Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Editor's Note


That the performing arts scene has bounced back to life—after a long hiatus during the pandemic—is evident from the sudden spurt in the number of posters and invitations to live programmes received from different parts of the country. Like the cherry on the cake comes the press release from the Madras Music Academy announcing the names of the awardees for three years – 2020, 2021 and 2022; it heralds the happening of a gala live season this December-January.

The Music Academy committee must have brainstormed more than once to select the list of  awardees numbering fourteen this time, to represent three years. The Sangita Kalanidhi designates are vidwans Neyveli R. Santhanagopalan (2020), Tiruvarur  Bhakthavathsalam (2021), and the Lalgudi duo of G.J.R. Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi (2022) – all versatile musicians. The Nritya Kalanidhi designates are renowned Bharatanatyam  exponents Rama Vaidyanathan (2020), Narthaki Nataraj (2021) and Bragha Bessell (2022). Two excellent teachers and musicologists Ritha Rajan and vainika R.S. Jayalakshmi have been chosen to receive the Sangita Kala Acharya birudu along with veteran nagaswaram exponent Kivalur N.G. Ganesan. The Musicologist Award and the TTK Awards have also been announced.  There is no doubt that those selected are indeed deserving artists,  however, it is disappointing that some senior and eminent artists do not find a place in the list – like veteran tavil vidwan Haridwaramangalam A.K. Palanivel; versatile musician-musicologist Sriram Parasuram and classical dancer and scholar Vasanthalakshmi Narasimhachari.

While one has to wait for six months for the big day at the Academy, another prestigious awards ceremony is just round the corner. The Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India (ABHAI) is honouring a galaxy of artists for 2021 and 2022 on this 12 June at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium. The prestigious award of Natya Kalanidhi is being conferred on veteran Bharatanatyam exponents Chitra Visweswaran  (2021) and Lakshmi Vishwanathan (2022). Sruti congratulates all the eminent awardees; we are also happy to state that we have already featured most of them in our magazine.

The cover story this time focuses on the iconic santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma who passed away recently. To him goes the credit of transforming the folk instrument of the Kashmir valley into  a recognised classical instrument. He not only became a star himself but simultaneously placed the santoor at the forefront of Hindustani music. I have experienced the immersive quality of Shiv Kumar Sharma’s music. It was in 1995, just a month or two after the passing away of my father that I attended a concert by the santoor maestro at the Music Academy. I cannot now recall the raga he played,  but I vividly remember that as the santoor maestro immersed himself in his introspective exploration of the music, I became a co-traveller and was engulfed in wave after wave of the percussive melodicity. My eyes brimmed with tears which continued to flow for several minutes – all the  pent up emotions quietly found a release; it was a catharsis. The maestro’s music was indeed elevating.

In this issue two well known writers of the Sruti family have written obituary tributes to eminent artists who were their  good friends – Nandini Ramani  pays tribute to the late veteran Indira Rajan, and K.K. Gopalakrishnan to Milena Salvini. In her heyday Indira Rajan, a famous traditional artist,  would set the stage on fire with her dynamic and vigorous  nattuvangam. I got a rare glimpse into a different facet of this flamboyant personality when 1000 dancers led by Padma Subrahmanyam converged at the Brihadeeswara temple to perform in its precincts. While all of us were excited and exuberant, Indira Rajan was very quiet and withdrawn, very unlike herself.  She disclosed that  overwhelmed by the fact that she had got an opportunity to participate in this unique nritya seva, she had observed vratam all day long – it was a tapas for her.  It was indeed a moving experience. Just goes to prove that art is not just a profession, it is a passion and prayer for the greats.


Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Press Release: The Music Academy announces Sangita Kalanidhi and other awards

The Executive Committee of The Music Academy has decided to give Sangita Kalanidhi and other awards for the two missed years 2020 and 2021 also along with the current year's awards. It may be recalled that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy had conducted only shortened online annual festivals in 2020 and 2021 and this year, physical festivals are planned for both Music and Dance with all their features. 

At its meeting held today, 22nd May 2022, the Executive Committee of the Music Academy unanimously decided on the following awards: 


"Sangita Kalanidhi" 

2020 - Neyveli R. Santanagopalan, a renowned vocalist and guru; 

2021 - Tiruvarur Bhakthavathsalam, an eminent mridangam artiste and guru; 

2022 - Lalgudi violin duo, G.J.R.Krishnan and Vijayalakshmi, torch-bearers of the Lalgudi lineage of violinists and renowned performers. 

Sangita Kala Acharya: 

2020 - Kivalur N.G.Ganesan - noted nagaswaram exponent; 

2021 - Dr Ritha Rajan - highly respected vocalist, musicologist and guru; 

2022 -- Dr R.S. Jayalakshmi - renowned Vainika, musicologist and guru. 

T.T.K. Award: 

2020 - Thamarakkad Govindan Namboodri - noted vocalist and guru; 

2021 - Nemani Somayajulu - versatile percussionist -mridangam and jalatarangam; 

2022 - A.V.Anand - noted Kanjira artiste. 

Musicologist Award: 

2022 - Dr V. Premalatha 

The Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru. MK Stalin has kindly consented to be the Chief Guest and inaugurate the 96th Annual Conference and Concerts on December 15, 2022. 

DANCE AWARD: Nritya Kalanidhi 

2020 - Rama Vaidyanathan -- Leading Bharatanatyam exponent; 

2021 - Narthaki Nataraj -- Acclaimed Bharatanatyam artiste; 

2022 - Bragha Bessell -- Widely respected Abhinaya expert and guru. 

The Music Festival will be held as usual from December 15, 2022, to January 1, 2023, and the Dance Festival from January 3, to January 9, 2023. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Homage to Tyagaraja in Mylapore

The annual Tyagaraja Aradhana was celebrated by Sri Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar Cultural Trust on 12 February 2022 at Mylapore in Chennai; it was organised by S. Rajaraman, the Managing Trustee. A host of eminent vidwans and vidushis – including several vocalists, violinists, mridangists, flautist, and vainika—participated in the celebration and diligently rendered the pancharatna kritis. This was followed by the Anjaneya utsavam.

The musical offering commenced with the kriti Chetulara rendered by vidwan Prapancham Balachandran, followed by all the musicians presenting Sree Ganapatini, Gurulekha and the pancharatna kritis – a total of eight compositions in all. It may be noted that at Tiruvaiyaru, every year, the aradhana commences with the playing of Chetulara on the flute—a custom started by Palladam

Sanjeeva Rao, years ago. This year, Sri Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar Cultural Trust followed the same tradition. The Aradhana concluded with the kriti Geetarthamu dedicated to Lord Anjaneya. The sahasranama archana designed by Sambasiva Bhagavatar, based on Jagadananda, was performed to the portraits of sadguru Tyagaraja and Sambasiva Bhagavatar. The event came to a close with S. Rajaraman thanking the vidwans, vidushis and   rasikas who participated in the function. M.A. Sundareswaran briefly spoke about the origin of the Tyagaraja aradhana and described how years ago, the doyens of Carnatic music used to individually sing the pancharatna kritis at Tiruvaiyaru. Later, after discussing among themselves, all the musicians started singing the kritis in chorus as a homage to Tyagaraja. It has been resolved by Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam in Chennai to sing all the eight kritis (mentioned above) during the aradhana festival next year.

Sundareswaran opined that Chetulara could be sung or played by all the musicians and there is no restriction that flautists alone should play the song. According to him, the aradhana should comprise the eight kritis and three more— Lekana, Pahi Rama doota and Geetarthamu should be included if Sri Anjaneya Utsavam is celebrated. He requested the music fraternity throughout the world to follow this tradition. The aradhana should conclude after singing the Mangalam Pavamaana—with a mangala harati.

Sri Thiagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam

T.V. Gopalakrishnan and the musicians at the aradhana
Earlier, the 175th annual Tyagaraja aradhana was observed at the Samajam premises on 22 January 2022 which was attended by about 250 people. The programmes started with ‘Veda gosham’ followed by unchavritti. Under the auspices of veteran vidwan T.V. Gopalakrishnan, president of the Samajam, leading musicians – both vocalists and instrumentalists, rendered the ghana raga pancharatna kritis. Special abhishekam with pooja was performed to the idol of saint Tyagaraja inside the temple premises, followed by the Anjaneya utsavam and mangala  harati. The celebrations concluded with prasadam being served to all the devotees.


Indradhanush Mahotsav 2022

The much-awaited annual mega festival of the Fine Arts Society, Chembur— Indradhanush Mahotsav 2022, was successfully held in March/April this year in Mumbai. It heralded a ‘welcome back to the auditorium’ feel, as it happened after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic restrictions. The five-day festival this year, well supported by many sponsors, was spread over two consecutive weekends. True to its name, the Indradhanush Mahotsav wove a unique rainbow hue with a galaxy of top artists performing to a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience. The festival attracted excellent footfall that created a much-needed positive aura for the performing artists.

Jayateerth Mevundi
In the first leg of the festival – 25 to 27 March, eminent artists graced the Sivaswamy Auditorium, adding colours of joy. On the inaugural day, the festival began on an auspicious note, with the ceremonial lamp being lit by the chief guest R. Chidambaram, Former Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India. Eminent Hindustani vocalist Jayateerth Mevundi enthralled the audience with his music. On the next day, yet another maestro— Pankaj Udhas mesmerised the crowd with the soulful rendering of his much-loved music. The evening of 27 March featured a beautiful Bharatanatyam performance by the eminent Leela Samson and her Spanda Dance Company; they held the audience spellbound with their graceful performances.

Pankaj Udhas
Renowned artists Sanjeev Abhyankar and Abhishek Raghuram engaged in a delightful jugalbandi, beautifully blending the nuances of Hindustani and Carnatic vocal music on 1 April. As Sanjeev Abhyankar mentioned, it was unity in diversity in action. The brilliant support by the accompanying artists added special effects to the engrossing jugalbandi.

The Indradhanush Mahotsav concluded on 3 April with the popular Siddharth Entertainers’ Hindi light music. The magical old melodies added special charm and excitement, providing a fitting finale to the five-day music and dance extravaganza organised by the Fine Arts Society.


A decade of Bhubaneswar Music Circle’s Samarpan

With the recently concluded tenth edition of Samarpan, an annual Sufiana music festival staged in Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneswar, host Bhubaneswar Music Circle (BMC) achieved another milestone in its six decades of the consistent campaign for the cause of classical music.

Odisha’s only institution of its kind and one of the very few of its stature in India, BMC’s glorious journey of 59 years is unique and incredible. Name any star and stalwart of Indian classical music—Ravi Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi, Jasraj, Girija Devi, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Amjad Ali Khan, M. Balamuralikrishna, V.G. Jog, U. Shrinivas, Kadri Gopalnath, A. Hariharan, T.N. Krishnan, Parveen Sultana, Vani Jairam, Jagjit Singh or Rajan-Sajan Mishra—BMC has presented them all in Odisha through its concerts and festivals. And it has also encouraged and highlighted numerous new talents in its 32 years of monthly concert series.

Haveli Sangeet
Hindustani and Carnatic apart, BMC had championed the cause of Odissi music long before the Odisha Government started its demand for classical status for Odisha’s music tradition. While the forum has earned enough appreciation from the practitioners and connoisseurs of music for its silent and yet sustained service, its expertise and reputation prompted the Odisha Government to offer BMC the responsibility of hosting its most prestigious annual Rajarani National Music Festival for ten years.

Commemorating its golden jubilee year in 2013, BMC launched an annual spiritual and devotional A decade of Bhubaneswar Music Circle’s Samarpan music festival aptly titled ‘Samarpan’—that turned ten this year.

The festival highlighted the music of mysticism that had presented popular and major genres like the Baul of Bengal, Abhang of Maharashtra, Borgeet of Assam, Nazrul Geeti of Bangladesh, Sufiana songs and singers of Kashmir, Nepal, Gorkha Hills, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Bengal regions.

Famed Sufi qawwali groups from Hyderabad, Delhi and other Indian cities have been a regular and attractive feature of this annual festival. It has even staged the Ahmad Sham Sufi Qawwali Group from Afghanistan, which left a lasting imprint on musicians and connoisseurs.

Barnali Hota and group
In its initiative to highlight Odisha’s mystic and devotional music tradition, BMC has duly featured two immensely popular poets of the land whose songs are loved by the mass and the class alike across generations—Dalit and blind poet Bhima Bhoi and Salabeg, the legendary Muslim devotee of Lord Jagannatha.

The latest edition of Samarpan, spread over three evenings at Rabindra Mandap auditorium in February 2022, showcased Haveli Sangeet by Chandra Prakash and a group from Ajmer; Sufi music by Jenab Yar Mohammad Langa and a group from Jodhpur – both from Rajasthan; Baul singers mother-daughter duo Illa Biswas and Ayushi Biswas from Nabadweep in West Bengal; and Sufi qawwali group from Delhi led by Chanchal Bharti; apart from seven solo singers of Odisha that included two singing sensations of yesteryears and the present generation respectively—Santilata Barik and Barnali Hota.

Samarpan 2022 celebrated the soul-stirring and captivating music and musicians of Rajasthan. Haveli Sangeet, sung exclusively for Lord Krishna as a daily service— Raag Sewa—in some Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat temples, is a unique blend of classical and folk elements that follows the dhrupad style. Pandit Chandra Prakash of Ajmer in Rajasthan is one of the genre’s best exponents who hails from a family of Raag Sewa providers of Kishangarh temple.

Similarly, Jenab Yar Mohammad Langa, who has performed extensively in India and abroad, hails from a family of hereditary professional folk musicians of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Like the Manganiar musicians, Langas sing in the same dialect but their style and repertoire differ that have been shaped as per the taste of their traditional patrons who were the aristocrats of the region.

Both the exponents from Rajasthan conquered hearts in Odisha.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Award for Vidushi Jayanthi Kumaresh

Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira honoured Vidushi Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh with 
‘Sangeetha Vedantha Dhurina’ which is instituted in the name of its visionary founder G Vedantha Iyengar on on 8 May 2022 at The Bangalore Gayana Samaja. The award carries prize money of 1 Lakh, a Silver medal, and a Citation. His Holiness Sri Sri Jeeyar of Yathiraj Mutt, Melkote blessed and presented the title.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Editor's Note

Sunday 17 April 2022 was a sad day for Sruti as N. Sankar, Chairman of The Sruti Foundation, passed away in Chennai, after a brief illness. He was 76. As Chairman of The Sanmar Group, he was an icon of Indian industry presiding over a US dollar one billion diversified multinational group. Spearheading Chemplast, its flagship company, he was at the forefront of the PVC manufacturing segment in India for over five decades. An exemplary captain of industry, he was well known as an upright and innovative visionary successfully combining business acumen with ethics. He was the recipient of several prestigious honours including lifetime achievement awards from state and national level apex bodies of the chemical industry. A keen sportsman, passionate about cricket and tennis, he was one of the finest patrons of cricket in India, seeking out cricketing talent and nurturing it in Tamil Nadu. He was highly respected for his sage counsel as head of Assocham, the Madras Chamber of Commerce and the Madras Management Association, besides sports bodies like the Tamil Nadu and the All India Tennis Association, the Madras Cricket Club and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.

N. Sankar, along with his family members, had a deep appreciation for Indian art, culture and heritage. It was under his initiative that Chennai Heritage was started in 1999 for the preservation of art and culture in metropolitan Chennai, and for the protection of the natural environment. It was Sankar who stepped in at a crucial point in the life of Madras Musings to place it on a sound financial footing with support from multiple corporate houses. He was a strong believer in CSR -- ‘corporate social responsibility’. A few years after the demise of Sruti’s Founder & Editor-in-Chief N. Pattabhi Raman, when Sruti was in need of a stabilising hand, N. Sankar came forward to take The Sruti Foundation under his wing in 2006. Under his leadership, Sruti received a fresh impetus with the recasting of the Sruti Foundation, infusion of new professional expertise, and the Sruti office moving into the Sanmar premises, with contemporary facilities in technology and connectivity. V. Ramnarayan, who worked for Sanmar for several years and was Editor-in-Chief of Sruti for about a decade, recalls that as chairman of The Sruti Foundation, N. Sankar gave full freedom and never interfered in the running of the magazine. N. Sankar took pride in Sruti’s stature in the arts field, and would preside over our functions with quiet joy, his dignified and genial presence adding to the aura of the proceedings. Integrity and excellence have been our motto, and Sruti will continue to uphold these values which were top priority for N. Sankar. Sruti will miss his eminent presence. The Sruti team offers its heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family.

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In this May issue of Sruti, we bring to you interesting articles on four personalities. One is a centenary tribute to the versatile percussionist of Kerala, the late Thrippekulam Achutha Marar who went on to become a famous melam artist. The spotlight is on the veteran practitioner of a rarely played instrument – jalatarangam artist Anayampatti S. Ganesan who celebrates his 90th birthday in May this year. The cover stories are on two artists in their prime – Carnatic musician Bharat Sundar and Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher Praveen Kumar. Early in life, both decided to take the plunge to pursue their passion for the arts. Both have a solid classical base, fine repertoire, strong focus, an enviable imagination, eye for detail and aesthetics. Their hard work and the desire to excel have helped them to quickly rise to fame in their chosen fields.

We also have our popular segments of Sruti Box, News & Notes and Record Rack this time. So read on.