Let’s Arts, an initiative by The Sruti Foundation, Chennai, has been created to sensitise and cultivate an ear for Indian classical music among corporates and colleges—spaces it has not reached before—through formats that are fun, accessible, engaging and enriching. The series is envisaged as a quarterly engagement over a year at each venue to create sustained interest and appreciation for classical music. The initiative has been designed and curated by Aalaap, an arts management company in Chennai, to provide an opportunity to those with no exposure to the arts to be able to engage with it, without being intimidated by its form or content. The debut edition of Let’s Arts took off at Tech Mahindra’s Chennai campus in March 2019 and featured three young and talented classical musicians from Chennai—vocalists Bharathi Ramasubban and Vignesh Ishwar and percussionist Sumesh Narayanan.
A first-generation performing artist, Amritha Murali, born on 16 July 1982 to Rama and G. Murali, is an established vocalist and an accomplished violinist. Amritha continued to do both comfortably until recently when she decided to concentrate on her solo performances as a vocalist and also to resolve this identity crisis of whether she is a violinist or vocalist. Amritha enjoys a musical pedigree that includes some outstanding gurus. Hardworking and dedicated to the art, she is among the more talented Carnatic vocalists of today. Endowed with a mellifluous voice and sharp intellect, she has displayed a steady growth over the years. Amritha’s performances combine erudition and emotion. Her presentation may not be flamboyant but her holistic approach to the art and her orthodox vocalisation devoid of populist impulses have helped her gain a lot of appreciation from rasikas and critics.
It is not often that one meets an artist who excels in two different classical forms, makes a home in the U.S.A. and continues to pursue the arts with the same passion for over six decades. Rathna Papa, as she is popularly known, is a trailblazer whose commitment to Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi has earned her recognition not only in the US but back home where she made history by becoming the very first Indian American to receive the coveted honour in the arts—the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Excellence in Kuchipudi. Rathna has many ‘firsts’ to her credit. The first student of Guru K.J. Sarasa and senior most performing disciple of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam, she was the first graduate of the Kuchipudi Art Academy to receive a Govt. of India Scholarship for Kuchipudi. Rathna founded the first Indian dance school in Texas (also one of the first in the US)—the Anjali Center for Performing Arts, in 1975, and became the only Indian American dancer to be nominated to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame (2002) and receive a Congressional Recognition (2000). She is responsible for bringing Indian dance to Texas, taking it to the mainstream, and making it an integral part of most Texas International cultural and art festivals and events, especially in her home town of Houston, where she has lived for almost 45 years, and where her name has become synonymous with Indian dance.
Born into a family of musicians of the fabled Sufiana gharana, Bhajan Sopori hails from Sopore, a village in Kashmir known for its apples and tranquil Wular lake. The family has played the santoor for over nine generations. Born in 1948, Bhajan Sopori learnt to play the santoor from his grandfather S.C. Sopori and later received rigorous training from his father Shambhoo Nath Sopori. A versatile musician, he plays the sitar, Hawaiian guitar and the piano too. An innovator and an intellectual, Sopori holds double Masters degrees in Indian classical music and M.A. in English literature. He has also studied Western classical music at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A. A voracious reader and a life-long learner, his knowledge ranges from literature, metaphysics, maths, psychology to raga sastra and sound therapy! The time he spent with Sufi saints was a life changer; he believes that his determination and thirst for knowledge stemmed from it. Long hours of dedicated practice, working non-stop for days together without feeling tired or worn out are some of the inspirations he gained through this experience.
6 Sruti Box
10 News & Notes
20 Birthday calendar
22 Bhajan Sopori
28 The Indian diaspora v Rathna Papa Kumar
36 Interview v Amritha Murali
42 Analysis v The maha melaragamalika
44 New initiative v Sruti Foundation launches Let’s Arts
48 Tribute v Hemamalini Arni
50 From the Editor
Cover: Rathna Kumar (photo
by Avinash Pasricha),