Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Atul Desai

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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Mohan Maharishi

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Gajananrao Joshi

Birthdays & Anniversaries

30.1.1911 - 28.6.1987
Gajananrao became a highly skilled violin player by the time he turned 20 and, by virtue of accompanying stalwarts from different gharana-s, he developed a natural instinct of absorbing the best from everyone. This broadminded attitude made him a scholar of music. With tireless perseverance, he also overcame the handicap with his throat and took lessons from great masters like Ustad Vilayat Hussain Khan of the Agra gharana, Ramkrishnabua Vaze of the Gwalior school and Bhurji Khan of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. Gajananrao was initiated in the gayaki of Gwalior gharana by his father but his quest for more took him to other musicians and he assimilated other styles in his music. He also learnt table under the guidance of Pandit Vinayakrao Ghangrekar. His parallel career was the result of a lifelong association with violin-playing and singing.

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Monday, 29 January 2018

V. V. Sadagopan

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Inderlal Dhandra

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26.1.1930 - 28.9.2011

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Padma Talwalkar

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Sunday, 21 January 2018

T. K. Govinda Rao

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21.1.1929 - 18.9.2011

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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Krishnarao Phulambrikar

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Friday, 19 January 2018

Valayapatti Subramaniam

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Bahadur Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

19.1.1931 - 3.10.1989

Bahadur Khan (1931-1989) was an outstanding, though inadequately recognised, sarodist, trained by his uncle, the legendary Ustad Alauddin Khan (Baba). By kinship and tutelage, Bahadur Khan was a product of the Maihar-Senia lineage, a trailblazer in modern Hindustani instrumental music. Interest in his musicianship has received a fillip in recent years, because of his disciple Tejendra Majumdar’s emergence as a frontranking sarod player.

Bahadur Khan was the son of Ayet Ali Khan, younger brother of Allauddin Khan. Ayet Ali was an exponent of the surbahar (a large-sized bass sitar). A man of withdrawn nature, he eschewed a performing career and devoted his life to teaching and the manufacture of instruments. Baba and Ayet Ali Khan had another brother, Fakir Aftabuddin, who was an accomplished musician but became a religious preacher. Something of a family pattern emerges here: the men had high accomplishments in music, brought up families, but adopted ascetic, non-conformist, or reclusive lifestyles.

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Sawai Gandharva

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19.1.1886 - 12.9.1952
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Thursday, 18 January 2018

S. Balachander

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18.1.1927 - 13.4.1990

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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Heisnam Kanhailal

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Ashutosh Bhattacharya

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17.1.1909 - 19.3.1984

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Different Kind of Festival


By Saindhavi Venugopal

Dolls was the title of a series of six monologues by six women presented by Crea Shakthi on 29th September at Wandering Artist, an increasingly popular creative space in Chennai. The programme was directed by young theatreperson Dushyanth Gunashekar, and hosted in association with Sakthi Finance, as a part of their Navaratri Festival, ‘Celebrating Shakthi’. These six monologues were on varied themes, each powerfully reflecting aspects of woman's place in the world today. 

Six dolls were innocuously arranged in the middle of the stage, and as each doll was selected by a member of the audience, its owner would then present a monologue. Each doll’s significance to its respective monologue shone through, whether visibly or subliminally. 

The first monologue, presented by Kirthi Jayakumar, drew parallels to the story of rape victim Jyoti Singh, or ‘India’s daughter’. She unreservedly brought out the skewed, perverse ideals of a nation that teaches its women to overcompensate under the guise of ‘safety’ instead of tackling the actual predicament. The delivery of the monologue as poetry, interspersed with lines from the song ‘Yeh Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ was an intriguing variant from the other, descriptive and narrative, monologues.

Manasvini Ramachandran presented the second monologue, enthralling the audience with a lucid, vivid picture of a millennial woman on a journey to reclaim her roots. From experiencing the restoration of a neglected family temple as a child, to teaching the children in her native village as a grown woman, she seamlessly illustrated her bond with the quaint community strengthening over time. She portrayed a strong, independent urban woman unapologetically claiming her roots with pride while maintaining her progressive outlook on life.

Janaki Sabesh, through her piece, related her aunt’s indefatigable ways of living up to the determination and incessant efforts of one of India’s legends, Sachin Tendulkar. Depicting the similarities in both these individuals, as well as her aunt’s love and admiration for Sachin and his numerous achievements, she described their eventual meeting and its resultant significance to her. She brought out her aunt’s obstinate yet endearing character through light, comedic, one - sided banter and rib - tickling reactions.

The fourth monologue took the engaging shape of a TED talk, its guest, Kadambari Narendran, speaking about her tribulations as a working woman in a modern Indian society. Through droll snippets of conversation with a potential mother-in-law, she brought out the provincial, conservative mindset that still exists with regard to modern, working women in our country. Her sardonic reactions to society’s narrow minded notions surrounding women gave the entire monologue an entertainingly satirical edge.

The theme of appearance versus reality took form in Namita Krishnamurthy’s monologue, where she spoke about struggling with the acceptance of one’s natural self and the staggering amount of pressure imposed upon women to live up to conventional beauty standards in today’s world. Recounting a lamentable event from her childhood, she reminisced about grappling with numerous insecurities that nearly every young girl transitioning into womanhood can relate to.

The final monologue presented by Zarin Shihab essayed a tale of relocation. Though comedic at first, bringing out the horror of her mother, whose daughter was quite taken with the ‘American Dream’, it soon morphed into something akin to a nightmare once reality struck,. She painted a poignant picture of a mother struggling to hold on to what shreds of her culture and integrity she had left as everything she had once known, changed. 

The performances were augmented by the aesthetically compact hall which brought an air of intimacy to the entire ensemble, apt, considering the personal nature of these monologues. Being in such close quarters with each artist served to allow the audience to effortlessly fall into each recounted experience as if it were their own. 

Though each monologue had its distinct charm, the use of dolls as a connecting device led the audience to wonder if it meant to hint at the prevailing dogma of women as mere articles of beauty and docility, even in a society that considers itself progressive. The captivating stories of each of these women bravely contradicted this parochial mindset and made this riveting presentation one that left an evocative impact on each and every member of the audience, in one way or another.

Ramashish Pathak

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Thakur Jaidev Singh

Birthdays & Anniversaries

16.1.1893 - 19.5.1986

Music to Jaideva Singh was a passion, no doubt, but never his profession or main occupation. He was essentially an academic with philosophy as the subject of his specialisation, but with varied interests. Paradoxically, though a distinguished scholar, he neither obtained any research degree, nor did he ever adorn the faculty of any university. He remained a college teacher, all through, first at the D.A.V. College, Kanpur and then as the founder-principal of a degree college at Lakhimpur, U.P. Late in life, his scholarship was duly recognised and three universities including the Banaras Hindu University conferred on him the honorary degree of D. Litt. As an executive of All India Radio he was mainly an administrator or supervisor framing policies and ensuring their effective execution. He was neither a platform performer nor, to the best of my knowledge, did he ever claim to be a composer. As such Jaideva's real eminence lay in the domain of musicology, which he enriched and interpreted, often, through his captivating discourses and through his scattered writingsbooks, articles and broadcast scripts.

Jaideva received his initial training in classical vocal music while pursuing his academic studies at Varanasi. The musical atmosphere of this holy city provided a added impetus to the boy in the pursuit of his hobby.

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Monday, 15 January 2018

Music Workshop

Narada Gana Sabha Trust (Phone  No. 2499 3201)

9th-11th February At Thennangur

About the residential camp for young musicians…

Nadasangamam as the name implies is an effort to instill in young artists the rich musical tradition of South India. It is not just about singing or performing well. It is an ethos wherein the student learns about yoga, breathing exercises, voice training, manodharma in music, the richness of our compositions, other allied arts like harikatha and bhajana sampradaya.

A two day workshop for young aspiring musicians between 9th-11th February February will be conducted at the Temple Complex of Dakshina Halasyam at Thennangur about 110 km away from Chennai.

Dr. R. S. Jayalakshmi will be the Convener of the camp. Dr. Sumathi Krishnan will co ordinate the event. Eminent musicians, scholars and experts in the field including Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. R. Vedavalli,  Smt. Seetha Narayanan, Sri Delhi P. Sunderrajan, Sri Mannarkoil Balaji and Smt. Sankari Krishnan  will be the resource persons this year. There will be teaching/learning sessions, talks, interactive sessions and opportunity for creative development.

Participants will learn in a serene environment in close proximity with the gurus and will also get an opportunity to express their musical talent. 

Departure for Thennangur will be in the afternoon from Narada Gana Sabha on 9th February and return will be late evening on 11th February.  A bus will be arranged and the fare of Rs.  500 for transportation should be borne by the participants.

Application forms will be available at the Naradagana Sabha Office (Ph.No: 24993201). Applicants should register their names and submit completed application forms at Narada Gana Sabha between 10 and 6 p.m. on or before 30th January 2018. Participants should be between 15 and 35 years. They should have reasonable ability in manodharama (raga alapana, niraval and kalpanasvaram) and a passion for the art.

The music camp is designed to stimulate interest and inspire the creative element latent in the participants. Since the number of participants is restricted please register on or before the specified date. A panel will select the participants and their names will be put up at the Narada Gana Sabha foyer on the 5th of February, 2018.

K. Harishankar

Sadanam Balakrishnan

Birthdays & Anniversaries


My first interaction with Kathakali exponent Guru Sadanam P.V. Balakrishnan was during the middle of the 1980s. I was the Secretary of the Kathakali club in Kannur, now defunct like several other Kathakali clubs of those times.  The Club annually presented at least one performance of Sadanam Balakrishnan. He was then the chief of the International Centre for Kathakali in Delhi, so we invited him to Kerala during the summer vacation months. His performances attracted a good crowd of Kathakali enthusiasts from far and near. He was not a ‘star’ yet, but Kathakali aficionados loved him.

His performances, like those of his mentor Keezhpadam Kumaran Nair, were extremely neat. He imparted dignity to both the character and the play, even if the character he was playing was ‘rajasic’ or wicked. He respected his co-actors and accompanying musicians, and gave them their space. His portrayals were a real feast for head and heart alike. His performances were for learned audiences.

Last year, sitting in the campus of Kalakshetra in Chennai, I asked Sadanam Balakrishnan a question my mother often asked me some 25 years ago: “Why did he move to Delhi? Would he not miss his space in Kerala and the art a talented actor?”

Sadanam replied: “Indeed, I missed Kerala and the performance space at a crucial stage of my career. Once I did express to my asan my intention of going back to Kerala. He gave me good counsel saying that the Kathakali scenario of Kerala was not so good at that time for a person of my nature. I listened to his advice as my guru’s blessings are always my strength.”

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Chennai Fine Arts Annual Music Festival

Chennai Fine Arts presented the Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar Award for excellence and the title Digvijaya Nada Vani for 2017 to violin maestro V.V. Subramanyam, and a Lifetime Achievement Award to R. Chakrapani, Secretary-SICA, Hyderabad. T.S. Krisgnamurthy (former Chief Election Commissioner of India) presented the awards in the presence of Vidwan G.S. Mani and P.N. Muralidharan (Chennai Fine Arts). Prizes were also distributed to the winners of the mangala isai music competition. 

Letter from a `Budding Rasika` to Sruti magazine

Dear Editor

The 400th  issue of Sruti magazine which I read in two sittings is truly a collector`s item. I am  a recent entrant to the world of  Carnatic music and a reader of Sruti magazine only for the last two years. Though I found every article written by veterans in their respective field  interesting and informative,  I could particularly relate to the article by Jaya Akknapragada titled `Joy in the morning` where she talks about how accidentally she  got hooked to Carnatic music and how  she is thoroughly enjoying the experience now. I would like to share my own experience with Carnatic music.

 I have been  a resident of Chennai for the last 44 years,  the citadel of performing arts.  However the  Carnatic music bug never caught me in spite of the best efforts of my good friend R.T.Chari of the Tag fame .  In the mid eightees he used to conduct `Chamber music` in his flat  and invite a few friends including people like me to share the joy of listening to   Carnatic music, which he discovered late in life. Since my late wife was fond of Carnatic music,  I used to accompany her  to a few Concerts. I would become fidgety  after an hour into the concert.  I was guilty of not allowing her to listen to the full concerts at Hamsadhwani, where I had become a member for my wife`s sake.  However, after she passed away 5 years ago, in celebration of her memory I started attending a few concerts and willed myself to stay till the end. I also started listening to Carnatic music at home  at least for an hour every day by visiting the `You Tube` - a treasure house of all kinds  of music.  At a click of a button I am able to access the  recording of a singer of my choice. Though I still cannot recognize the ragas,  I am not only   enjoying  the music but also find  it  very  relaxing.  Apart from listening to stalwarts I find the enormous talent being displayed by the younger &  upcoming  singers amazing.  I am now truly hooked to Carnatic music so much so that any other light music does not interest me anymore.  And Sruti has only helped me to increase my appetite for Carnatic  music.

I find  the  magazine  very interesting, even to a lay Rasika  like me.  I am glad that I subscribed to it two years ago because it has been helping me improve my knowledge base on music and also about people who  are contributing to its popularity. I  eagerly look forward to receiving my copy of the magazine every month . I must congratulate the entire  team behind  the magazine for bringing out an excellent magazine devoted to Performing Arts.  I wish them all the best in their future efforts.

Though I have started late, I am happy that at least after 70 I have come under the spell of Carnatic Music and my life has become that much more interesting. As they say `It is better late than never`.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Ulhas Kashalkar

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Sankara Iyer

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R K Srikantan

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

Shiv Kumar Sharma

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Shyamanand Jalan

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13.1.1934 - 24.5.2010

Friday, 12 January 2018

Isai Chudaroli to Prof S. Rajeswari

Prof S. Rajeswari, retired Principal of the Tamil Nadu Government Music College, was honoured by Sahana Fine Arts in Mogappair.  The title of Isai Chudaroli was conferred on the Carnatic musician by the chief guests Natya Kalanidhis Shanta and V.P. Dhananjayan on 7 January 2018. The Dhananjayans paid rich tribute to the awardee and described her as an all-rounder--a concert singer, excellent teacher, musicologist, and composer who has the special qualification of singing with aplomb and conducting a Bharatanatyam performance. They also recalled how connoisseurs would throng to watch Kamala--the doyen of Bharatanatyam-- and listen to S. Rajeswari 's excellent vocal accompaniment. 

A good crowd attended the event and the Carnatic vocal concert of vidushi S. Rajeswari who was accompanied on the violin by Usha Rajgopalan and on the Mridangam by Tanjavur Subramaniam. This is the ninth year that Sahana Fine Arts is conducting a music and dance festival,  and next year being the tenth, the convenor Arun Karthik (a violinist) announced that a ten-day art festival would be held to mark the occasion, which was welcomed with applause by the audience. 

Amir Khan and the South II

By Thomas W. Ross

Grape, banana, and coconut

Because the goddess Saraswatī holds both the book and the vīṇā, we are encouraged to summon both mind and heart in the pursuit of any learning.

This apparent contradiction has guises such as left brain/right brain, Apollo/Dionysus, and many more. It’s handy for sketches of the familiar: Herbie Hancock/Wynton Kelly, Béla Bartók/Aaron Copland, or Steely Dan/Justin Bieber.

But Indians seem to acknowledge a middle ground between these extremes: the triumvirate of South Indian composers, Tyāgarāja (1767–1847), Śyāma Śāstri (1762–1827), and Muttusvāmi Dīkṣitar (1775–1835), are likened to the grape, banana, and coconut. The first you pop in your mouth immediately. The second has to be peeled. And the third has a shell protecting its alabaster treasure.

The three are vaggeyakaras, ill-translated as composers: the term implies an equal mastery of book and vīṇā, of words and music. Dīkṣitar, for one, came from an illustrious line of musician-scholars whose formidable pieces betray a poet’s knowledge of Sanskrit.

Viswa told me that he first learned Dīkṣitar’s highbrow, gnarly, big-design coconut pieces, to the neglect of the other two composer-saints. Such august fare earned his early performances the gossip of being one-sided, so he added Tyāgarāja (the ultimate bhakti popularizer) and Śyāma Śāstri (a middle-ground) pieces as an appeasement. Same with swara kalpana, improvised solfege: they joined his concerts as a nod to mainstream Karnatak orthodoxy.

Dīkṣitar’s semi-legendary life has striking parallels to the eclectic and sombre Amir Khan’s. The vīṇā-playing devotee of Siva visited tirthsthans (pilgrimage sites) all over India, including a stint in Banaras. His interaction with the glacial-tempoed dhrupad singers and bīnkars of that music-drenched town (when indeed the Hindustani and the Karnatak weren’t so far apart as today) seem to me likely to have had a profound effect on his compositions.

The Word and the Lute, the Sword and the Flute. Amir Khan was an alert and thoughtful gatherer of influences that he came to call the Indore gharānā or school. A common cultural memory of Mughal/Rajput, worldly and ascetic, resonated between the disparate worlds of a Muslim animus in the North and a Hindu anima of the South. Khansahab admittedly could be downright ponderous in the slowest of his Jhumra (14-beat) renditions. I’m not the first to nod off with him occasionally. But his rāgas were leavened later in a performance by astonishing flights of tān melismas, even while retaining their bhava or particular flavor.

The Balasaraswati family style also championed the leisurely and architectonic together with the sensual and the pyrotechnic, both by their renderings of the Dīkṣitar repertoire and in the sultry seriousness of the padams with which Bala ended her concerts. This musician’s musician’s milieu was Amir Khan’s during his visits, where the admiration went both ways. It’s a good guess that the impossibly slow tempi of his opening khayāls were encouraged, if not by direct influence, by a common taste for gravity.

In the Balasaraswati style, here’s Muktamma’s version of Dīkṣitar’s devastatingly gorgeous Vina pustaka dharini (we were taught it in Jhampa tāla, a slow 10 beats, 7 + 3). Like Ahīr Bhairav in the North, the rāga Vegavahini (also called Chakravakam) is 1 b 2 3 4 5 6 b 7.

Borrowed and stolen

Amateurs borrow, professionals steal. (Variously attributed)

Two Dīkṣitar pieces have recently been given amateur or professional treatments by the North, I’m thinking: Vatapi Ganapatim and Anandamritavarshini. From the latter, I hope to shed light on a mystery rāga by Amir Khan, sometimes called Amirkhani.

I was taught Vatapi, the closest to a potboiler that Dīkṣitar ever wrote, by S. Ramanathan at Wesleyan in 1963. The kṛiti, in the sunny rāga Hamsadhvani, is the icing on a serious composerly cake, albeit well-wrought:

Later I learned its Northern offshoot in the same rāga, starting with the words Lagi lagana. The little khayāl appropriates, as it were, the first two lines of a famous poem (and no more) without acknowledging it’s by someone called Robert Frost. This in turn has recently spawned its own grotesquerie in an army of high school-level sitārists fronted by dark-skinned ringers from the South:

Amir Khan’s quick khayāls in Hamsadhvani retain some of the rāga’s lightheartedness. Its smile is wider than a major scale. In this rendition, he keeps Lagi lagana’s basic melody but abandons the brief Brjbhasha text, transforming Dīkṣitar’s saṅgati variations into a brisk drum-syllable tarānā:

But what of this mystery rāga? One of the last recordings Khansahab made, at a Calcutta gathering, featured an unknown rāga that he treated with his characteristic introspection. It combines the optimism of the kalyan family with a lowered 7th degree: 1 3 #4 5 7. Any effort so far to parse it points South, either as an arcane offshoot of the Vachaspati family or, I’m guessing, as an ingenious twist on the rāga to Dīkṣitar’s most famous and accessible tune, Anandamritavarshini. It differs from the mystery rāga only in its 7th degree, and given the preference in Bala’s household for Dīkṣitar’s music, I think Khansahab lowered the 7th degree of Amritavarshini for what’s now called Amirkhani:

Although we must be thankful for all of Khansahab’s contributions, this last caps a career which included an openness to anything musical transpiring in the Madras home of his hosts, the Balasaraswati family.