Sakala Kalanidhi - The many facets of T.V. Gopalakrishnan
Tripunithura Viswanatha Iyer Gopalakrishnan, this year’s Sangita Kalanidhi designate, is a rarity among Carnatic musicians. He is a more versatile all rounder than most of his tribe, but he is also among the most lasting of them. As a mridanga vidwan, classical vocalist, composer, researcher, teacher, innovator and collaborator across genres and continents, he has remained fiercely independent and original all his life, attracting young talent and seekers of new horizons, assimilating foreign influences and impacting alien cultures, revelling in the attention, but never fearing the stray brickbats that came his way.
Though his main vocation is that of a mridanga vidwan and Carnatic vocalist, both steeped in the southern tradition, TVG can also play the violin. He has remained young at heart with the help of his uninhibited foray into Hindustani music, fusion music with jazz and other genres, and with his experiments with materials and techniques to improve the mridangam, as well as the voice in classical music. His eclectic spirit of inclusion has widened his student base to include film, jazz and classical musicians from outside the world of Carnatic music. At 82, he has the physique and energy of a young man, dresses nattily in silk jibbas and zari veshtis, wears stylish earstuds, ash, kumkumam and sandal marks on his forehead, and a rakish moustache, brushing his hair back in a nice bob even while presenting a thinning front. A friendly, sometimes mischievous smile and glint in his eye draw him easily to young and old alike.
MANGAD NATESAN - A revered guru of Kerala
Octogenarian Mangad K. Natesan is one of the most revered gurus of Carnatic music in Kerala. He has a large number of disciples (and their disciples) spread all over the state. He has groomed three generations of musicians over the past six decades. Some of his disciples are known in the concert circuit as well as cinema, some are Ph.D holders and academicians in music, and some are music composers.
2014 has been a special year for Natesan as three prestigious honours have come seeking him – the Music Academy’s Sangita Kala Acharya award, the Guruvayur Devaswom’s Sree Guruvayurappan Chembai Puraskaram, and the Kerala Sangeet Natak Academy’s Fellowship. Yet the master is as stoic as ever – his world is confined to music – singing and teaching – and interacting with occasional visitors.
The season, 75 years ago
The 1939 season posed a new challenge to the two major sabhas that conducted music and dance programmes in December – the Music Academy and the Indian Fine Arts Society (IFAS). With the commencement of the Second World War, restrictions were imposed on holding large public meetings in open pandals. The previous year, the two organisations had decided to conduct their conference (morning sessions) jointly and these were held in the garden of the Woodlands Hotel in Royapettah. The Academy held its concerts also at the same venue while the IFAS had them at Gokhale Hall, Armenian Street. In 1939, what with war economies also being in place, the two sabhas had to come closer – conference and concerts were to be organised jointly and that meant a new venue, large enough to accommodate members of both sabhas.
Gokhale Hall, the IFAS venue was ruled out as it could not accommodate the large audience regularly turning out for the season. It was left to K.V. Krishnaswamy Iyer, the dynamic president of the Music Academy to find a way out. As a member of the Syndicate of the University of Madras, he was able to obtain sanction to conduct the season at the Senate House. There were howls of protest when the announcement was made, for everyone including Prof. P. Sambamoorthy, complained about the poor acoustics in the great hall of the Senate House. The location on South Beach Road also made it inaccessible to public transport especially in the late hours of the evening when the second concert would get over. There were also no eateries in the vicinity. But once he had made a decision, there was no turning back for KVK. He however, did seriously address all issues. Cloth canopies and hangings were designed, stitched and put up which together with loudspeakers ensured that the music was heard well at the farthest ends of the great hall. As for transport, special bus arrangements were made connecting Senate House with Mylapore, Mambalam, Egmore, Purasawalkam and George Town. Season tickets at Rs. 2-As4 were also made available for availing of the bus service.
LITERATURE, THEATRE AND DANCE - Reducing the divide
The 1960s, were eventful years for the Tamil literary movement in Tamil Nadu. Closely following the inspirational outpourings of Subramania Bharati and supported by widespread reading of Indian and Western literature, writers like Va.Ra., T.K.C., Na. Pichchamoorthy, Ku.Pa. Rajagopalan, Pudumai-p-pitthan, Ka.Na.Su., C.S. Chellappa, B.S. Ramaiah, Mouni and others were emerging as trendsetters of newness in Tamil writing. It was the golden period of the Tamil literary movement when magazines like Mani-k-Kodi, Saraswathy, Ezhuthu, were active. The writers of the period lived on dreams, imagination, creativity and artistic experiences. Their world was confined to literature, literary experience and literary expression alone. They wrote not for money, though they did not refuse money when it was offered. They did not consider it necessary to acquire new skills. Writing was a ‘tapas’ for them. They were a rare tribe – uncompromising in the values they cherished.