COVER STORY - ADYAR K. LAKSHMAN - A true sangeetagna by Janaki
Adyar K. Lakshman, vocalist, nattuvanar, mridangist and erstwhile dancer, is indubitably a sangeetagna, the complete expert in all the aspects of his vocation. Over the years he has received prestigious awards and titles for his popularity and prowess as a natyacharya. Citations for Kalaimamani (Eyal Isai Nataka Manram - 1981), Padma Shri (1989), Sangeet Natak Akademi award (1991), Sangeeta Kala Acharya (Music Academy), Nadhabrahmam (Narada Gana Sabha), adorn the walls of his sitting room. The latest feathers in his well decorated cap are Natya Kalanidhi (ABHAI – 2010) and Natya Kala Sarathy (2011). 77-year old Adyar Lakshman is one of Bharatanatyam’s foremost nattuvanar-s with a reputation for providing excellent support. As a member of the orchestral team, he has embellished the recitals of many famous dancers like Rukmini Devi, Kamala, Vyjayantimala Bali, Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, C.V. Chandrasekhar, the Dhananjayans, Yamini Krishnamurti, Sudharani Raghupathy, Lakshmi Viswanathan and the Narasimhacharis. He is a prolific teacher. Over 300 students have performed their arangetram under the banner of his dance school Bharata Choodamani in Chennai, which has branches abroad. (to be continued)
MAIN FEATURE - V.S. Muthuswami Pillai - His bani by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan
Something new and strange, but beautiful!” A pair of Muthuswami Pillai’s French disciples were performing an alarippu their guru had choreographed. The venue was a seminar on dance at the mini hall of The Music Academy, Madras, in the early 1980s. The traditional format was intact, but he had improvised and embellished, using movements hitherto unknown in Bharatanatyam. Alarippu, which had almost been given up on the concert platform, suddenly sprang to life as an enchanting new entity. That was my first taste of his “bani”. I read with interest the reviews that appeared the next week, one complimentary and the other critical. The latter condemned Pillai’s attempt to introduce an alien body language into Bharatanatyam. The next occasion came a few years later when N. Pattabhi Raman, Editor-in-Chief of Sruti asked me to be the anchor person to present Muthuswami Pillai’s bani in the National Seminar On Bharatanatyam Dance Traditions – organised by the Sruti Foundation in 1989. I was reluctant as I knew nothing of the guru or his bani – except for that solitary alarippu.
SPOTLIGHT - Issai Mazhalai – the youth revolution by K.S. Kalidas
Issai Mazhalai was launched this month a decade ago. The man is a bundle of energy. He is unconventional, thinks on his feet, takes quick-fire decisions and is idea-driven; some of his ideas are convention turned on its head. He is also computer-savvy, fun-loving, generous to a fault and, what is more, he relates to people across generations. He is none other than ‘Abaswaram’ Ramjhi, the man behind Issai Mazhalai. Why did Ramjhi call his group Issai Mazhalai? Mazhalai is the Tamil word for baby talk or prattle. The idea behind the name is that it is a group of children (sub-adults to be exact) engaged in the performance of music. ‘Issai’ for the obvious ‘Isai’ (meaning music) is Ramjhi’s maverick spelling! Numerology? We do not know. Again, the kids are not always kids. The youngest is around five and the oldest is 21! We do not associate a twenty-one-year old with ‘mazhalai’ but this is about the outer age limit, as around this time, they are retired from the troupe. Many are musically mature enough to satisfy a connoisseur with chaste fare. As they grow older and gain experience, their music only improves.
SAVAL-JAVAB - Keeping tradition alive
A series of interviews with musicians and dancers ‘Guru’ Karaikkudi Mani spoke to aboriginal musician Amos Roach Amos, you are one of the most well known aboriginal musicians. Tell us something about your background? My parents are Australian aboriginals. My father’s cultural origin is Gunditjmara and also Bundjalung, which is from New South Wales. My mother is from South Australia and her cultural origins are Ngarrindjeri from the river Murray of South Australia. Also known as Kokatha /Pitjatjantjarra. When my father was three, he was taken away from his parents. So was my mother, when she was eight. They had brothers and sisters. The welfare came and took them away to be brought up by White Australians. This practice of refining the aboriginal community started in the 1930s. My father was taken away in 1959. Today your parents are doing great service to the aboriginal community. My parents sing and for a long time they have been singing about the aboriginal people in Australia. They wrote songs about their life and the way the aboriginal people have grown up, living on missions and reserves. They also wrote about their families. They wrote about who they are and where they come from and also about growing up on the streets. My parents met when they were on the streets and stayed together. They wrote about how they lived homeless, how it was to drink, because they used to drink at that time. They stopped drinking after my brother and I were born. They wrote songs about how they felt when they were taken away. Since this was happening to a lot of the aboriginal people, the community could relate to such feelings.