The theme was the dice game in the Mahabharata. The raga Darbari Kanada was used to represent the Pandavas and Rasikapriya for the Kauravas. We used the ragas alternately like a question and answer session. Many Bharatanatyam musicians were present at  the event, and at the end of the performance, they gave us a standing ovation.
What forms of music inspire you?
I listen to all kinds of music, Carnatic, Hindustani, Western classical, jazz, film music and more. Several music lovers have introduced me to various genres of music over the years. I do not listen to music for pleasure alone. Subconsciously, I analyse the music, its orchestration and the way the artist presents it. In fact, I listen multiple times to every track. It helps me  to create interesting soundscapes, especially while working with thematic pieces.
Do you  enjoy being a  musician for Bharatanatyam?
It has been truly enriching. I entered this field with passion for Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam. As I had exposure to Bharatanatyam from an early age, I was not caught in the dilemma of wanting to be a ‘kutcheri artist’ or settling for Bharatanatyam! Playing for dance was my first choice and I can say with confidence that it has been a most rewarding choice.
After a dance performance at the Vipanchee festival, and hearing me play the violin for the bhajan Thumak chalata Ramachandra, maestro Balamuralikrishna came up to congratulate me. I was so thrilled. The next year, he conferred on me the Nada Kala Vipanchee title, and it was a proud moment for me to receive the award from him with his blessings. All these are moments to cherish.
Every dancer I played for has given me a different insight into music. I learn something new at each performance. I have travelled across India and to several countries abroad, and met some of the most brilliant performers because of my decision to play the violin for classical dance.
I must acknowledge the role of all the dancers I have worked with, my co-artists and most important, the technicians at performance venues who have made  art a complete experience for me.

[Sruti has a policy of  editing out salutations like Sri, Smt, Sir, Ji, Anna, Aunty, Mama, Pandit, Ustad, Saheb and honorifics from all our articles]

Monday, 13 February 2017

19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav

A tribute to theatre titans

By Shrinkhla Sahai

The 19th edition of the annual theatre festival organised by the National School of Drama, Delhi, promises a treat for theatre lovers through the month of February. The first act of the festival opened with a tribute to three theatre personalities who passed away last year—K.N. Panikkar, Heisnam Kanhailal and Prem Matiyani. 

Poet, playwright, theatre director, writer, musician, lyricist, K.N. Panikkar (1928 - 2016) was a multifaceted genius. Uttara Rama Charitam was the inaugural play, performed in Hindi by Sopanam Institute of Performing Arts and Research Centre, founded in 1964 by Panikkar in Kerala. As a leading exponent of traditional and folk theatre, Panikkar is revered for his successful productions of traditional Sanskrit plays. Bhasa’s Madhyamavyayogam, one of his signature directorial ventures, set the stage for the theatre festival to take off.  

Kanhailal’s Pebet was first performed in 1975. It is a landmark production in the remarkable trajectory of the Manipuri director. Anchored in a fable about a mythical bird called Pebet, the play weaves a narrative around the Mother Pebet (Heisnam Sabitri Devi) as she creates a safe and peaceful world for her children. She is soon interrupted by a wicked cat that eyes the baby birds and attempts to sweet-talk and strategise its way into luring them away for its own use. The innocent young pebets get trapped in the cat’s clever mechanisations. Before they realise what is happening, the cat manipulates them like puppets, inciting them to act against one another. A poignant and apt metaphor for our times, the play is politically potent and emotionally powerful. Pebet signifies the essence of Kanhailal’s theatrical language—intense engagement with non-verbal language, minimalist scenography, a simple narrative that reveals the nuances of human life and a pointed social critique. After all these years, the play continues to resonate the deepest fears and desires that underlie interaction between communities. The director’s vision is matched with H. Sabitri Devi’s moving performance. A befitting tribute, this production has worked its way into the annals of theatre masterpieces. 

Director Prem Matiyani had also worked with the Song and Drama division of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and was the director of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. A recent production, Gadal Gunda, was his adaptation of two short stories by Rangeya Raghav and Jai Shankar Prasad. Set in Rajasthan, Gadal portrays a strong and fiercely independent 45-year old woman. She flouts social norms and is criticised by her own family as she decides to move in with a man ten years younger to her. This is her effort to shake up her brother-in-law Dodi, who loves her but does not have the courage to make their relationship known to her sons and the village community. Hema Singh, as the protagonist Gadal, gave a nuanced and powerful performance, bringing out the dilemma, loneliness and stubbornness of the character with great skill.

The second story, Gunda, transported the audience into the heart of 18th century Varanasi. The city faces turbulent times under the dictatorship of Hastings. Nankhu Singh—feared by the aristocracy and loved by the marginalised sections of society, attempts to safeguard the cultural values of the ancient city as it buckles under political conflict. Again, the protagonist, played by Govind Pandey, emerged as a convincingly real and conflicted character. However, in both the cases, the supporting cast often lapsed into exaggerated gestures, superficial and stereotypical depictions of rural life that undercut the effect of the lead actors’ performance. The music, design, direction and dramatisation by Prem Matiyani evoked an authentic world, one that only a master storyteller can weave.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Remembering Guru Surendra Nath Jena

By Shrinkhla Sahai
Guru Surendranath Jena

The first edition of the Odissi International Festival opened in Delhi on 22 December 2016. The two-day festival organised by Nrityashilp Dance Foundation, featured a seminar, film screening, photography exhibition, poetry reading and performances focussing on the style of Odissi guru Surendra Nath Jena. Four generations of artists from four continents came together to present his choreographic works. Conceptualised by his daughter and disciple Pratibha Jena Singh, the festival celebrated the creative genius and his oeuvre.

Surendra Nath Jena was a multifaceted artist. His work seamlessly moved across the genres of music, dance, theatre and poetry. He remained relatively less-celebrated than the other Odissi gurus of his era. Though deeply invested in the dance form, he was wary of rigid classicism, drawing inspiration for his movement vocabulary from everyday rural life, temple sculptures and ancient texts. His observations and meditations resulted in his radical departure from the classical as esoteric and beautiful. The hallmark of his unique Odissi vocabulary is the inclusion of everyday poses of village women, the bold and intense expression of the less-used rasas in dance—beebhatsa, raudra and bhayanaka.

Jena’s humble moorings in the village of Utchapur in 1924 and his career as a jatra artist, were followed by his deep passion for the Odissi dance form when it was being reconstructed as a classical art. He went on to become the director of Odisha’s popular dance troupe and started training at one of the first Odissi schools in the region—Kala Vikas Kendra. Later, he came to Delhi and was a guru at the Triveni Kala Sangam till he passed away in 2007.

The festival opened with a seminar titled 'Guru Surendra Nath Jena’s Odissi: a higher performative practice'. Chaired by Urmimala Sarkar, Associate Professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, the seminar brought together practitioners of Odissi as well as students and theoreticians, in a vibrant discussion on the politics and poetics of Jena’s Odissi.
Nirmal Chandra Jena

Jena was also a prolific poet. Selections from his book Atman—Odissi Nritya Puran, were read by Nirmal Chandra Jena and Swaati Chattopadhyay. The documentary film Performing Konark, Performing Hirapur, by dance scholar Alessandra Y. Roy was also screened.

The first performance of the festival was by Jena’s son and disciple Nirmal Chandra Jena who established the Odissi Dance Company in Sydney, Australia. Some of Jena’s most memorable, radical and special works were performed by students from all over the world. For instance, Konark Kanti, performed by dancers from Ukraine, is a masterpiece from 1968. Dedicated to Surya, the sun-god, the dance brought to life the spectacular sculptures of the Konark Sun Temple. Chhaya Jhatak, performed by Jena’s grand-daughter Raudri Singh and Nirmal Chandra Jena’s disciple Priya Mistry, revitalised the poses from the twin 'shade' temples of Chhaya Devi located in the Konark complex, and concluded with a sequence of 32 seated postures depicting the sculptural motifs on the wheels of Konark.

Another distinctive dance composition that embodied the exquisite blend of everyday life and ancient knowledge was Shilp Chandrika. Performed by Pratibha Jena Singh’s disciple, Aastha Gandhi, the choreography recreated sixteen nayikas from the temple sculptures. The choreography in the second segment of the composition, based on Abhinaya Chandrika, was challenging with swift changes in the bends and abstract movements. Jena’s choreography for the ashtapadi Lalita lavanga lata from the Geeta Govinda presented a unique interpretation with the focus on the festival of Holi and the play of colours between Krishna and the gopis juxtaposed to Radha’s loneliness and longing. Performed by Jaya Mehta, senior disciple of Pratibha Jena Singh, the composition was built on the distinct choreographic aesthetics of Jena’s style.
Pratibha Jena

The concluding performance was Jena’s most intense, radical and dramatic choreographic work Shakti Roop Yogini, based on the Chandi Purana and the depiction of the 64 yoginis of the Shaktipeeth Temple in Odisha. Performed by Nirmal Chandra Jena and Pratibha Jena Singh, it was the highlight of the festival, aptly embodying his movement principles, choreographic flair and ideology.

The maverick performer and guru, Surendra Nath Jena, laid the foundation for a vibrant legacy of a unique vision for Odissi dance. With the new generation of performers, teachers and thinkers of this style lies the promise of further developing and discovering new directions from this precious inheritance.


Dakshina Chitra presents Utsavam

Seven Notes in the Song of Life

By Malathi Ramanathan      
The span of a human life reflects the time and culture of its origin and existence. It holds a mirror to the multilayered spaces of socio-cultural interactions, not merely of that one individual but an entire set of connected individuals and in turn of the society to which they belong. While this is universally true, the reflection is magnified manifold in the case of an extraordinary individual living an ordinary life, making little effort to be in the limelight and yet leaving discernible imprints.

Seven notebooks of Mrs. Savithri Rajan (1908- 1991), written randomly in both Tamil and English, are a mine of information on the social and the cultural world of Madras of the early 20th century. As impressive as her quest for the aesthetic in Carnatic music is her questioning mind on societal matters and her social activism. The notebooks are a witness to her thoughtful insights into men, matters and music. What emerges is a unique mirror reflecting life as an ode to both joy and sorrow.

Here is an attempt to picture society through the lives of her ancestors as she writes about them and to understand the musical world of Madras through her eyes and experiences. Her remarkable personality runs through her writings as an undercurrent, though she rarely speaks about herself. She was a humanist, with a passion for Carnatic music which she learnt under stalwarts. She displayed little interest in giving public performances. With a flair for  literature, she penned her thoughts in notebooks which rarely saw the light of day. Yet she was vocal in expressing her views. She gave talks on several occasions, for example at the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy  Centenary Celebration, or at Stree Seva Mandir, Gandhi Vidyashram.

A Society in Transition
South India at the turn of the 20th century witnessed the rise of an English educated class migrating from rural to urban areas in search of a job or profession. Like in Bengal, the men of this class promoted learning amongst their womenfolk. With their economic security thus provided for, these women were to form the network for social and political activism of the Gandhian days. Lives of several women of this section of society from all over India demonstrate this truism. The early ancestral history of Mrs. Savithri Rajan represents these changing patterns of migration, of profession, of urban centres and of broadening horizons, as impacted by a colonial domain. Her life spans across the twin sections of a colonial as well as an independent India. Her views also reflect the changed circumstances of a newly emerging nation. The picture of Madras of early 20th century as described in her writings is typical of the newly developing urban centres throughout India.

About her parents, she writes that the early boyhood of her father,  Seethapathy (born in 1882 and the tenth child of financially poor parents) was one ‘of adversity.’ Orphaned at the age of ten, he got through his education and sustenance with scholarship and help from a few known families in Madras. With his elder brother (a sub-registrar in the Government) wanting him to take up government service, he aimed to be and did become a doctor, with the degree of L.M.&S. and took up the job of assistant surgeon in the King’s Institute of Preventive Medicine, Guindy. Later he started his own private practice in Madras.

His ancestral family had migrated ‘from Toppur in Salem district during the famine of 1832 and while one branch of the family settled in Gudiyattam in North Arcot, the other went on to Bellary. His (Dr. Seethapathy’s) father was the supervisor of the springs in the Palar river bed. His job, with an income of three rupees a month, was to see that the springs were kept live and clean and the different communities adhered to the rules and did not encroach. Supplementary income came from priestly duties performed for neighbours. One of Dr. Seethapathy' uncles, Srinivasa Sarma, had left home when hardly twelve, walked from Gudiyattam to Benaras to study and became an erudite scholar.  Savithri Rajan recalls that he ‘was the delight of us children for he would treat us to fantastic stories.

‘My mother (Kanakakamakshi alais Kanakammal)’ writes Savithri Rajan, ‘hails from the great family of Appayya Dikshitar in the village named Karthozhu. She is the grand daughter of the seventh generation of this sage. Appayya Dikshitar was a philosopher and scholar, a brilliant disciple of Sankara and Dikshitar’s work in Sanskrit are the treasure of Sanskrit scholars and thinkers of Advaita philosophy.  Savithri Rajan’s maternal grandfather ‘was a manager in the police office. Venkatarama Sastri, a great grand uncle, a Sanskrit scholar also well versed in English, taught the students in the village, some of whom later became lawyers in Madras. 

Assuming domestic duties at 13 years of age in a big joint family with innumerable dependents, Kanakammal developed into a forceful personality. Born in 1892, she was married in 1902, to Seethapathy, ten years her senior. Since she was deeply interested in music and could sing well, her husband arranged for her music lessons by  Thirumalachar when they lived in Saidapet. It was said that equally interested in music, Seethapathy played the tambura sitting beside his wife, as he listened to her sing with her tutor! Being a social activist, Kanakammal ‘regularly contributed rice to the Ramakrishna Students’ Home on Kutchery Road in 1915 when it was started. Her practical idea of a handful of rice in a vessel daily kept aside for the boys and collected weekly by them was praised by the founders of the Home.

Kanakammal ‘organized a similar collection for the Avvai Orphanage (set up by Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy) in some 40 houses in 1928-30 or 1930-32, thus collecting one bag of rice every week for the orphanage. One of the earliest members of the Sarada Ladies’ Union, established by Sister Subbalakshmi, she lent her enthusiastic support to institutions like the Mylapore Ladies Club, Music Academy of Madras, then being established. She was invited to serve on the committee of V.T.I.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Veena Seshanna Memorial Awards

Every year Bangalore-based Swaramurthy V.N. Rao Memorial Trust conducts “Veeneyabedagu”, music festival in memory of Veena Seshanna. This time, it was held at Udupi, Karnataka from 18 to 20 November 2016, under the joint auspices of Sri Paryaya Pejawara Adhokshaja Mutt. The Veena Seshanna Memorial National Award was presented to D. Balakrishna by Sri Vishwesha Teertha Swamijee, and the Swaramurthy V.N. Rao Memorial National Award to Bombay Jayashri by Dr. Veerendra Heggade, Dharmadhikari of Dharmasthala. Each award carries a purse of one lakh rupees, a bust of Veena Seshanna and a shawl. 

The festival was followed by five music concerts including the awardees D. Balakrishna (veena) and Bombay Jayashri (vocal). The other concerts featured N. Vijay Siva (vocal), Bangalore Brothers—Ashok and Hariharan (vocal) and Herambha and Hemantha (flute). A workshop was also held on the compositions of Veena Seshanna under the direction of R.N. Tyagarajan (one of the Rudrapatnam Brothers).

The Festival was held under the leadership of Prof. Mysore V. Subramanya, great grandson of Veena Seshanna, and Chairman and Managing Trustee of Swaramurthy V.N. Rao Memorial Trust.

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Sruti and Music Forum present Lec Dem Mela


Krishna has been celebrated in verse and prose  by several poets and composers, in different languages and dialects. This god is the most popular hero for musicians and  dancers across India. All his  wondrous facets were explored in the two-day Lec Dem Mela focussing on ‘The Dark Lord’ organised on 10 and 11 December 2016 at the Arkay Convention Centre in Chennai. It was the fourth edition of the lecdem series organised together by the Sruti Foundation and the Karnatik Music Forum. 

The programme began with an invocation beautifully rendered by three young visually challenged musicians—Manoj, Akshaya and Shreelekka. After brief speeches by V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-Chief, Sruti, and chief guest R. Thyagarajan, founder and Chairman - Shriram Group, endowment scholarships were given away to young artists. The Manna Srinivasan Endowment Scholarships were received by S.R. Swarna (Carnatic vocal) and Kali Veerapathiran (Bharatanatyam). Vocalist Shreelekka received the Meenakshi-Ramakrishnan Endowment Scholarship instituted in 2016. 

Each day had five two-hour long sessions during which music scholars and performing artists sang or danced  and spoke at length about a specific theme. It featured presentations by Sriram Parasuram, Pappu Venugopala Rao, Aniruddha Knight, Chitravina N. Ravikiran, Gowri Ramnarayan, on the first day, and by M.A. Venkatakrishnan, Isaikavi Ramanan, K. Ganesh Kumar, Sikkil Mala Chandrasekhar, and Dr. S.  Sunder on the second day.

Dr. Sriram Parasuram made a presentation on the concept of surrender as an act of celebration, even though it comes but fleetingly and through a variety of experiences. 

Pappu Venugopala Rao
Dr. Pappu Venugopala Rao made a comprehensive audio-visual presentation explaining the uniqueness of Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda, and its influence on literature, music, paintings, dance, and films. 

Aniruddha Knight, grandson of T. Balasaraswati, well supported by vocalists Usha Sivakumar and Vidya Sankaranarayanan, and veteran flutist T.R. Murthi, presented an interesting  demonstration of items from Bala’s repertoire which also highlighted the close communion of music and dance. 

Chitravina N. Ravikiran’s presentation focussed on the nuances in Oothukadu  Venkata Kavi’s compositions. He was ably supported by vocalists Anahita and Apoorva Ravindran, M.R. Gopinath (violin), and K. Arunprakash (mridangam). 

In Mohamaana, Gowri Ramnarayan recalled a time of bhava-rich music as performed by stalwarts, mainly padams and javalis. The songs were sung by Savita Narasimhan. 

Day two commenced with a lecture by scholar in Vaishnavism M.A. Venkatakrishnan on Azhwargal Anubhavitta Krishnar. The impassioned elucidation was enhanced by the musical presentation of Tiruppavais sung by Anahita and Apoorva, and abhinaya by Bharatanatyam dancer Radhika Vairavelavan. Pappu Gyandev (violin) and Sathyanarayana (mridangam) were the accompanying artists. 

Isaikavi Ramanan’s presentation of Bharatiyin Kannan threw light on how Subramania Bharati engaged in different ways, especially as a friend, with his favourite Kannan. The vocal-venu presentations of J.B. Keerthana and J.B. Sruthi Sagar embellished the talk. 

K. Ganesh Kumar explained the role of abhangs and rasa padams in invoking  bhakti among the masses. His lilting yet energetic rendition of abhangs built up  devotional fervour amidst the audience. 

Mala Chandrasekhar
In her session titled Baare Panduranga, flautist Mala Chandrasekhar drew attention to the musical intricacies in the renditions of M.S Subbulakshmi. She found it was a herculean task to notate the varied nuances in every sangati of the Madhurashtakam as sung by MS. She played several songs from the doyenne’s repertoire as a tribute to MS in her centenary year.

A fitting conclusion to the lecture demonstration was Dr. S. Sunder’s presentation on the childhood pranks of Krishna, presented with a good mix of wit and humour. His tales of Krishna’s boyhood were interwoven with soulful renditions by siblings Sruthi Sagar (flute) and Keerthana (vocal) to illustrate the prankster’s impish charm.

The two-day programme was supported by the Minstry of Culture, Govt of India.

Kolkata Happenings

By Shilpi Sambhamurty

# As part of the five-day annual Classical Music Conference (4 to 8 January 2017) organised by West Bengal State Music Academy, Dept. of I & C Affairs, Govt. of West Bengal,Kadri Gopalnath (C-saxophone) presented a jugalbandhi with Pravin Godhkhindi (H-flute), on 6 January at Rabindra Sadan in Kolkata. Their  accompanists were Bangalore K. Praveen (mridangam) and Subhankar Banerjee (tabla). 

# Bengaluru-based vainika RK Padmanabha played to a  packed hall on his Saraswati Veena along with Chandan Kumar (flute), in a venu-veena combination. Jayachandra Rao (mridangam) and PV Sairam (ghatam) provided percussion accompaniment. The concert was part of the Swami Vivekananda Music Festival held at the Ramakrishna Mission in Golpark, Kolkata that takes place on 12 January every year to celebrate the birthday of  Swami Vivekananda.

# The Dover Lane Music Conference held in Kolkata is one of India's leading classical music conferences.  In the  recently concluded four-day-long festival (22 to 25 Janauary 2017), leading Carnatic vocalist Sudha Ragunathan performed on the concluding day.    She was accompanied by S. Skandasubramanian (mridangam), Pakala Ramadas (violin) and R. Raman (morsing). 
Carnatic musicians who have taken  part in recent years in the 65-year-old festival are L. Subramaniam, Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, and Shashank Subramanyam.

Birthdays & Anniversaries