Saturday, 30 November 2019


The grand carnival of the classical arts is on in Chennai. You can listen to Carnatic music to the point of saturation and some Hindustani music too. In dance you get to see a variety of classical forms—a lot of Bharatanatyam, and some programmes of Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak, Kathakali, Mohini Attam and Sattriya. The audience for music and dance is quite different. If you want to know what the season was like 75 years ago, we have an interesting description of the 1944 December season written by popular raconteur Sriram V.

There are many kinds of rasikas ranging from the single-minded one-sabha rasika to constant sabha hoppers. You can easily listen to over 60 different musicians during the season or simply follow your favourite musician to all the 20-plus concerts! In the audience you will find talkers and sing-along types, some young and many middle-aged folks busy clicking and posting on Instagram and Facebook—we sincerely hope you are not one of them! There will be others googling or frantically turning the pages of the raga-ready reckoner to identify the raga, song and composer being rendered by the artist on stage.

The number of vocal recitals far outnumbers instrumental concerts. Although both vocal and instrumental music have coexisted for long, the latter has not received due patronage from organisers and rasikas. It is a vicious circle—organisers arrange only a few instrumental concerts citing lack of audience interest, while the audience attendance is poor because the number of instrumental concerts is less! Could the high importance accorded to kritis and their lyrics in Carnatic music be a cause for this? What could be the reasons for the greater popularity of vocal over instrumental music? What is it that the audience is looking for? It has nothing to do with quality alone as there are several excellent instrumentalists in the field. In this issue, one of our senior writers, vainika T.T. Narendran, raises questions and offers insights into the status of instrumental music today.

Our Chennai correspondent V. Karpagalakshmi interviewed a few instrumentalists (posted on the Sruti blog), most of whom remarked that instrumental music was better appreciated outside Chennai! They also expressed their disappointment with the rotation system of allocating limited performing slots for a wide range of instruments. Instrumentalists have appealed for at least 25% representation during the season.

Can anything be done to help the cause of instrumentalists? The musicians themselves have been experimenting and collaborating in different ways to try and popularise instrumental music. Last season, Abhishek Raghuram presented a vocal concert with young flautist J.B. Sruthi Sagar as accompanist at the Narada Gana Sabha. This year, Ramakrishnan Murthy and young Ramana Balachandran are presenting a vocal-veena duet at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha. Most of the musicians interviewed have suggested that lecdems and workshops should be organised to explain the intricacies and the effort that goes into playing any instrument. With this in view, Sruti and Music Forum present Vadya Sammelan on 7 and 8 December—a series comprising lecdems by top artists, which promises to provide insights into the origin, history, styles and intricacies of the tavil, nagaswaram, mridangam, violin, veena, ghatam, khanjira and morsing. The entire Lec Dem Mela, including an interesting panel discussion on the ‘State of Instrumental music’ will hopefully give a boost to Carnatic instrumental music in Chennai.

You will be happy to note that Sruti recently launched its YouTube channel. Stay in tune with us for news and views updates in the world of performing arts.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ramakant Gundecha passes away

Ramakant Gundecha (57), younger  of the renowned Gundecha Brothers, passed away on Friday 8 November 2019 in Bhopal.  The brothers had performed the day before at the Vishwa Rang - Tagore International Literature and Arts Festival in the city. Ramakanth suffered a heart attack at Habibganj Railway Station while waiting for a train to Pune.

The brothers founded the Gurukul Dhrupad Sansthan in Bhopal for the propagation of dhrupad and have collaborated with veteran dancers like Astad Deboo and the late Chandralekha. Recipient of several awards, Ramakanth, along with brother Umakanth, was honoured with  the Padma Shri in 2012 and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2017.

Ramakanth’s sudden demise comes as a shock to the music fraternity.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Thanthei Nada Sangamam

By Varalakshmi Anandkumar

Jugalbandis have become a common feature in today's concert scenario where variety is indeed the spice of life. But this was a concert with a difference. The concert featured an interesting jugalbandi of violin and nagaswaram. The rasikas at the Arkay Convention Centre, Mylapore, Chennai, were treated to a unique coming together of two versatile artists Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, representing the Lalgudi bani and young Mylai Karthikeyan, an up-and-coming nagaswaram artist.

The percussion wing too featured a delightful blend of a budding artist—Sarangan Ravichandhira from Australia on the mridangam, along with seasoned khanjira artist Aniruddh Athreya.

To those who imagined that the nagaswaram would drown the dulcet tones of the violin, this concert proved them wrong. Combined with the well-equipped acoustics of the hall, the violin and nagaswaram combo seemed made for each other, blending perfectly to give an amalgamation of melody, to the rich tones of the percussion.

The concert began with the Viriboni varnam and was followed by obeisance to Lord Ganesa with Sri Ganapatini in Saurashtram. Arunachalanatham in Saranga was rendered line by line exquisitely between the violin and nagaswaram. Hindolam is a raga which never fails to please and in the hands of the two artists, it was sheer delight. Viji went into the root of the raga, to extract its full bhava. Young Karthikeyan was equally skilful with his briga, sangatis and his long, sruti-perfect karvai; he never failed to create an impact on the delighted audience. Following the alapana was the evergreen Samagana lolane of Papanasam Sivan.

Blending with raga, the bhava of the rendition by the duo suffused the air with bhakti, not to mention the response of the percussionists who knew exactly what to play at each sangati. The swara sequences and 'poruttams' were a sheer delight and it was a moment of regret when the song ended! Yet, there was much more in store. The poignant Ganamoortey was followed by the main piece.

Lalgudi Viji's long bowing strokes contrasting with the fast phrases found an echo in Karthikeyan who was evidently inspired by her expertise and quiet guidance. The effect created in Kharaharapriya and the kriti Pakkala nilabadi only served to accentuate the listening pleasure.

Artists from abroad coming to perform in India has become a common occurrence, but the effort of young Sai-Sarangan Ravichandhira was notable. It was evident that the youngster had put in hours of toil to play on a kappi mridangam effectively for concerts of this calibre. Sarangan's korvais shone bright and announced his bani with clarity and appropriate modulations.

Aniruddh Athreya is always brilliant and went into his element during the Tisra nadai kuraippu segment where the exchange of phrases between Saranagan and Anirudh was a treat. The combined effort by these two supporting artists was a significant contributory factor to the success of the concert.

Coincidentally, the concert was held on guru Surajananda's samadhi day and Lalgudi Viji paid tribute to the composer by playing the piece Muruganin marupeyar tuned by T.M. Thiagarajan  in Behag. Three other compositions—Tamarai poota tadagamadi, Chinnanchiru kiliye and a tillana in Sivaranjani—were rendered skillfully and all four musicians complemented one another.

The concert was attended by many vidwans including,  guru Kaaraikkudi Mani, G.J.R. Krishnan, Bhushany Kalyanaraman and Sarangan's father Ravi Ravichandhira. All in all, the three-hour concert was a Sunday treat for the rasikas and one hopes that there will be many such combinations that bring in novelty without compromising on tradition.