Tuesday, 31 July 2018


The Madras Music Academy has taken the lead (as is customary) in announcing its annual awards list ahead of the sabhas of Chennai that give away similar honours annually. The choice of Aruna Sairam for the Sangita Kalanidhi award has been predictable as the vocalist has been expected over the past few years to achieve the distinction, having been a leading
performer in the Carnatic music circuit for over a couple of decades.
The Academy has in the recent decade or so had to balance the need to recognise popular success in equal measure as depth of musicianship, and contributions to the transmission of tradition to posterity through disciples representative of the artist’s unique legacy. In the case of Aruna Sairam, the Sangita Kalanidhi designate represents what may be described as the Bombay school, thanks to her upbringing in the capital of Maharashtra, a sterling specimen of  migration from the Tanjavur belt via Palakkad, professional compulsions taking genuine musical talent to a new home and new horizons. She also had the good fortune to come under the influence of the Dhanammal bani, taught as she was by T. Brinda a frequent visitor at her parents’ Mumbai home. In time, Aruna’s music became an amalgam of  several influences including Marathi bhakti music, her collaboration in European music and the Western voice culture methods she followed.
The Aruna Sairam we see today, enjoying a substantial fan base across generations is a very different musician from the quiet young artist that came over to Chennai thirty plus years ago. An honour richly deserved.
Sruti has over the years been repeatedly campaigning for veteran musicians who have repeatedly missed the Kalanidhi honour. Ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram has often topped that list of iconic artists. Unfortunately the instrument Vinayakram has made globally known is a so-called upa-pakkavadyam and therefore not considered worthy of fetching its practitioner the top award, we believe.
The Academy has made a grand gesture as it did in the case of Lalgudi Jayaraman by conferring a special Lifetime Achievement Award on the diminutive percussionist. Vinayakram would have been thrilled to receive the highest honour but he must be quite satisfied that his contribution to the ghatam and Carnatic music has been acknowledged in a diffent manner.
Shanta Dhananjayan’s long and distinguished career as a Bharatanatyam dancer and  guru has culminated in her nomination for the Nritya Kalanidhi award. This has been a singular gesture of gender equity as her husband and partner is Sangita Kala Acharya of the Academy. Shanta is among the most loved senior teachers in Bharatanatyam, a true acharya, an extremely popular choice of awardee.
Aruna Sairam and the Dhananjayans are `Padma’ awardees, honoured by the government of India, but we are sure that recognition by their peers and seniors in their chosen field of art means as much to them as national honours.
We congratulate all the awardees of the Music Academy and look forward to greeting the artists to be honoured by other institutions in the months to come.

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