June 2024 - Kannan Balakrishnan & Aravinth Kumarasamy

  • Published By: Sruti
  • Issue: 465

CONTENTS              Vol. 31  Issue 2  June 2024

6      Sruti box

8      Opinion

10    News & notes

18    Kannan Balakrishnan

28   Aravinth Kumarasamy

37    Debate vTogether Apart: The divided art world

39   Centenary tribute vPandit Kumar Gandharva

42   Heritage vJagannatha Bhaktha Sabha

44   Saval-Javab vRajeswari & Vyshnavie Sainath

49   Explained v Social Media & the Performing Arts

51    Instruments v Mridangam: The double-sided drum

56   News & notes (continued)

64   Snapshorts

66   From the Editor

Front Cover:  Kannan Balakrishnan
        Aravinth Kumarasamy


No. 465         APRIL-JUNE 2024 (Quarterly)


Cover Story - Veena Kannan Balakrishnan

In tune with versatility:Kannan Balakrishnan    

V. Balasubramanian

Coming from a family celebrated for its musical heritage, Kannan Balakrishnan’s mastery of music is no surprise. From a young age, he garnered acclaim for his virtuosity on the veena, studying under the esteemed Vasantha Krishnamurthy and Pichumani Iyer. He also excelled in rendering ragas, guided by veena maestro S. Balachander. In addition to his stringed
expertise, Kannan has achieved recognition as a percussionist. Despite his lack of formal training in percussion, his adeptness with instruments like the suddha maddalam and the khanjira has won him considerable praise.

Born on 26 June 1964, Kannan demonstrated an early talent for music. He won the Young Veena Artist award from the Narada Gana Sabha in 1995 and other awards from cultural institutions such as the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and The Music Academy, Chennai.

Kannan earned a commerce degree from Vivekananda College, Chennai, where he also served as the Cultural Secretary. He further developed his leadership skills as the Founder-President of the Youth Association for Classical Music (YACM) in 1985 and was one of the early recipients of the Yuva Kala Bharati title in 1988 from Bharat Kalachar, Chennai.

His international career includes performances across North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and he represented India at the Festival of India in the Soviet Union in 1987. Kannan has composed music for various projects, including dance recitals and documentaries.

As a scholar of Sanskrit and Vedic studies, Kannan represented the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam at the World Hindu Conference in Bali in 1993 and has served as the Honorary Cultural Secretary at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Chennai. He is the Secretary of Nrithyodaya, Chennai (founded by his grandfather, Director K. Subrahmanyam in 1942). He is also the Trustee-Secretary of the Director K. Subrahmanyam Memorial Trust and the Bharata-Ilango Foundation for Asian Culture.

Cover Story - Aravinth Kumarasamy

Beyond Borders: The Creative Odyssey of Aravinth Kumarasamy                        

Anjana Anand

Giving up a high-flying corporate job to work in the arts full-time takes a giant leap of faith. Aravinth Kumarasamy did just that and can look back today with a sense of achievement and pride as the receiver of Singapore’s prestigious Cultural Medallion for artistic excellence. It is rare to find a multi-faceted artist with administrative and business experience.

Apsaras Arts was founded in 1977 by S. Sathyalingam and Neila Sathyalingam (alumni of Kalakshetra), and it emerged in its new avatar when Aravinth took the mantle in 2005. It seems as if his entire artistic learning was gearing him for this new responsibility. Under his leadership, Apsaras Arts is now a centre of learning and a fully-fledged repertory company that performs on international stages.

The mark of a visionary is also the ability to recognise and harness the talents of fellow artists. Aravinth’s discerning eye has brought together many artistic minds collaborating to make his productions successful. A creative director who dares to take risks, his foray into cross-cultural collaborative works is a hallmark of Apsaras Arts productions. Aravinth has an infectious energy which brings artists of all ages together.

A dancer, vainika, choreo­grapher and composer, Aravinth is the proud recipient of several awards, including the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award (1999), Bharata Kala Mani (Apsaras Arts, 2000), Kala Ratna (Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society, 2019), Natya Kala Upasana (Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, 2019) and the Kala Seva Bharathi (Bharat Kalachar, 2023).

Interview - Rajeswari & Vyshnavie Sainath

A senior Bharatanatyam dancer from Hyderabad, Rajeswari Sainath has been performing for the last    four decades and has intelligently combined several abstract topics such as neurosciences and mathematics with dance. Trained under mridangam maestro Karaikudi Mani on laya intricacies, her repertoire combines traditionalism and experimentation. With a wide range of performances in India and abroad, Rajeswari was the first to conceive a medical dance ballet. Her presentation, Neurobiology of DanceConnecting Mind and Body Neural Circuits Modulating Through Dance, was a unique production. 

An ‘A-top’ graded artist by the Doordarshan Kendra, Chennai, Rajeswari has choreographed and performed on diverse themes in various languages. Some of the prominent ballets are – Nava Durga Charitam – nine forms of Goddess Devi; Gita Upadesham, Shakuntala Prema Kavya, Krishna Darshan, a ballet in Hindi; Pancha Bhoota KshetramPanduranga – abhangs in Marathi, and Menaka, Ahalya, Gandhari, a production in English. She has also done a range of work concerning social issues.  

A receiver of many awards including the Nritya Choodamani (2005), Rajiv Pratibha Puraskar Award from the Government of Andhra Pradesh (2006), Vikas Shiromani Puraskar and the Nrityakala Sagara from Kalasagaram, Secunderabad, Rajeswari is the Director of Sruthi Laya Kendra Natarajalaya, an institution founded in collaboration with guru Karaikudi Mani. 

Centenary Tribute - Pt Kumar Gandharva

The ultimate rebel of Hindustani vocalism                    

Deepak S. Raja

Pandit Kumar Gandharva (1924-1992) was easily the most original, and the most controversial Hindustani vocalist of the 20th century. His music elicited extreme reactions – either fanatical adulation or outright hostility. But, his musicianship was never in doubt. By the time he breathed his last, he had been decorated with the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan, the Kalidas Samman, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and a Fellowship of the Akademi.

Kumar Gandharva was the ultimate rebel of Hindustani music. His music bore no obvious resemblance to that of any 20th century vocalist. He defied the structural norms of khayal presentation, created new ragas, new bandishes, and new styles of voice production and handling melody. His music was refreshing, aggressive, dramatic, and overpowering. But, it was also elusive and mercurial. At the end of his performance, nothing remained for assessment or analysis. The originality of his music could even have launched a new gharana, had he maintained a semblance of architecture in its presentation.

Vamanrao Deshpande, his most sympathetic critic, considers Kumar Gandharva the chief romanticist of Hindustani vocalism. As an artistic movement, romanticism emphasises the soliciting, rather than merely eliciting, of an emotional response as the primary effort of music. To this extent, Deshpande considers Kumar Gandharva a forerunner of Kishori Amonkar and Pandit Jasraj.