Saturday, 29 February 2020


In the March issue we bring to you some more reviews of music concerts—of established musicians, of those moving up the ladder, as well as youngsters who are making a mark in the field of Carnatic music. One of our readers has pointed out that such an issue, unlike the others published during the year, does not seem like a collector’s item. Here, I must say that Sruti is probably the only periodical that carries such detailed reviews of both music and dance, especially in the two or three months following the season. Artists too look forward to reading reviews of their concerts. We therefore offer another sumptuous slice of the season in this issue, which also includes interesting overviews of three dance conferences by three dancers.

Dance concerts are now catching up in the race for time and space with music recitals. While it is somewhat easier to listen to five music kutcheris through the day (hectic indeed!) it is well nigh impossible to watch classical dance performances from morning to night as the logistics are different. The Music Academy introduced an afternoon slot this season (a total of five performances per day) to accommodate more deserving artists in its dance festival. This slot unfortunately coincided with lunch time and siesta! A senior critic jocularly remarked that the organisation will soon have to make available lunch, bed-roll and a media-room for writers to put down their thoughts from time to time without getting into a muddle!

The conceptualisation of day-long dance conferences too calls for a re-look. A multitude of talks, lecdems, discussions, and performances were all squeezed into each day. Every conference had six to seven sessions between morning and afternoon, besides the performances in the evening. You needed some stamina and fortitude to attend all the sessions on all the days and still feel fresh—quite a herculean task! In some, as the allotted time was short, the presenter could only skim the surface during the session. In others, there was hardly any discussion among the panellists as there were too many of them and there was only time for each one of them to make a studied statement! There was no time for fruitful interaction among themselves or with the curious audience. An attempt to bind at least the proceedings of each day in a common thread and journey deeper, could make such symposia more impactful.

Moving away from the season, there is an article in this edition, on vainika vidushi R.S. Jayalakshmi which attempts to throw some light on this unassuming scholar quietly working behind the scenes. We bring to you reports of the celebrations of two centenarians in Bengaluru. You can also browse through the books in the Bookshelf this time.

Good tidings for the Kalakshetra Foundation as S. Ramadorai (former vice-chairperson of TCS) has been appointed Chairperson of the governing board for a five-year term, by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. He has earlier served as the Prime Minister’s advisor in the National Skill Development Council and as chief of the National Skill Development Agency. He can certainly draw upon his multifarious skills to draw up a vision for the institution’s future. The government has also appointed three artists—Sudha Ragunathan, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, and Anupama Hoskere to fill vacancies on the board. All the best to the board and the institution to play a fruitful role in the preservation and propagation of culture and heritage in the years to come.


Monday, 17 February 2020

Melbourne round up

The Australia-India bond goes beyond just the ‘cricket’ connection. As a musician living in Melbourne for more than a quarter of a century, I have seen the proliferation of Indian classical arts in this country. The arts calendar Down Under brims with activities year-round. Here is a summary of some of the events that took place in the latter half of 2019.
Conference on music therapy
The Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) hosted the 2019 National Conference in Melbourne. Alongside this conference, a special symposium focusing on ‘Music, Adolescents and Trauma’, in partnership with the University of Melbourne was held on 29 and 30 November 2019. Hosted at the beautiful and brand new Ian Potter Southbank Centre, Melbourne—the new home of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music—the theme for the symposium was ‘Changing the future - through Advocacy, Equity, and Partnership’.
After the official welcome, the keynote address was delivered by Dr. Philippa Derrington (Scotland) on working alongside a young adolescent who experienced childhood trauma. The conference acknowledged the important contribution of therapists, especially music therapists, and the future of music therapy. The ways that clients, communities, and stakeholders can access and engage with these specialised services were explored. As a non-invasive treatment with no side-effects, it was acknowledged that music therapy as a procedure should be integrated with cure and well-being of the general public. Its introduction among children has boosted kinetic energy, and in aged homes the spirited involvement has brought back pleasant memories in dementia patients.
The conference had delegates participating from around the world, and it was heartening to hear their inputs on the therapeutical facets of music.
10th Anniversary of FIMDV
The Federation of Indian Music and Dance Schools (FIMDV) is a flagship body that encompasses all the top schools of music and dance in Victoria. The Federation celebrated its tenth anniversary in August 2019 and hosted a mega event, appropriately titled, Dashavatar. Curated with an innovative approach, it encapsulated the Dasavatarams or ten incarnations; linking multimedia presentations along with dance, music, and kathakalakshepam to the theory of evolution and incorporated climate change and its impact in the Kalki avatar. The message for the fully-packed audience was to be more socially aware and be responsible for sustaining our planet for future generations. The Consul General of India, Rakesh Malhotra, and councillors from Manningham Council and Victorian Multi-Cultural Commission were among the dignitaries who attended the event.
Shobha Sekhar and her ensemble at FIMDV
Apoorva and the Quintet
Ravi Ravichandhira OAM has been one of the earliest promoters of Indian classical music in Melbourne. On 27 November 2019, he curated a programme  jointly presented by Melbourne Recital Centre and Multicultural Arts Victoria. The event began with an interesting multi-nadai varnam by Narmatha Ravichandhira (vocal), accompanied by Apoorva Krishna (violin) and Ravi Ravichandhira (mridangam). Apoorva Krishna showcased the Lalgudi bani in the Charukesi varnam and moved on to collaborate with the Australian Sruti Laya Ensemble featuring Jonathan Dimond, Adrian Sheriff (bass trombone), Sai Nivaeithan and Sai Sarangan (mridangam), and Athavan Wijeyamanoharan (khanjira/ konnakol). The programme featured contemporary and traditional pieces—Blues Jog by Jonathan and Bahudari tillana by Apoorva. The transition created an impressive impact on the listeners.
Apoorva Krishna with Australian Sruti Laya Ensemble
Annual veena fest
The Iyer Brothers (Ramnath and Gopinath), Melbourne based vainikas, have been the forerunners of the Pichumani School of Carnatic Music in Melbourne since the 1990s. They have been instrumental in establishing the primacy of the veena Down Under. In their interest to propagate this grand instrument, the Iyer Brothers started an annual veena festival in Melbourne which is now in its third year. They have been well-supported in this endeavour by local arts bodies such as The Boite, Victorian Multicultural Commission, and established business houses.
The event held in August 2019 witnessed impressive performers ranging from an ensemble of senior students of the Pichumani School to young talent. The festival began with an invocation by vocalists from the Pichumani School—the prayer on Lord Ganesa was penned by Shoba Iyer and set to tune by R.K Shriramkumar. Malathi Vasudevan from  New Zealand,  a disciple of the late Mangalam Muthuswamy, treated the audience to select compositions including a less-heard raga such as Veeravasantam. Mridangam support for the festival was provided by local talents—Vignesh Ravi, Athavan Wijeyamanoharan, Nanthesh Sivarajah, and senior mridangam players Sridhar Chari and Ravi M. Ravichandhira.
The capstone event of the festival was by the Iyer Brothers. Their veenas were in synchrony as always and the brothers played with their customary gravitas and classicism.
Ravi M. Ravichandhira (mridangam) and Iyer Brothers (veena)
(Scholar and arts aficionado)

Monday, 10 February 2020

Padma Awards 2020 -- for the Performing Arts

By Samudri

The Padma Awards for 2020 were declared on the eve of India’s Republic Day. Out of the 141 names announced, the number of awards for personalities in the performing arts is less than 20. Veteran Hindustani vocalist Chhannulal Mishra of the Banaras gharana is the sole artist among the seven Padma Vibhushan awardees, while famous Hindustani vocalist Ajoy Chakraborty bags the Padma Bhushan (among 23 awardees). There are only a few musicians, dancers and theatre personalities (out of 118) selected to receive the Padma Shri. Among classical musicians, octogenarian Hindustani sitarist Manilal Nag, two Carnatic music duos—veteran vocalists Bombay Sisters (Saroja & Lalitha), and the nagaswaram duo of Sheik Mahaboob Subani and wife Kaleeshabi Mahaboob, find a place. It is a pity that no classical exponents of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Mohini Attam and Kathakali feature in the Padma awards list. Art and culture reflect the integral  identity of a nation. A country as diverse as India is symbolized by the plurality of its culture. We hope that more practitioners and custodians of the arts will be recognised by the government in the years to come.

Padma Vibhushan
Channulal Mishra (H-vocal), Uttar Pradesh

Padma Bhushan
Ajoy Chakravorty (H-vocal), West Bengal

Padma Shri
C. Saroja and C. Lalitha (Bombay Sisters)  (C-vocal)
Kalee Shabi Mahaboob and Sheik Mahaboob Subani (C-nagaswaram)
Manilal Nag  (H-sitar)
 Purushottam Dadheech (Kathak)
Indira P. P. Bora  (Sattriya)
Shashadhar Acharya (Chhau)
Vajira Chitrasena (Kandyan dancer)
 Utsav Charan Das (folk dance - Ghoda Nacha)
Ustad Anwar Khan Manganiyar (folk artist)
Mitrabhanu Gountia (lyricist, composer Sambalpuri)
Shanti Jain (folk, literature)
Madan Singh Chauhan (music teacher, sufi and ghazal)
Munna Master (bhajan)
 Yazdi Naoshirwan Karanjia (doyen of Parsi theatre)
Yadla Gopalarao  (theatre artist)
Sarita Joshi (film, theatre actor)
Daya Prakash Sinha (theatre, Hindi playwright and director)
Madhu Mansuri Hasmukh (singer, song writer and activist)
Moozhikkal Pankajakshi  (puppetry)
Dalavai Chalapathi Rao  (puppetry)