Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira Delightful concerts mark 57th year event
Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira has been doing yeoman service since 1955 in the field of Carnatic and Hindustani music. Its 57th annual festival was inaugurated on 1st January 2012 in its own concert hall. The celebrations, spread over January, featured Carnatic vocal concerts by talented musicians like Aishwarya Shankar, Prince Rama Varma, D.B. Ashwin, Vani Satish, Ramakrishnan Murthy, Sandeep Narayan, Adoor Sudarshan, N.R. Prashanth, V. Vijay Arun (C-guitar), and L.V. Mukund (C-flute).
The main festival – Spring Music Festival – began on 1st February at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja hall. Bombay Jayashri Ramnath inaugurated the festival by lighting the lamp. The concert series showcasing some of the best talent is widely publicised and is “open to all”. Three-hour concerts are organized and the enthusiastic rasika looks forward to the festival year after year.
Bombay Jayashri presented a memorable concert to a packed audience. H.N. Bhaskar, Patri Satish Kumar, and Anirudh Athreya embellished the concert. Young Abhishek Raghuram who has a big fan following in the city regaled the audience with able support from Akkarai Subbalakshmi, Anantha R. Krishnan and G. Guruprasanna. The enthusiastic response to T.M. Krishna’s concert was to be seen to be believed. Embar Kannan, K. Arun Prakash and B.S. Purushothaman responded in an excellent manner to Krishna’s brilliant recital.
In future the organisers need to look for additional space – such was the response for Visakha Hari’s musical discourse Meera Bai Charitram. She held the audience spellbound, ably assisted by Padma Shankar, H.S. Sudhindra and Udayraj Karpoor. The mellifluous flow of the Malladi Brothers’ concert for close to four hours was special, well supported by Embar S. Kannan, Neyveli Narayanan and G. Omkar Rao. Dr. R.N. Sreelatha presented a scholarly concert, with excellent support from V. Nalina Mohan, Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma and V.S. Ramesh. S. Sowmya’s presentation on allied raga-s, supported by vocalists K. Gayathri, Vidya Kalyanaraman, K. Bharat Sundar, Ramakrishnan Murthy and accompanists M. Narmada, Poongulam Subramanyam and K.V. Gopalakrishnan was educative, a first by Sowmya in Bangalore. Sudha Ragunathan’s charisma continues to flow – the audience was bowled over by her singing for over three and a half hours. She was accompanied with good understanding by Embar S. Kannan, Neyveli Skanda Subramanyan and R. Raman. The violin duet by Mysore M. Nagaraj and Mysore M. Manjunath, accompanied by Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and Giridhar Udupa, was a high voltage concert. The surprise package was the beautiful Bharatanatyam performance by dancer-actor Lakshmi Gopalaswamy. Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s recital was enthralling, with veterans Nagai Muralidharan and Mannargudi Eswaran, and morsing artist B. Rajashekar contributing to the success of his delightful concert.
The concluding concert of the 12-day series by Ranjani and Gayatri was a memorable event, one of their best in recent times. Charumathi Raghuraman, Manoj Siva and G.S. Ramanujam enhanced the concert.
On 4th March Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira celebrated its 1250th programme and the 50th death anniversary of its founder the late G. Vedanta Iyengar. Vidwan R.K. Srikantan was conferred the title Sangeeta Vedanta Dhurina along with a cash award of one lakh rupees and a silver medal, by the Director of Sri Krishna Kalakshetra, ISKCON. The veteran vidwan and his son Prof. R.S. Ramakanth, presented a delightful concert accompanied by H.K. Venkataram, Srimushnam V. Rajarao and H.S. Sudhindra.
Of tonal tapestries and musical mosaics
Uyir, nee kankanda deivam (Life, you are divinity personified) goes the chorus of a popular Subramania Bharati song. Lights brightened the artistically designed stage, and rhythmic beats followed by a chorus of voices set the tone for an evening of transcending music at Aikya 2012, at the Music Academy on 26 February.
Aikya 2012, described as a ‘kaleidoscopic concert’, had a legacy to live up to as the two previous versions organized by Global Adjustments Services and Interface were popular successes. The concerts, in support of Smrutha Dhwani, an NGO, have been an initiative for honouring retiring artists in the field of performing arts. They have been marked by themes such as diversity and duality that aim to create a nexus between music and everyday life, according to Anita Krishnaswamy, President of Global Adjustments. Having featured accomplished singers such as Aruna Sairam, Sudha Raghnathan and TM Krishna in previous years, Aikya 2012 starred Bombay Jayashri.
The concert, with its central theme described as an exploration of relationships as metaphorical strings and circumscribing boundaries, was a musical pastiche. It unfolded in a seemingly arbitrary manner to feature a variety of tunes, of broadly varying genres and periods.
There was something on offer for everyone. As a rasika of music, you could sample the Sanskrit composition ‘Sri Valli’ in ragam Natabhairavi, the Hindi song, ‘hanak jhanak payal baje and the abhang, Bhakta jana vatsale. Carnatic music fans savoured the familiar notes of Tyagaraja’s Mokshamu galada in Saramati, rendered in Jayashri’s mellifluous voice, while the ghazal Ranjish hi sahi and a Tansen melody in Gurjari Todi were pleasant offerings from the music genres of the north.
A number of listeners would have been taken by surprise when the orchestra broke out into the strains of popular film songs like Aap ki nazaron ne samjha. Instrumental renderings of various Ilayaraja melodies were met with enthusiastic applause. Movie songs are those familiar tunes that remind us of many things, Jayashri said, in one of her many brief commentaries that interspersed the singing.
The final tillana in the ragam Sindhubhairavi rose to a crescendo and provided the perfect climax to the evening.
The concert, according to the organizers, commemorated 150 years of the Indian national anthem and was dedicated to the Bengali poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. A sample of Rabindra Sangeet would have thus been a perfect acknowledgment of the poet’s contribution to our musical and literary heritage.
The orchestra was an excellent complement to the vocals of Jayashri and seven of her students. In combination and perfect tandem, the strings, percussion and keys provided a soulful background to the traditional music and wove a tapestry of non-conventional tunes, including some from South East Asia. Embar Kannan with one of his spellbinding performances on the violin and Navin Iyer on the flute were exceptional. The soul-stirring lyrics of the Bharatiyar composition, Maalaipozhudhil were enhanced by the ambience of twilight created by Navneeth Sundar on the keys. Sai Sravanam on the tabla and J. Vaidhyanathan on the mridangam ably augmented the depth of the instrumental talent of the evening.
Speaking about being part of Aikya 2012, Embar Kannan said, “It was a really out-of-this-world experience,. a musical journey for all of us in different genres. We all went through the journey together. It wasn’t about an individual. It’s the greatness of our music.”
Though at many points Jayashri’s voice seemed to be eclipsed, her vocal range, perfect enunciation and unique tonality did indeed mesh to provide the musical treat that was Aikya 2012. Speaking about the choice of the versatile artiste for this edition of Aikya, Anita Krishnaswamy said, “No one else can sing an entire range from classical to the lightest form, spanning all genres of music. And the theme just lends itself. She understands music in every little way and blends everything seamlessly, taking the audience with her.”
Aikya 2012, though near perfect in many aspects, did not carry over the conceptual and artistic grandeur of the previous editions. The stage lighting, which has always been a noticeable feature of the framework of design, seemed to be mismanaged in places. The acoustics of the Academy too, did not prove satisfactory on the occasion.
Athirupa Manichander (a postgraduate student of Asian College of Journalism)
Sruti mourns the death of Manna Srinivasan
The Sruti parivaar mourns the sudden demise of one of its close associates, Manna Srinivasan in Delhi, on 9th March 2012. He was 78. He was a good friend of Founder-editor N. Pattabhi Raman, and a tower of strength to Sruti almost since its inception. He served Sruti in many capacities as its Delhi Correspondent and Representative, Contributing Editor and Senior Associate, but his favourite designation was Roving Editor – a role he played with alacrity, sending us reports, articles and features from places far and near. He played a major role in introducing artistes from the South to organizations in Delhi and northern India. He would go out of his way to help a friend in need.
Vellore Ramabhadran passes away
Veteran mridanga vidwan Vellore Ramabhadran, known for his gentle touch, passed away at Chennai on 27 February 2012. He was 82.
Born on August 4, 1929, Ramabhadran learnt percussion from his father Vellore Gopalachariar, a well known laya vidwan. In a 70-year long career, Ramabhadran accompanied every musician of merit, including the all-time greats of Carnatic music.
A man with an amiable nature and impeccable manners, Ramabhadran was a good mimic of the great vocal masters he accompanied. He was a close friend of Sruti, with the Vellore Gopalachariar award for a leading musician an important collaboration between him and the Sruti Foundation.
Palghat Mani Iyer 100
By Vishal Mathew
Yehudi Menuhin once described him as the greatest of all mridangists. His guru Tanjavur Vaidyanatha Iyer likened him to an avatar. To most musicians, there never was and never will be another like him.
The centenary event held on 28 January at the Music Academy, Chennai, to celebrate the genius of the late Palghat TS Mani Iyer was a tribute to the longevity of one of Carnatic music’s durable legends—the story of a master of percussion who redefined his art and strode the arena like a colossus.
As the quiet evening set in, musicians and music enthusiasts who had heard, seen or known the legend flowed into the Music Academy that reverberated with the original rhythmic compositions of the maestro. The audience got a taste of Mani Iyer’s excellence when the music that soared on the wings of the mridangam rose to a crescendo, came to an abrupt end and mesmerised the audience into a stunned silence.
The brief silence turned melodious when Palghat R Ramprasad, Mani Iyer’s grandson, rendered the invocation song in a resonating voice and set the tone for the celebrations.
Addressing the gathering, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Chairman of the Kalakshetra Foundation, described Mani Iyer as music’s rhythmic heartbeat, a musician who knew the measure of his audience and its expectation. The listener’s heart would beat to the tune of the mridangam; it became the pacemaker of the audience. “He played with his heartbeat and brainbeat in perfect synchronisation,” Gandhi said.
Then speaker after eminent speaker ranging from the successors of his extraordinary legacy of rhythm to connoisseurs of music mesmerised by the magic of his fingers extolled the emergence in the 1930s of Mani Iyer as a landmark in the history of Carnatic music.
One of the themes of the evening was that ending an era of dominance by the vocalist, Mani Iyer’s mastery of rhythm based on deep understanding of music changed the dynamics of the Carnatic music concert forever, acquiring a new status for the accompanying artist. Paeans were sung on the maestro’s uncanny ability to infuse robustness into the mridangam and transcend the accompanists’ role as a mere responsive musical support to the overarching vocalist.
Lalgudi Jayaraman said Mani Iyer’s beats were measured and his calculated silences were meaningful and eloquent. “Mani Iyer’s novel pauses before joining the main vocalist during a concert had the same telling effect on the audience as his powerful beats on the mridangam ,” Jayaraman said in a speech read out by his son GJR Krishnan.
Recollecting his long association with the mridanga vidwan, the other violin maestro T. N. Krishnan said, “Mani Iyer’s greatness lay in his ability to make the complicated look simple.”
Earlier in the day, Mani Iyer’s eldest son T.R. Rajamani gave a presentation explaining why his father was a major draw for several decades. While the audience was treated to some rare recordings of Mani Iyer’s brilliance, he narrated the hidden story behind some great innovations.
Rajamani demonstrated how his father’s musical sense was of the highest level. He said that Mani Iyer considered every song to have life. With his analytical mind, he picked the empty spaces in a song and enlivened them with his mellifluous, rhythmic and sharp beats.
Later, T R Rajaraman, Mani Iyer’s younger son, recounted that his father was only good at music and was “a big zero” in other fields. “He used to get so petrified while travelling on a plane that he refused to touch any part of the plane thinking it would crash if he did so.”
“We could never see him as a father,” Rajaraman continued. “For us he was Palghat Mani Iyer, the artiste, on stage and at home.”
According to him, Mani Iyer once confessed he always wanted to be a singer rather than a mridangist. It was this overpowering passion for music that enabled him to intuitively grasp the vocalist’s art and get his rhythmic artistry to flow with the song.
Followed a group discussion in which it was suggested that the Tanjavur School of mridangam be called the Mani Iyer School. M.S. Sekhar, the moderator of the discussion said, “He was Carnatic music’s Shakespeare. Novelty was his forte; the expressions that are commonplace today in mridangam were invented by Mani Iyer.”
An audio CD album of live concerts featuring Mani Iyer, including seven tani avartanams titled Nada Laya Margam was released. Eight disciples of Palghat Mani Iyer were honoured on the occasion. A special honour was also accorded to Selvam, the son of Fernand—Mani Iyer’s mridangan maker.
Mani Iyer’s star disciple Umayalpuram K Sivaraman gave a scintillating solo performance.
Dhrupad festival in Bhopal
“Dhrupad Jugalbandi Utsav”, a unique four-day event, organised by Bhopal Doordarshan Kendra in collaboration with Dhrupad Sansthaan, was held between 24 and 27 November 2011 in Bhopal. The town has steadily gained recognition as a prominent centre for preserving the heritage of the ancient dhrupad form of music. Dhrupad, which developed in north India in medieval times, is gradually recovering its former glory and gaining acceptance with national and international audiences. This festival featured musicians from Japan, Italy, Pakistan and the U.S.A. in addition to local artists.
Dhrupad Sansthaan is a non-profit organisation run by renowned dhrupad exponents Umakant and Ramakant Gundecha, disciples of vocalist Zia Fariduddin Dagar and his late brother, rudra veena exponent Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, who represent the 19th generation of the famous Dagar family.
The Dagar family claiming lineage to Swami Haridas Dagur, a musician, composer and practitioner of dhrupad, has passed the oral tradition of dhrupad singing down to twenty generations. Tansen, one of the nine jewels of the royal court of Mughal emperor Akbar, was believed to have learnt from Swami Haridas, forming the first generation of dhrupad performers.
Presenting dhrupad music in the jugalbandi format and encouraging women to sing dhrupad has been a hallmark of the Dagar tradition. The word jugalbandi, literally meaning ‘entwined twins’, is a duet performance in which two musicians who are equally skilled performers create music spontaneously on the stage, alternately taking turns and periodically performing together in harmony. Such performances demand not only high-calibre talent but mature understanding and respect between the performers as they need to work together – they take turns and hold a musical dialogue as they slowly reveal the beauty of raga music.
The utsav this year featured several jugalbandi-s and women performers in keeping with the Dagar tradition. Several kinds of jugalbandi-s were presented, such as duet performances by vocalists, or two instrumentalists – sometimes playing the same instrument (pakhawaj), and sometimes between two instrumentalists playing different instruments (flute and saxophone) – or between a vocalist and an instrumentalist (vocalist Uday Bhawalkar and cellist Nancy Lesh).
The format was extended in some performances to three vocalists or three instrumentalists. Zia Fariduddin Dagar also performed with senior student Uday Bhawalkar in what seemed more a jugalbandi than a solo performance. They were accompanied by Akhilesh Gundecha on the pakhawaj.
All the dhrupad performances, whether vocal or instrumental, were marked by purity in the manner the musical notes were produced. The focus on unwavering stability on the main notes of the raga and leisurely development of musical movements brought out the raga’s character with clarity. Brief interviews with the artists, telecast before their performance, served as short and sweet introductions to their individual journeys in their mastery of the dhrupad form of music.
Almost 40 performers took part in the four-day event that featured student recitals during the day at the Dhrupad Sansthaan, a ‘shivir’ or master workshop by Zia Fariduddin Dagar in the afternoons, and performances at the Bhopal Doordarshan Kendra in the evenings. A special feature was a live telecast of the jugalbandi performances by senior torchbearers of the Dagar tradition on national television channel DD Bharati.
Participants of the workshop as well as members of the audience who attended the jugalbandi utsav openly lauded the efforts of Bhopal Doordarshan Kendra and the Dhrupad Sansthaan to preserve the age-old dhrupad tradition and for promoting, nurturing and nourishing Hindustani classical music.
(Shuchita Rao is a Hindustani vocalist and freelance journalist based in Boston, U.S.A.)
Dharani Kalotsav in Kochi
Come November art lovers in Kochi look forward to Dharani Kalotsav – the five-day festival of music and dance. As one entered the Kerala Fine Arts Hall, the fragrance of incense and the soft strains of Carnatic music in the background gave you a feel of the popular Margazhi festivals.
The festival opened with the Bharatanatyam recital by Vyjayanthimala Bali who gave a brilliant and unforgettable performance. The audience was overwhelmed by the hour-long performance by the 76-year old artist. Her presentation touched every viewer’s heart. Vyjayanthimala is a living example that age does not limit your performance skills. As the recital came to an end with the mangalam, the audience gave her a thundering ovation and prayed that the legend would continue to dance for many years.
Day two featured a Hindustani mandolin recital by Sugato Bhaduri. The raga chosen for the evening was Bagesree and the young musician was able to capture and sustain the attention of the audience. Lavanya Ananth, who performed in the young talent slot impressed with her flawless nritya and abhinaya.
On the third day, Dr. Anita Ratnam staged an entirely different concept of classical dance. The theme taken from Nachiar Tirumozhi was an unusual one and the solo ballet by this accomplished artist was noteworthy for its choreography. Excerpts taken from Jayadeva’s Geeta Govinda, with vocal by O.S. Arun, was the centerpiece of the evening. His rendering of Priye charusheele in Vaasanti raga brought out the beauty of both the dance and the music.
Nithyasree Mahadevan’s power packed performance on the fourth day was a musical treat. The main piece of the evening was the popular kriti Pakkala in Kharaharapriya. Among the tukkada-s, Narayana Hari Narayana in ragamalika and Naan oru vilayattu bommaya need special mention. The young talent slot that day featured Kalakshetra Haripadman and Divya. Haripadman was not new to Kochi rasika-s as he had played the role of Hanuman in the six-day long Ramayana series presented last year. This year, the couple stole the hearts of the audience with their excellent footwork and abhinaya.
The final day of the Kalotsav showcased the talents of the students of Dharani. The Mohini Attam repertoire presented by Shyamala Surendran and her Dharani Ensemble was a grand finale to the festival. The group of well trained dancers put up a memorable performance. The concluding piece Tat Twamasi depicting the story of Ayyapa was brilliantly choreographed by Shyamala. Kottakal Madhu needs special mention as his soulful rendering of the padam-s helped to highlight the essence of the dance.
Every day Ambalapuzha Vijayakumar rendered Sopana sangeetam in his bhakti laden voice. The festival hosted by Dharani Society provided a music and dance feast to art lovers of Kochi.
(a student of dance)
A novel meet called “Knowledge Swayamvaram” (Intellectual Academic Interaction) between research scholars and resource persons, was recently initiated by Dr. S. Amarnath, professor of History at Presidency College, in Chennai. Students got an opportunity to freely interact with eminent academicians, historians, and doyens in the field of arts. Amarnath was assisted in this venture by his brother Surendranath and sister Aparna (popularly known as the "Mylapore Trio") who run the Sri Sumukhi Rajasekharan Memorial Foundation.
Academicians like Dr. Nirmala Thyagarajan (former Principal and Joint Director of Collegiate Education), Leela Ganapathi (former Prof. and HOD, Dept. of History of Arts, Govt. College of Fine Arts, Chennai), Dr. Devaki (former professor and HOD of History, Vellalar College for Women, Erode), Dr. A. Chandrasekhar (former HOD of History IDE, University of Madras), Dr. Nalini Chandrasekhar (former Editor, Madras Archives), and distinguished personalities in the field of Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra like N.S. Jayalakshmi and Savithri Jagannatha Rao, who had been associated with Rukmini Devi, were in the panel. The experts felt it was a rejuvenating experience in their post-academic career to be able to share their expertise and knowledge with aspiring research scholars who were thrilled to interact with well known personalities.
Parupalli Jayanthi at Vijayawada
Parupalli Jayanthi at Vijayawada
'Gayaka Sarvabhouma' Sangeetha Parishat of Vijayawada has been conducting Sri Parupalli Ramakrishnayya Panthulu Jayanthi since 1996. The festival took place recently in the Govt. Music College premises. Modumudi Sudhakar (vocal) with K.V.Krishna (violin) and Yella Venkateswara Rao (mridanga) performed on the fourth day of the five-day festival.
Brhaddhvani presents Symposium “COMET and CONSERVATORIES A new perspective in Art Education”
Brhaddhvani presents Symposium “COMET and CONSERVATORIES A new perspective in Art Education”
Confers Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer Memorial Award “Brhad-Sangita Sethu” on Prof.Trichy Sankaran carrying a purse of Rs. 1 lac
Chennai. January 7, 2011. To mark their 21 years of pioneering work in the field of music education, Brhaddhvani, a Research and Training Centre for Music, held a Symposium titled ‘BRHADDHVANI’S COMET & CONSERVATORIES – a new perspective in Arts & Education. A first of its kind exchange between Conservatories, Research Institutions and Artistes, the symposium offered a platform for scholarly discussions, lecture-demos and performances.
Sri. Naresh Purushotham, Trustee welcomed the gathering and presented an overview of Correlated Objective Music Education and Training (COMET) in developing musical intelligence, through process-oriented music education.
Inaugurating the symposium, Sri. Anmol Vellani, Executive Director, India Foundation for Arts said, “Brhaddhvani’s music training methodology immensely widens and diversifies the constituency of people that can connect with Carnatic music according to their different interests and abilities. Brhaddhvani has worked to expand opportunities for less privileged young people with talent to learn music the Brhaddhvani way. The issue of social justice and greater democracy is implicit in Brhaddhvani’s music education endeavours.”
Chief Guest Smt. Arundhati Nag highlighted the research structure being conducted at Brhaddhvani in terms of voice culture, theatre, dance and the way it can help awaken an artist or a musician. “I can only say that this helps awaken areas of improvement in the early days of training and my keen desire is to see how to bring this into theatre."
It was an apt platform to recognise the contribution of Prof.Trichy Sankaran, who was conferred the Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer Memorial Award “Brhad-Sangita Sethu”.The Award was presented by jointly by Shri Anmol Vellani and Smt Arundhati Nag.
Presenting the citation, Dr.K.S.Subramanian, Founder and Chairman of Brhaddhvani said,“Trichy Sankaran symbolises COMET and is a living bridge between musical cultures.”
In his acceptance speech, Prof.Trichy Sankaran said, “ It’s a great privilege for me to be associated with Brhaddhvani since its inception. I will continue to associate myself with the good work of Brhaddhvani and promote its noble cause.”
The central theme of the symposium was structured education in Indian music forms. The symposium explored in detail the role of Research led training organisation like Brhaddhvani and the scope of partnership with Conservatories to preserve and propagate Indian musical traditions and heritage.
Dr. K.S. Subramanian presented the proven COMET methodology and its 12 core elements, in a lecture-demo format with the assistance of artists form other Art forms along with his senior students.
In his presentation on COMET, Dr.K.S.Subramanian, spoke about his journey as the 9th generation musician, from the prestigious Karaikudi family of Vina vidwans who were temple and court musicians from the late 18th century.
Having perfected the COMET methodology with the Karaikudi Conservatory, the institution has since researched extensively the great Carnatic music traditions of Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, Dhanammal (T.Vishvanathan), Pinakapani, Lalgudi, and Pazhani conservatories.
This detailed study of their repertoire from archived materials, presented through COMET will facilitate the preservation and propagation of their rich tradition.
Welcoming Smt. Jayashri to the Board of Trustees, he said that her induction would bring in the fresh impetus to the ongoing research and in extending boundaries and new partnerships for the Trust.
Smt.Bombay Jayashri Ramnath, presented the role of Conservatories and the importance of their partnership .Her presentation was richly punctuated with rare video clips of the masters from these traditions teaching at Brhaddhvani
A student of the Lalgudi Conservatory, she said, “The beauty of COMET is the sheer empowerment it gave the student. As student anybody can learn from any master without being a direct disciple. COMET literally opens up the world and offers a platform to learn from the maestros without dilution.”
The highlight of the forenoon session was a euphoric mridangam solo by Prof. Trichy Sankaran.
The session concluded with Sri.S.Muralidharan, Trustee proposing a vote of thanks and a spontaneous performance by Baby Nethra Rajesh, 31/2 years old who chanted the Durga Stotram in perfect melody and diction.
The event attracted representation from a wide cross section of Chennai’s Art and Music personalities, notable among them Sri. Dhananjayan, Sri.GJ.R Krishnan, and V.R.Devika