Thursday, 31 May 2018

Tyagaraja aradhana in The Netherlands

By S. Chandra Mouli

While Tyagaraja Aradhana is a usual affair in the US, it was organised for the first time by Indians, especially south Indian youth in The Netherlands.  The event was conducted on a Saturday evening at Sri Arunachaleswara Temple in  Beverwijk, an hour's drive from Amsterdam.  The three-hour programme was a grand success, say the organisers, with over 40 participants and around 400 spectators.
The Madras Chorus is an association of musicians, singers and music lovers of  Delft, educational hub of The Netherlands where there are about 300 Indian students studying in the 175 years old Technical University. Usually the group organises an annual musical event called “Sarang” with its thrust on Indian film music. This time some members decided to organise a Tyagaraja aradhana and gauge the response. Immediately the message was shared on social media and people started showing a lot of interest. 
Singers, instrumentalists and the audience had a unique experience on the occasion and felt honoured to receive the blessings of mridangam maestro Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman via a video message.

34th Kinkini Nrithyotsava

The 34th Kinkini Nrithyotsava was inaugurated by Prathibha Prahlad (senior Bharatanatyam dancer, organiser and writer) on 21 January 2018 in Bengaluru. The five-day festival featured solos, duets and thematic group presentations in Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Mohini Attam, as well as a Mohini Attam-Kathakali jugalbandi titled Radha Madhavam directed by guru Sadanam Balakrishnan.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Rambhau Bijapure (1917-2010)

Voice of the harmonium
By Ravindra G. Katoti and Kaavya Valiveti

Rambhau Bijapure  was a legendary harmonium exponent whose birth centenary was observed in 2017.

He  was a pathbreaking harmonium player. His unique command over the instrument and unprecedented versatility went beyond harmonium playing to irrigate the world of Hindustani classical music at large.

Harmonium as a solo instrument
It would be impossible to overstate the harmonium’s prevalence in Hindustani music today. It can be found on the stages of classical or light classical music, in film music, at the theatre, at places of worship, at mushairas, in street performances, and even funeral processions, among others. Often affectionately referred to as a “baja” or “peti”, it is now practically considered an Indian instrument though a relatively recent import from Europe. Though it is ubiquitous, it still remains largely underappreciated and misunderstood, typically being kept within the confines of accompaniment. Several generations of Hindustani classical musicians have devoted their lives to exploring its capacities beyond accompaniment, developing a wide range of solo styles for khayal performance. However, few so fundamentally altered the sound profile of the harmonium as did Rambhau Bijapure.

Early stages
Pandit Bijapure was born on January 7, 1917 at Kagwad (Athani taluk, Belagavi district, Karnataka) to Kallopant Bijapure and Rukminibai. The father was a primary school teacher and author of novels and musical dramas,. Rambhau grew up in an artistic environment with frequent rehearsals and collaborations at home. His formal introduction to music was a byproduct of this; on one of his many stays at the Bijapure home, freelance music director Hannikeri Mallayya sat six year old Rambhau on his lap and taught him to play the basic “sa-re-ga-ma” on the leg harmonium. Rambhau later took vocal lessons from Neelkanthbuva Gadgoli of Miraj who was the guru of the great Mallikarjun Mansur. After his family relocated to Belgaum in 1928, the boy studied harmonium from Govindrao Gaikwad and Rajwade (until 1940) and continued his vocal training under the eminent Ramkrishnabuva Vaze, Shivrambuva Vaze, and Kagalkarbuva.

A unique style
As the years passed, Bijapure built off his formal training to form his own style of solo harmonium performance. His playing was characterized by artful volume control and the sustenance of sound, believing the technique of the bellows to be more important than fingering. While most of his contemporaries relied heavily on staccato phrases and presented only madhyalaya and drut khayal, he was able to develop a unique style of vilambit khayal showcasing legato phrases. Other differentiating features of his style included use of his punctuation, which employed silence to great effect to emphasize the impact of each phrase, and decorative grace notes. With his effortless and delicate touch on the keyboard, his performances were further noted for inventive layakari and electrifying, crisp taankari.

All of these techniques allowed him to realize a distinct incarnation of the gayaki ang on the harmonium, where he used his tone control and grace notes to give the feel of a vocal performance via the special language of the instrument. By singing through it as no one before him had done, he himself became the voice of the harmonium.

Rambhau Bijapure also possessed a rare versatility. He was equally proficient in playing thumris and natya sangeet, among other genres, in addition to khayal.

As an accompanist
Though he was a brilliant soloist, the vast majority of Bijapure’s public performances were to accompany vocalists (like most other harmonium players of his generation). However, his accompaniment was exceptional. For instance, Bhimsen Joshi, with whom he performed on numerous occasions, remarked that his harmonium support was “encouraging and inspiring”.
Some of the other legends he accompanied include Abdul Karim Khan, Sawai Gandharva (the first two of five generations of vocalists he accompanied), Omkarnath Thakur, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Nazakat and Salamat Ali, Amir Khan, Gangubai Hangal, Mogubai Kurdikar, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kumar Gandharva, Basavaraj Rajguru, Kishori Amonkar, Prabha Atre, and Manik Varma.

As a teacher
Above all, Bijapure was a teacher at heart. He created the Sri Ram Sangeet Mahavidyalaya in Belgaum, with over fifteen thousand students passing through over the years. A generous and caring teacher, he focused on making the learning process enjoyable and free of excess emphasis on technicalities. His school ran without any external financial assistance.  Several students who could not afford the classes were taught for free. He also learned to play the tabla (left-handed, lest his harmonium fingering get disturbed!) from Ustad Mehboob Khan in order to accompany students who could not afford a tablaji to sit in their classes. In seventy-six years of teaching, he ultimately fostered a city-wide culture of music appreciation, though not all students went on to pursue music professionally (nor was this his aim).

His legacy
Rambhau Bijapure’s work and accomplishments were recognized by the government as well as cultural fora. Some of the most notable include:
     Sangeeta Ratna Mysore T. Chowdiah Memorial Award (Government of Karnataka), received alongside Vidwan Sri Lalgudi G. Jayaraman (2003)
     Karnataka Rajya Sangeet Vidwan Prashasti (2001)
     Karnataka Kala Tilaka (1987)
     “Mahamahopadhyaya” title (Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Pune)

Many of his disciples, such as Dr. Sudhanshu Kulkarni, Ravindra Mane, and Dr. Ravindra Katoti, have been performing on the most prestigious platforms worldwide for over fifty years, and now the next generation of harmonium players (his prashishyas) is emerging to firmly establish the "Bijapure gharana”.

The Bijapure Harmonium Foundation was instituted in 2003 with the goal of both honouring him and pursuing the general cause of popularising the harmonium as a solo instrument. Every year, the foundation hosts the ‘Harmonium Habba’ in Bengaluru to feature harmonium solos and jugalbandis by both senior and up-and-coming artists.

Having performed and taught until his very last days, Pt. Bijapure passed away on 19, November 2010 but the voice of his harmonium will be remembered for generations.

Last year, in celebration of Pt. Bijapure’s birth centenary year, the Foundation hosted events in Kagwad, Belgaum, and Bengaluru, and Dr. Ravindra Katoti toured across the United States and Singapore giving solo concerts, lec-dems, and workshops. These celebrations were concluded on January 5-7 this year with the Foundation’s ‘Vishwa Samvadini Shrunga’ in Bengaluru, which featured concerts and lec-dems from the most prominent harmonium players from around the world as well as a performance by an ensemble of one hundred harmoniums.

Debu Chaudhury

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AKC Natarajan

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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Bharati Shivaji

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K Venkatalakshamma

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29.5.1906 - 1.7.2002

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Hirabai Barodekar

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29.5.1905 - 20.11.1989
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Rejuvenating cultural ties

By Cynthia Srikanth

I would like to share with your readers an interesting musical event in Paris. The “Groupe de Réflexion Franco-Indien” in France celebrated its 28th annual day on the 13 May 2018, with a musical event on the theme Tithis: Divine days. The event was held at the Indira Gandhi hall in the Maison de l’Inde, Cité Universitaire, Paris.
The music group was launched in the 1990s. The musicians, mostly amateurs and a few professionals, hail from Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, France, India, Sri Lanka and Germany. For every annual event, the members choose a theme and build up a programme with a choice of songs. This year, the songs were based on the festivals that fall on a particular tithi (day)—hence the name “divine days”. Of the fifteen tithis, the Hindustani group, under the guidance of Jayashree Majumder and Aparna Sreedhar, chose to sing songs highlighting seven tithis. Aparna Sreedhar and Deepak Mathur sang mellifluous bhajans for the prathama (Govardhan Pooja), ashtami (Krishna jayanti), and navami (Rama navami) tithis. Jayashree Majumder presented pleasing Rabindra Sangeet for the panchami tithi, and the rendering of Aigiri Nandini by the Hindustani group made the audience’s pulse throb with the vibrations.
The seven tithis rendered by the Carnatic group, led by Srividya Kuruganty, Jayshree Sarma and myself were triteeya (Akshaya triteeya), chaturthi (Ganesa Chaturthi), shashti (Lord Subramanya) , saptami (Soorya), ekadasi (Vishnu), dwadasi (Tulasi), and trayodasi (Sivaratri). These tithis were based on the compositions of Papanasam Sivan, Muthuswami Dikshitar, the Alwars, Purandaradasa and Tyagaraja. The Carnatic group had the privilege of sharing the stage with professional artist Bhavana Pradyumna who enthralled the audience with two songs—Sooryamoortey, a composition of Muthuswami  Dikshitar, and Kalyanam Tulasi Kalyanam, a composition of Purandaradasa. The song Pallandu pallandu rendered in Nata raga by the group with chittaswarams was fast yet soulful.
It was interesting to watch twenty musicians, from the Hindustani and Carnatic styles, perform the concluding song Guruashtakam (a composition of Adi Sankaracharya) in perfect harmony and unison. Their performance bridged the south, north, east and the west.
For those of us who have migrated and settled down in different parts of the world, such events are very significant  in rejuvenating our cultural ties with India.
It was a joy to be a part of this show, where you get an opportunity to watch and listen to amateurs and mature artists perform. The credit goes to Lalitha Badrinath who works tirelessly to make these shows a grand success.

Monday, 28 May 2018

T M Thyagarajan

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28.5.1923 - 27.6.2007

Mysore Vasudevachar

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28.5.1865 - 17.5.1961

Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy

Amshan Kumar's film on a tavil maestro

By V Ramnarayan

The Sri Lankan Tamil contribution to Carnatic music, especially to the nagaswaram-tavil tradition of mainly temple music is perhaps not widely known. Some 20th century vidwans of Tamil Nadu had close ties with their Lankan counterparts and there was considerable artistic traffic between the two nations, with the Tamils of Eelam in particular thirsting for such exchanges. Well known documentary filmmaker Amshan Kumar recently exhibited a documentary on Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy (1933-1975), regarded by many as the greatest tavil vidwan in history, prefacing the film wth a Powerpoint presentation titled  Carnatic Music Tradition of Sri Lanka. Amshan Kumar has every reason to be proud of his accomplishment, as the task of making it—at the request of the The Tavil legend Yazhpanam Thedchanamoorthy Foundation of London whose chairman Gana.Natkunan and chief advisor R.Pathmanaba Iyer in particular were the prime movers behind the project—presented a huge challenge with precious little documentation available on the life and work of the artist.
It took Amshan Kumar more than two years to complete the production, but supplementing the handful of photographs of the vidwan and his family with rare recordings and interviews with the family and fellow musicians in both countries, he completed the work in 2015. Despite the inadequacy of the material, he has delivered a remarkable product, which gives the viewer excellent insights into the genius of the great percussionist. Unsurprisingly, the documentary went on to win a national award.

The maestro`s forefathers migrated from India and settled there. Born at Inuvil village in northern Sri Lanka, on 26 August 1933 he was barely 42 when he died , on 15 May 1975, to be precise, following lengthy periods of ill health. As a child of eight, he had been put by his tavil vidwan father through several gruelling hours of practice. Thanks to his precocity in the art, he was taken to India for advanced lessons from the eminent vidwan Raghava Pillai. Within 18 months, Raghava Pillai was so impressed by his ward that he sent him back to Sri Lanka to perform and learn on his own, because he felt he had nothing more to teach his brilliant pupil.
When he returned years later to perform in Tamil Nadu, he was already  a star and mesmerised his audiences with his extraordinary skill (Here's a sample:  Many local tavil stalwarts acknowledged his influence on their music, while others attended his concerts incognito! The recordings of his extraordinary tavil playing and his iconic photographs featured in the film offer proof of the maestro's consummate artistry and charisma. The film describes him as the greatest tavil player the world has known, and and it is hard to disagree.
For someone who claims no special qualifications to make a documentary film on a musician, Amshan Kumar has shown a rare understanding of the ethical, psychological and sociological factors that can determine the growth and evolution of a musician, as well as the pride and love that nurture and protect his family, in this case, both during his life and after his premature demise. Kumar is of course the maker of a documentary on Carnatic vocalist Manakkal Rangarajan, while his films on Subramania Bharati and Ashokamitran are perhaps his best known works.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

RR Keshavamurthy

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27.5.1914 - 23.10.2006

Friday, 25 May 2018

Kalamandalam Ramankutty Nair

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25.5.1925 - 11.3.2013
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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

CV Chandrasekhar

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Monday, 21 May 2018

Kalamandalam Gopi

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Anita Ratnam

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

MD Ramanathan

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20.5.1923 - 27.4.1984
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Maharajapuram Santhanam

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20.5.1928 - 24.6.1992
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Saturday, 19 May 2018

Girish Karnad

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Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar

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19.5.1890 - 23.1.1967
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Friday, 18 May 2018

T K Jayarama Iyer

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

H Yoganarasimham

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Kumudini Lakhia

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