Monday, 30 September 2019

Guru HR Keshavmurthy Centenary

Sulochana Saralaya 

Birth centenary of renowned Bharatanatyam guru H.R. Keshavmurthy was celebrated on the 7 September 2019 at Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bengaluru. Keshavmurthy, an SNA and Shanthala awardee was trained under guru Kolar Gundappa in the Mysore style of Bharatanatyam. He started Keshava Nritya Shala in the year 1949. The Nritya Shala has trained hundreds of students, including eminent dancers like Lalitha Srinivasan, Shyam Prakash (his son), and Vasanthalakshmi (his eldest daughter). Vasanthalakshmi was one of the first few dancers from Karnataka to be trained at Kalakshetra, Chennai. His son, Shyam Prakash has taken over the reins of Keshava Nritya Shala. 

President of MES Education and art connoisseur, Vimala Rangachar,  spoke about how Keshavmurthy was responsible for initiating youngsters into the art form, especially in the Malleshwaram area as there were no Bharatanatyam institutions in those days. She also spoke about his daughter Vasanthalakshmi teaching dance to young kids at the Bal Bhavan, in the Kalakshetra style. 

Retired Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, Chiranjeevi Singh, expressed his opinion that the Kolar style was exhaustive, while Mysore style was restrictive. Prof Mysore Subramanya, however, differed from Singh’s view and explained that the restrictiveness was confined only to the duration of the performance in the royal court and not in the repertoire. He also said that unlike many dance gurus, Keshavmurthy regularly attended the monthly concerts of the Malleshwaram Sangeeta Sabha, as he was a musician (flautist) and a dancer. 

H.N. Suresh, Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, showered praises on the centenarian and specifically mentioned the guru’s choreographed dance-dramas based on great Kannada epics. 

Keshavmurthy not only initiated all his children into the art form but also those who joined his family. It was a pleasant sight to see his grandchildren Vidya, Manasi, Swathi, Raghunandan, Nandakishor and Lasyapriya, present items choreographed by him. The performance included a rare talamalika jathiswaram in different nadais. The welcome dance which was specially composed for the centenary was choreographed by Malini Ravishankar (Keshavmurthy’s daughter-in-law) and presented by her disciples. 

The curtain came down on the centenary celebrations, with a performance by disciples of dancer Lalitha Srinivasan, the prime disciple of guru Keshavmurthy. 


October is the “birthday month” of your favourite magazine on the performing arts. Sruti was launched 36 years ago on 16 October 1983 as a “new kind of magazine” in India insofar as classical music and dance were concerned. It was the culmination of the vision and passion of N. Pattabhi Raman, founder and first Editor-in-Chief of Sruti. The magazine turned out to be a birthday gift for him as he was born on 24 October. The content of the magazine was put together with intelligent care to offer enjoyable reading, and enlightenment too, primarily to those who like classical music and dance, and those who in a sense were waiting to be drawn into the charmed circle. Sruti has certainly carved a niche for itself, and over the years, it has become a symbol of legacy and lineage in its archiving, reporting and coverage across the classical arts. We strive to constantly uphold the tradition and remain relevant to the current times.

In this issue, we offer stories of two artists born in September-October. Veteran musician and composer Rukmini Ramani turned 80 in the first week of September. Her family celebrated her satabhishekam and her disciples organised events to felicitate her on the happy occasion. Daughter of the famous composer Sangita Kalanidhi Brahmasri Papanasam Sivan, she is popularising his and her own compositions with zeal.

The birthday of senior Carnatic vocalist Gayathri Girish too falls in October. She has earned a unique place for herself as a research-oriented, serious musician, passionate about our rich cultural and spiritual heritage—these form the substance of her much sought after thematic concerts.

And as the whole world celebrates the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October, we wondered what the Mahatma’s views could have been about the performing arts! Gandhiji was of the opinion that music is a constructive activity and a means of popular awakening. He looked upon it as a means of spiritual development. Gandhian scholar and arts writer V.R. Devika has put together an interesting article about music and the Mahatma for our readers. It is our small way of paying tribute to the Father of our Nation.

In a country which has taken up the Swacch Bharat mission to clean up the environment and inculcate good habits, should we not seriously take up the work of cleansing the performing arts scene of some of the ugly practises gnawing at its roots? October happens to be the month when the #MeToo movement came out into the open about two years ago. It soon gained momentum and exploded on social media with a lot of naming and shaming. Some responsible organisations paid heed to it and many heads rolled soon after. But there has been only selective action, only a few have paid the price and some of them seem to be quietly coming back into the performance circuit, while several others remain scot free. As many important organisations have constituted their Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the victims of MeToo must come bold to formally file complaints to take things to the needed conclusion. Otherwise all the earlier hue and cry will be to no avail ! Should not artists and organisations take cognisance and act against persons with a known MeToo record?

Readers write

Firoz Dastur

30.9.1919 - 9.5.2008
Birthdays & Anniversaries 

Firoz Dastur also Feroze Dastur was an Indian film actor and a Hindustani vocalist from the Kirana Gharana.
Dastur was part of Indian Film Industry in 1930s, acting in a few films by Wadia Movietone and other film banners. In 1933, when Wadia Movietone under JBH Wadia, released its first talkie film, he performed classical songs as child actor in film Lal-e-Yaman. But his first love was Indian Classical Music.
He was a disciple of Sawai Gandharva, whose other disciples were Bhimsen Joshi and Gangubai Hangal, and a regular performer at Sawai Gandharva Music Festival for several years, well into his late 80s.
Pt.Firoz Dastur's music was very close to Abdul Karim Khan's style. He taught music to many. Some of his disciples are - Wagle, Sudha Divekar, Achyut Abhyankar, Sujan Rane, and Usha Deshpande.

Friday, 27 September 2019

K. S. Narayanaswamy

Birthdays & Anniversaries 

K. S. Narayanaswamy  was a Carnatic veena exponent of the Thanjavur style, in which nuances and subtleties are given more importance over rhythm based acrobatics. He was awarded the Madras Music Academy's Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1979.

He underwent initial training in Carnatic music under K.S. Krishna Iyer, his brother, between his seventh and fourteenth years. Later, he joined the Music College at Annamalai University in Chidambaram where he learnt vocal music under stalwarts like Sangeetha Kalanidhi T S Sabesa Iyer and Sangeetha Kalanidhi Tanjore Ponniah Pillai, descendent of the famous Tanjore Quartet. He also learnt the veena under Desamangalam Subramania Iyer and the mridangam under Tanjore Ponniah Pillai. From 1937-1946, he served as the lecturer at the Annamalai University, his alma mater, and assisted in publishing the Tamil kritis of Gopalakrishna BharathiNeelakanta Sivan and Arunachala Kavi.

He was a recipient of many awards including the State Award of Kerala in 1962 and that of Tamil Nadu in 1968;the National Award of Central Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1968; the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 1977; Sangeetha Kalanidhi from the Madras Music AcademyChennai in 1979 and the Swathi Ratna in 1999.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Papanasam Sivan

Birthdays & Anniversaries 
26.9.1890 - 10.10.1973

Papanasam Sivan  was a prominent composer of Carnatic music and a singer. He was awarded the Madras Music Academy's Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1970. He was also the foremost film score composer in Kannada cinema as well as Tamil cinema in 1930s and 1940s.[2]
A famous composer, Sivan was also known as Tamil Thyagaraja. Using Classical South Indian as a base, Sivan created numerous hits popularised by M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatharand M. S. Subbulakshmi.
In 1962, he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship the highest honour conferred by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama
Later in 1962 Papanasam Sivan received the President award and in 1969 he received the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani award bestowed on him by The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai. He was conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi in 1971.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Saroja Vaidyanathan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Saroja Vaidyanathan  is a choreographerguru and exponent of Bharatanatyam. She was conferred the Padma Shri in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013 by the Government of India.

Saroja is a prolific choreographer and has to her credit ten full length ballets and nearly two thousand individual Bharatanatyam items. She undertook a cultural tour of South East Asia in 2002, accompanying Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the ASEAN Summit in 2002. She has also published her renditions of Subramania Bharati's songs and poems and some of his works have also been set to dance by her.

Saroja Vidyanathan has written a number of books on Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music including The Classical Dances of IndiaBharatanatyam – An In-Depth StudyCarnataka Sangeetham, and The Science of Bharatanatyam.

Saroja was conferred the Padma Shri in 2002 and the Padma Bhushan in 2013 by the Government of India. She is also the recipient of the Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman of the Government of Delhi, the Kalaimamani title bestowed by the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. She was conferred the title of 'Bharata Kalai Sudar' in 2006.

Indrani Rahman

Birthdays & Anniversaries
19.9.1930 - 5.2.1999

Indrani Rahman was an Indian classical dancer, of Bharata NatyamKuchipudiKathakali and Odissi, which she popularised in the west, and later settled in New York in 1976.
In 1952, she won the Miss India pageant. Later, she joined her mother Ragini Devi's company. She popularised the Indian classical dance form, Odissi during her international tours. Indrani had received the Padma Shri in 1969 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in the performing arts and also the Taraknath Das Award.

Jon Higgins

Birthdays & Anniversaries
18.9.1939 - 7.12.1984

Jon Borthwick Higgins (September 18, 1939 – December 7, 1984), also known in India as Higgins Bhagavatar, was an American musician, scholar, and teacher known principally for his rare skill as a non-Indian in the field of Carnatic music. He lived much of his student and professional life at Wesleyan University.
He founded the Indian music studies program at York University in Toronto with Trichy Sankaran in 1971, and returned to Wesleyan in 1978 as a professor of music and Director of the Center for the Arts. He continually sought to strengthen the quality of Wesleyan's curriculum, and immersed himself in numerous cultural activities inside and beyond the university community. He also maintained a deep relationship with his family.
Higgins was a singer of European and Western classical music. He is also recognized as the first non-Indian to perform South Indian classical Carnatic music at a high level of proficiency. He began his Indian music studies in Wesleyan courses taught by Robert E. Brown and T. Ranganathan, and was quickly captured by the subtle beauty of the art form. He decided to fully dedicate himself to learning the language of Carnatic music, and went to India on a Fulbright scholarship to learn from Ranganathan's brother, T. Viswanathan. Within a short period of time he performed to great acclaim at the Tyagaraja Aradhana, an important music festival in South India. He later continued his studies under their sister, renowned dancer T. Balasaraswati, and wrote his dissertation on the dance music of bharatanatyam. Higgins returned to India as a Senior Research Fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies. He continued to perform Carnatic music, recorded several albums, and due to his widely recognized sensitivity was honored with the sobriquet "Bhagavatar" (scholarly musician). 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Lalgudi G Jayaraman

Birthdays & Anniversaries
17.9.1930 - 22.4.2013

Lalgudi Gopala Iyer Jayaraman (17 September 1930 – 22 April 2013) was an Indian Carnatic violinist, vocalist and composer. He was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 2001. He is commonly grouped with M.S. Gopalakrishnan and T.N.Krishnan as part of the violin-trinity of Carnatic Music.

He expanded the style of violin playing by inventing a whole new technique that is designed to best suit the needs of Indian Classical Music and establishing a unique style that came to be known as Lalgudi Bani'. Jayaraman composed several 'kritis', 'tillanas' and 'varnams' and dance compositions, which are a blend of ragabhava, rhythm and lyrical beauty. Lalgudi's instrumental talent comes to the fore in the form of lyrical excellence. He brought the most-sought-after vocal style into violin, and his renditions exhibit knowledge of lyrical content of the compositions.[4][5][6] Lalgudi actively and scientifically learned to self-critique his performances and dutifully wrote detailed reviews after each concert, a habit encouraged by his father and guru.[1] He was loath to experiment on stage in his solo concerts and almost always planned to the last detail, leading a certain critic to tout them as being intellectual rather than emotional in spirit, but Lalgudi's spontaneity and innate musical genius were often seen when he accompanied leading vocalists.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Raga Identification Competition for Carnatic Music Rasikas - 2019

C.K. Balagopalan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

The Natyarangam award could not have gone to a more worthy artist. For decades during the Rukmini Devi era, Balagopalan was one of the star performers at the annual Kalakshetra art festival. From his teen years to age sixty, when he retired, he remained the enthusiastic, devoted dancer, springing with the sprightly vigour that made him an early favourite of the grande dame of that institution. Ascene from Choodamani Pradanam, a Kalakshetra production in the Ramayana series several years ago. A forlorn Seeta is sitting under a tree and bemoaning her fate when Hanuman jumps down from a tree and surprises her into open-mouthed wonder. Even as the audience waits with bated breath, for it knows what power and artistry the dancer playing the monkey-god is capable of, the curtains have to be brought down hurriedly, as he has evidently twisted his ankle rather nastily. It is, indeed, a bad injury and the foot swells like a balloon. A doctor in the audience happens to have just the right medical supplies in hand, and soon C.K. Balagopalan, the veteran dancer playing Hanuman, is administered an injection that numbs the injured area, and he is able to resume dancing as if nothing has happened.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Kishan Maharaj

Birthdays & Anniversaries

3.9.1923 - 4.5.2008
Born  in  1923  in  Varanasi,  he is  a  disciple  of  the renowned  tabla exponent of the Benaras gharana Kanthe Maharaj. In a  career  spanning  five  decades, he  has come to be known as  a performer  and  teacher of  high distinction. He  has, over the years, accompanied almost every Hindustani musician of note, both vocalists and instrumentalists. He  has  also  excelled  in solo presentations and provided accompaniment to maestros of Kathak dance. Notable awards include Padma Shri (1973), the SNA  Award (1984),  Padma Vibhushan (2002); Honorary D.Litt. (Jivaji University, 2004).

Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Meenakshi born on 3 September 1894,was the only child of  Deivayanai Ammal and Subramaniam,alias Kutti Ayya, of Chavadi Agraharam, Ayyampetai. His mother died when he was only 27 days old. He was brought up by Kamalammal, his mother's younger sister,with great care and affection.

When Meenakshi was four, his uncle Singaram Pillai began giving him les­sons in the 'family art' of tavil-play. A swift learner, he was able to play immediately what ever he was taught. His quick grasp and his retentive memory, as also his 'piercing eyes', so impressed Govinda Pillai that he took the youngster under his own wings for further training.

By the time he was nine,Meenakshi began providing tavil accompaniment to the local nagaswara player.When­ever he was free,he would also go to the temple and play there during the rituals. Probably he was then hardly big enough to carry the tavil, let alone play it standing up.

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Sunday, 1 September 2019

Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

1.9.1896 - 16.10.1974
Ananta Bhagavatar's wife Parvati Ammal gave birth to Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar in September 1896, and younger brother Subrahmaniam was born a couple of years later. Chembai was a 'bhagavatar' even at birth, for the tag of bhagavatar was a traditional family title, But Chembai lived to more than justify the title as  devotee of Guruvayurappan.

Ananta Bhagavatar initiated Chembai into music when the latter was but three years old. He put the boy through rigorous practice in the swara-s, a strong foundation for Chembai's future unerring swara and sruti purity. Also included was intensive 'aakara' practice.

When Chembai was five years old, his father thought of his academic education also. But the little village had no proper school facilities and could boast only of a 'tinnai' school, an informal teaching facili ty run in one of the houses, on the 'tinnai' or pyol in front. It was there that Vaitha started his school education.