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The story behind the discs
The story behind the discs ‘FOR TRADITION, TURN TO NEDUNURI’
The story behind the discs

On 1 January 1968, I went to the Gita Govinda Hall in Mumbai with members of the family I was staying with in Chembur. I was learning tabla from Pandit Taranath Rama Rao, the eldest son in a family of musicians. His younger brothers were K. Sridhar who was learning the sarod, and K. Shivakumar the violin, from Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar.

The occasion was a performance of bhajans by Swamy Haridhos. The family were his devotees and Shivakumar was going to play with him that night. Swamy Haridhos was accompanied by harmonium vidwan Muthunatesa Bhagavatar and Nellai P.S. Devarajan, who became my mridangam guru after that night. I had with me a Nagra tape recorder and the recording from that very concert was released on my Country & Eastern label a few years ago.

As my tabla guru had just left for the United States to teach at Ravi Shankar’s school in California, I soon decided to study mridangam and went to Tirunelveli where I lived for more than a year, with frequent interruptions by tours with Swamy Haridhos. On one of those tours we were in Nagarcoil and my guru was engaged to accompany Nedunuri Krishnamurthy in a concert held in a street crossing where a stage had been built and the traffic redirected. The fine violin vidwan Pudukottai R. Ramanathan was also taking part. It was a beautiful concert lasting for four hours as was quite common in those days and luckily I had my tape recorder with me and recorded the complete concert.

I have listened to this music quite often during the past 46 years and since the sound quality is excellent I decided to try and make a CD out of it. I sought vidwan Nedunuri’s permission to do so. With the able help of his sishyas the Malladi Brothers, I tried to get all the correct details – song titles, composers and ragas, and was able to produce and release the complete concert on three CDs in quite a beautiful album titled Sangita Kalanidhi Nedunuri Krishnamurthy: For Tradition, Turn to Nedunuri, produced in Sweden. This means that this album will be more costly than your average box of CDs but when you see and hear it you will understand why.

Unfortunately, as you know, Nedunuri Sir passed away recently, but at least he knew about and heard the album and was very happy about it. This turned our function into something sadder and more of a farewell occasion than the intended joyous celebration. The vidwans present all spoke about Nedunuri Sir, sharing memories and highlighting his importance in the Carnatic music world and his daughter Valli explained that she was so happy since, strangely enough, there are actually no recordings available with Nedunuri from that period.

With the help of the Malladi Brothers, Karaikudi Mani, Rajeswari Sainath, Choka Mela (who took the photos on the occasion) and others, we held the release function at Srinivasa Gandhi Nilayam on 21 December 2014 in the presence of violin vidwan Pudukottai R. Ramanathan, P.S. Devarajan’s son D. Kannan, Trichy Sankaran and many others.

BENGT BERGER
(Swedish jazz musician (drummer), composer and producer)
Date : 14-03-2015
BOOK RELEASE - Balasaraswati – Her Art And Life. By Douglas Knight
BOOK RELEASE - Balasaraswati – Her Art And Life. By Douglas Knight Former West Bengal Governor Gopalakrishna Gandhi released Douglas Knight’s biography of Balasaraswati at the TAG Centre, Alwarpet, in Chennai. He waxed eloquent about Bala – about his first experience of Bala’s mastery of abhinaya as he looked down at the stage from the balcony of the Music Academy many winters ago. Gandhi spoke also about the great musicians of a bygone era, like MSS, DKP and MLV, while drawing parallels between two great exponents of Bharatanatyam of the same era – Bala and Rukmini Devi. MS ruled the skies, DKP had her feet planted firmly on earth, while MLV bridged the two extremes, Gandhi said. Rukmini Devi and Bala had their differences that were legendary; Rukmini Devi was akin to MS in reaching for the stars, while Bala, like DKP, stood on the ground, unmindful of what anyone would think or say.

In a brief but lively audience interaction, Douglas Knight emphasised the unique contribution made by Bala and and her family to the propagation of Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music in the West since the early 1960s.

Leela Samson, Director of Kalakshetra and Chairperson, SNA, who received the first copy of the book said that notwithstanding the differences that existed between Rukmini Devi and Bala, she a Kalakshetra student, sneaked out to watch some of Bala’s performances in Madras.

The event commenced with the screening of a documentary on Bala produced by Wesleyan University, Connecticut. Only two documentaries were made on Bala – during Bala’s debut trip to the US in 1962 at Wesleyan, and the other by Satyajit Ray in 1977. It was a treat to hear Bala sing an alapana with such command and clarity as a prelude to Krishna ne begane baro, followed by her performing to the song. Bala’s expressions were awesome. In reply to a query on how the Western audience looked at Bala, Knight said “In awe”.

The book is lucidly written, seamlessly flowing through. Douglas Knight has obviously made this his life’s mission. The biography does full justice to Bala.

Knight has tried to look at Bala and her extended family from various angles – as an outsider, as related through marriage, and as a student and layman who learnt to accompany her. His inputs are based on first-hand information through his wife Lakshmi, who was Bala’s daughter, trusted confidante and aide.

The book is a must-read for the connoisseur and aficionados of music and dance. It will always occupy pride of place in my library.
Date : 13-02-2012
Nandanar Charithram
Nandanar Charithram Gopalakrishna Bharati’s NANDANAR CHARITHRAM. Bharatanatyam by Bala Devi Chandrashekar. One DVD and two audio CDs for dance (with English and Tamil narration). [Swathi’s Sanskriti Series. Rs. 750.]

The devotional impact of the poetry of Gopalakrishna Bharati has found an inspiring enactment in the dance narrative presented by Baladevi Chandrasekhar, a senior disciple of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Baladevi has meticulously chosen 27 compositions – gems from the well-known opera Nandanar Charitram. She has followed the story-line in an unbroken chain of narration, enriching it with her skilful and devoted approach.

Excellent music provided by the orchestra comprising Padma Sankar and Kuldeep Pai (vocal), veteran Karaikudi Krishnamurti (mridanga), Karaikudi Sivakumar (nattuvangam), S. Revati (veena) and E. Devaraj (flute). adds a rich dimension to this production.

Baladevi, a skilful student of Bharatanrityam has proved her years of experience and control over the intricate nuances of her chosen tradition. She emulates her respected teacher in the essence of every movement that she performs. The ease with which she is able to enact the varied stances, the chari-s, the gatis, and the grace with which she arrives at every point of execution deserve praise. Her performance is coated with a refreshing touch, exhibiting beauty in execution and poise in its presentation.

Sivaloka nathanai, Aadiya paadattai, Yarukku ponnambalam, and Varugalaamo are soulful renderings that find wholesome treatment in the narrative technique of Baladevi. Through this production, Baladevi gives a lively glimpse into the journey of the ardent devotee Nandan towards divine bliss. A sincere, fruitful effort.

NANDINI RAMANI
Date : 10-01-2012
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