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.