Song of Surrender

Friday, 20 October 2017

Mangala Isai Competition

Chennai Fine Arts will conduct a Mangala Isai competition featuring Nagasvaram and Tavil on Saturday, 18th November 2017 at Sri Krishna Mandiram, 19/1 Canal Road, Kamarajar Nagar, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. Students not graded by AIR and less than 25 years of age are eligible to participate.

Application forms and rules of the competition can be downloaded from www.chennaifinearts.com  Filled in applications should be submitted on or before 10th November at Chennai Fine Arts, 75/9 First Main Road, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai - 600 020.

Applications received after the deadline will not be entertained. Three prizes will be awarded in each category. Winners of first prize will receive monthly scholarship for an year and the other two will be cash prizes which will be presented on the inaugural day of the annual music festival of Chennai Fine Arts on 21st DecemberFor further details contact Chennai Fine Arts at 8939664030. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Arvind Parikh

19.10.1927
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Arvind Parikh is a Hindustani classical musician and sitar player. Arvind Parikh is having a performing career spanning over six decades. Association with different learned musicians and vocalists helped him in his research work on different rare ragas and compositions. B. R. Deodhar, Latafat Hussain Khan, Amir Khan, Niyaz Ahmad-Faiyaz Ahmad Khan, D. T. Joshi, Radhika Mohan Maitra need special mention here. He has performed in India and abroad. He has been featured at almost all major music festivals in India and Europe, and has had very successful concert tours in several parts of West Asia, Far East and Australia. Parikh is a regular broadcaster on All India Radio. His approach towards music, collection of authentic bandishes (compositions), and approach of teaching were praised. Parikh has numerous students internationally including musicologist Deepak Raja, music director Tushar Bhatia, sitarists Rafat Khan Niyazi, Vinayak Chitter, Ramprapanna Bhattacharya, Abhik Mukherjee, Ganesh Mohan, and more. His daughter Purvi Parikh is also a classical vocalist and learnt music from many greats including her parents. Mrs. Parikh was disciple of Niyaz Ahmad-Faiyaz Ahmad Khan of Kirana Gharana. Parikh has documented most of the precious compositions and ragas. "Sitar Guru","Bandish Parampara" published by Navras records UK are some of the testimonies of his work.

Parikh worked as musicologist, teacher, cultural ambassador, and promoted initiatives aimed at increasing interest in Hindustani classical music n India and abroad. He was vice president of the International Music Council (UNESCO) during 1994-97 and is currently co-ordinator for the Indian sub-continent. He is President of the Indian Musicological Society, chairman of the Western India Chapter of ITC-Sangeet Research Academy. Parikh conceived establishing a forum at which all segments of the music world could meet to discuss issues of common interests. Music forums are established in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi. He is currently spearheading an association of 12 classical musicians, called All India Musicians’ Group (AIMG) - drawn from the Carnatic and Hindustani traditions (including Zakir Hussain, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Ravi Kiran, Rajan and Sajan Mishra), to create greater support in government, industry and the media for Indian classical music.

Parikh has been awarded the Gaurav Puraskar for the year 1997-98 by the Gujarat State Sangeet Natak Academy. He has also been awarded the National Award by Sangeet Natak Akademi for Instrumental music (sitar) for the year 2003. He is a top grade artist and a regular broadcaster of All India Radio.

Palladam Sanjeeva Rao

18.10.1882 - 11.7.1962
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Sanjeeva Rao was born on 18 October 1882, in Palladam in the Coimbatore district of the then Madras Presidency. He was the youngest of the three sons of Palladam Venko- bachar, an ardent devotee of Anjaneya, who had the reputation of possessing tantric powers that helped him cure severe illnesses. The father depended on donations to maintain himself and his family, but his reputation extended to the adjoining districts of Tiruchi and Salem also. It was this reputation apparently that paved the way for Sanjeeva Rao's career in music.

Flutist Palladam Sanjeeva Rao belonged to the era, if not the race, of giants who dominated Car- natic classical music for about three decades from the nineteen twenties. He was the uncrowned king of the flute-until a prodigy called T.R. Mahalingam came along and revolutionised the Carnatic flute. He did not quite lose his throne to the revolutionary, for he continued to be respected by his peers and supported by the Establishment but he was no longer quite the sovereign he was.

Sanjeeva Rao was a disciple and successor of Sarabha Sastri but, even in the early nineteen thirties, there were not many who had heard the blind bard of the bamboo often enough to confirm that, although Rao had inherited Sastri's flute, he had also acquired his style and his mastery of the instrument at the same level. Writting in Personalities In Present. Day Music, published in 1933, the late E. Krishna Iyer, connoisseur and critic and a force at the Madras Music Academy, could only say: "The echoes of that Orpheus of India (Sarabha Sastri) are said to be discernible in the present in Sanjeeva Rao ". There is no doubt, how- ever, that Sanjeeva Rao had attained enough proficiency to establish himself as a prominent player in the major league.

   To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 67

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale

17.10.1869 - 8.4.1922
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Bhaskar Raghunath Bakhale  (also known as Bhaskarrao or Bhaskarbua or Bhaskarbuwa) was a Hindustani classical vocalist, a composer, and a teacher.

During 1883–1885, Bakhale performed as a child artist in the stage plays of Kirloskar Natak Mandali where Bhaurao Kolhatkar, Moroba Wagholikar, and Balakoba Natekar earned much fame as singers of folksy and light classical stage songs. After completing his training in classical music, Bakhale returned as a classical vocalist in year 1899 or so.[4] During 1897–1901, he served as a professor of music at a training college in Dharwad. Starting year 1901, he was based in Mumbai and Pune but performed throughout India and Nepal. He was given the honorary title "Deva Gandharva" (God Among Celestial Musicians).[7] His notebook lists dhrupads and dhamars learnt by him but he rarely performed those in public. His typical recital comprised khyal ragas and an assortment of dadratappathumribhajan, songs from Marathi stage plays, and traditional Marathi light classical forms. He also had a successful career as the music director of Kirloskar Natak Mandali and, afterwards, of Gandharva Natak Mandali.[8] Govindrao Tembe benefited from Bakhale's advisement in composing music for the stage play Sangeet Manapman (1911).

Bakhale was one of the first vocalists to receive traditional training from multiple gharana systems.[2] Since the turn of the 17th century, Hindustani classical music had become a stronghold of Muslim musicians and Balakrishnabuwa Ichalkaranjikar (1840–1926) was one of the few Hindu vocalists to earn fame at it in the 19th century.

Monday, 16 October 2017

G Vijayaraghavan

Musicians for Classical Dance

By Anjana Anand


G. Vijayaraghavan is one of those musicians who have not received the recognition their artistry deserves. A mridangam and khanjira artiste, nattuvanar, lyricist and composer all rolled into one, Vijayaraghavan is at home in both the Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam worlds. With over three decades of experience in playing for dance, he has honed his skills as a mridangist par excellence. Today, he is also a sought after composer of jatis and lyrics. His sensitive approach to literature and music can be seen in his unique style of accompaniment in a dance performance.  Asked if he wonders if true recognition has eluded him, G. Vijayaraghavan shrugs with a contented smile and replies,  ‘ The satisfaction I experience everytime I perform is my reward. In the two hours that I am on stage, I am immersed in the creative world of rhythm, music and dance. Can an artiste want anything more?’

Who and what were the major influences in your childhood?


I was exposed to music and literature from a young age. My father played the violin, though not professionally. He was a Sanskrit pundit whose passion was to compose slokas in Sanskrit when he was not in his office. His last work was composing the Ramayana in 80 lines. I hope to publish all his works sometime in the future.

Please tell us about your mridangam training.


From a young age, my fingers were constantly drumming on any surface I could find. I started learning the mridangam at the age of six from Madurai T. Srinivasan. After his transfer to Hyderabad, I came under the guidance of Kumbakonam T.V Balu.  Turaiyur Rajagopla Sarma presided over my arangetram in 1980 at the Sai Baba temple. I accompanied Vijay Siva in my first concert. 

I was very clear in my mind that I wanted to be a mridanga vidwan. I even refused an evening college seat because it meant that I could not perform in concerts. I did work for a short time (1985-87) at the KFI school, teaching mridangam, but I soon realized that I needed the time and freedom to pursue music the way I wanted to. 

When did you enter the Bharatanatyam field?


In 1986, I received a call from Vyjayantimala to play for her performance. I had absolutely no experience in playing for dance, but thanks to her guidance, I learnt the skills needed to adapt to playing for Bharatanatyam.  I had only ten days to train for the performance and we had marathon sessions from morning to night. I played exclusively for Vyjayantimala from 1986 to 1991.

Who were the other dancers who helped you in your initial entry into the field?


Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam was a tremendous influence in my early career. I started playing for her in 1991. My first performance abroad was with her in London. I played extensively for her for a decade. All the nuances and training I received for accompanying a Bharatanataym artiste, I owe to both these doyennes. What really inspired me to enjoy playing for dance was the freedom they gave me to explore my own creativity. I learnt a valuable lesson from both of them. True mentors not only instruct but allow you to express yourself so that the learning becomes internalized and allows you to stand confidently on your own two feet.

What were some of the challenges in the initial phase?


In cutcheris, the mridangist works fully with his own manodharma, responding to the music.  In Bharatanatyam there is an added track that we have to tune in to – the dancer’s feet! Vyjayantimala used to always remind me, “Just as a concert mridangist observes the vocalist’s mouth and plays, a dance mridangist must not take his eyes off the dancer’s feet.  We have to be aware of the music while simultaneously supporting the footwork of the dancer. For this, you need to know the adavu system and the modulation of sound needed for each adavu . In fact, I learnt dance for a short while just to understand this better. I learnt all the basic adavus and hastas.

The importance of silence was something inculcated in me from my mridangam training. My guru always said that you need not play continuously to show your vidwat. At times, letting the listener enjoy the sound of the singer merging with the sruti shows our musical maturity.

I apply this same principle to dance. Sometimes I let the music take over and at other times, I fill in a gap to give the moment the right effect. It all comes with experience.

Many who have worked with you or heard you play often comment that your style of playing the mridangam is very distinct. 

Yes, over the years, I have developed my own system of playing. It is a combination of techniques used in music concerts and while playing for dance.  While it is possible for a mridangist for dance to play for a cutcheri, it is not possible the other way around unless he is accustomed to playing for Bharatanatyam. I have played for many stalwarts like Kittappa Pillai and Seetarama Sarma. Kittappa Pillai’s jatis have their own stamp. The adavus and sollukattus are set in different patterns. Many times, the adavus are in a slower pace than the jatis. Similarly, Sarma Sir’s jatis have their own musical quality and cross rhythms in the adavu patterns. Exposure to all these styles of jathis gave me an understanding of composing for dance.

You have a passion for composing lyrics...

From a young age, I have been drawn to poetry. I am sure that my father’s interest in Sanskrit played a pivotal role. I used to recite the sahasranamam at the temple at a young age. I write in Tamil, Sanskrit and Manipravalam. My father used to guide me when I first started composing. In 1991, I started composing lyrics for dancers and released a book and CD Nritya Gaanaamrutham. I was fortunate to have Dr. Balamuralikrishna tune my compositions for a full margam which I composed later. Other musicians who have tuned my compositions include C.N Thiagarajan, Hariprasad and recently Rajkumar Bharathi. 

Looking back, I think my early exposure to Divya Prabandhams and research in Tiruppugazh influenced my style of writing. In fact, I composed a whole margam based on tiruppugazhs. I feel that the poetic value of the lyrics have to be very high. At the same time, for dance, they must have a dramatic and emotional quality. They must tell a story. When I write lyrics, I do not force the words. I write when the ideas come to me naturally and there is a creative flow.

Composing jatis


I started composing jatis many years ago. In 2013, I was asked to present a lecture/demonstration on ‘Rhythms and Vibrations’ at the Natya Kala Conference convened by Priyadarsini Govind.  I spoke about the technical aspects of composing jatis and presented a variety of jatis I had composed.

I used to play for our family friend, Vidya Bhavani Murthy (a student of K.J Sarasa) in 1988-89. I started composing then but it took years to fine-tune and develop my skills.  Over the years, many dancers have asked me to compose the rhythmic sections for their recordings. I found that I enjoyed composing jatis and continue to do so for many leading artistes.

What are some of the points to keep in mind while composing jatis?


Firstly, we must ensure that there is a proper structure to the jati, and secondly, use sollu kattus of the same ‘family’. The composer must also know the kala pramanam, ragam and mood of the item he is composing for. I do not believe in using the same jatis for multiple varnams. Each composition has its own feel and tempo. I like to try different things while composing. A trikala jati I have composed in one cycle is often performed by Priyadasini Govind.

Today, jati composition has evolved tremendously and many traditionalists frown upon some of these new experiments. Have you faced a similar situation?


I still follow a traditional pattern when composing. Some of the early nattuvunars  were a great influence when I started composing. At the same time, I do not hesitate to experiment when it suits the composition and situation I am composing for. I think when there is clarity about that, an effort to create something new only adds to the flow of creativity in any field.

For example, I have composed a ‘mantra jati’ using the Devi bija aksharas. Similiarly using the syllables Namasivaya. During the Natya Kala Conference, a senior artiste commented that it was not appropriate to use such syllables for jati composition. My reply was that it can be used in productions and not in traditional margam compositions. These days, many jatis are composed using mridangam sollu kattus. I personally feel that this is avoidable. Bharatanatyam has its own traditional sollus which are distinct. I feel it is important to preserve that tradition. These controversies will always arise. The responsibility to carry forward the beauty of tradition is with each artiste.

Who are some of the artistes you have performed with over the years?


I have accompanied Dr. Balamuralikrishna, Kunnakudi R. Vaidyanathan and Lalgudi Jayaraman to mention a few. I have worked with most senior Bharatanatyam artistes. Two memorable jugal bandi performances were those of Sanjukta Panigrahi and Birju Maharaj with  Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. I was happy to do nattuvangam for a Bharatanatyam performance in cutcheri style curated by Umayalapuram Sivaraman, where he played the mridangam for Priyadarsini Govind. I have been playing for Hema Rajagopalan from Chicago since 1995. Over the years, I have played with the Chicago symphony orchestra and have collaborated with jazz musicians and modern dancers in Chicago.

What other instruments do you play?


I am a ‘B high’grade khanjira artiste at All India Radio. I have also done nattuvangam  for performances.

Some of the awards you have received?

I received the ‘Laya Kala Vipanchee’ award from Dr. Balamuralikrishna and the Dr. Sudharani Ragupathy Endowment from Narada Gana Sabha.

Sruti

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Sruti is an English language monthly magazine on the performing arts -- Indian music, dance, and theatre -- published from ChennaiIndia.
Sruti was founded in 1983 by Dr. N. Pattabhi Raman, who had returned to India from a career abroad, bringing with him a focus and skill for English writing and editing, as well as willingness to engage in sincere criticism and controversy. The magazine initially had financial difficulties, with Pattabhi Raman desiring to gain subscribers vice take out loans, and minimal support from corporations. The journal floundered somewhat following Pattabhi Raman's death in 2002, but as of 2003 it continued forward under staffers who rose to take over its leadership.[1] The magazine was acquired by the Sanmar Group in 2006, and has grown from strength to strength.[2]
Journalist S. Muthiah in 2011 referred to the publication as the country's leading journal on Indian Classical music and dance.

Mudicondan Venkatarama lyer

15.10.1887 - 13.9.1975
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Venkatarama Iyer, was a musician's musician whose mastery encompassed both the lakshana (canonical) and lakshya (aesthetic) aspects of Carnatic classical music. Specifically, he was considered an authority on alapana presentation and tanamand pallavi-singing. He was for many years one of the major draws at the morning sessions of the annual conference of the Madras Music Academy at which experts — mostly real experts in those days — delivered illuminating talks or erudite lecture-demonstrations and discusssed raga lakshana-s. His contributions to enlightenment in these areas eventually earned for him the Academy's Sangeeta Kalanidhi title which goes with the honour of presiding over the annual conference.

The journey to the top honour seems to have begun at his birth, for both his parents were musically gifted. His father Chakrapani Iyer was noted for his singing of raga-s and Tevaram-s which are the hymns in Tamil in praise of the divine composed by the saints of the bhakti tradition. In fact, his maternal grandfather Srivanchiyam Swaminatha Iyer was also noted for his singing ability; he specialized in singing pada-s and javali-s with a lilt of his own, which led his listeners to identify him as Talukku [Glitter] Swaminatha Iyer.

                                                          To read full story, visit sruti.com and buy Sruti 159

Vempati Chinna Satyam

15.10.1929 - 29.7.2012
Birthdays & Anniversaries
Vempati Chinna Satyam was an Indian dancer and a guru of the Kuchipudi dance form.Chinna Satyam was born in KuchipudiAndhra Pradesh. He was taught by Vedantam Lakshmi Narayana Sastry. He then refined his art by learning from Sri Tadepally Perrayya Sastry and later was trained by his elder brother Sri Vempati Pedda Satyam in expressions. As he learnt the nuances of this style of dance, he was successful in popularising the Kuchipudi dance form all over the world. 
Chinna Satyam sublimated and systematised Kuchipudi, giving it a more classical basis. He refined the art form, bringing it closer to the standards of Natya Shastra and gave it a whole new perspective and introduced new elements, e.g. chari (leg movements) of Natya Shastra that are significantly different from the interpretations of other dance authorities, such as Padma Subrahmanyam. Previously, it had been considered a "rustic" (folk) form of dance.

Chinna Satyam started the Kuchipudi Art Academy at Madras in 1963. The Academy has to its credit more than 180 solo items and 15 dance dramas composed and choreographed by Satyam. These solo items and dramas have been staged all over India and abroad. He composed his first dance drama Sri Krishna Parijatham in the same period followed by another hit Ksheera Sagara Madanam and played the lead role. His portrayal of Lord Shiva and his choreography was well received.

N. Ramani

15.10.1934 - 9.10.2015
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Dr. Natesan Ramanicommonly known as N. Ramani or N. Flute Ramani, was an Indian Carnatic flautist. He was awarded the Madras Music Academy's Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1996. Ramani is also credited for introducing the long flute into Carnatic music.
Ramani performed his first concert at the age of 8. The turning point in Ramani's career was when he became a disciple of his maternal uncle and eminent flautist, In 1945, Ramani performed his first concert on All India Radio. Following Ramani's first concert at the Madras Music Academy in 1956,at the age of 22, Ramani had reached the highest point in his career and become an artist of international fame, and his concerts became a regular feature.
The "Mali" bani encompassed facial expressions such as slight tilting of the head, varied movement of the lips which produced the vocal effect in the Carnatic never explored before by Sharaba Shastri or Palladam Sanjeeva Rao.Bringing out more of the tradition Mali introduced in the playing of the Carnatic flute, Ramani's distinctive style is the transformation of the Carnatic flute into the voice of a proficient Carnatic vocalist. Stressing such importance on the emphasis of vocal style of playing, he displayed characteristics of the human voice in his concerts often observed in his fast paced yet melodious performances.
Ramani's performances in All India Radio (AIR) have received numerous praises from Hindustani and Carnatic musicians alike and his performances overseas had been recognised with numerous awards.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

A new app for Carnatic music

By T.T. Narendran

Technology has had a role to play in Carnatic music over the last century. The results have been mixed—it has been a boon and a bane! Technology has been used, misused and abused abundantly, for the comfort, delight and annoyance of the listener. There have been plenty of instances in which the musician’s delight was the listeners’ discomfort; probably true, the other way around, too. If amplification of sound and acoustics of auditoria were the concerns earlier, the current focus is on the utilisation of Information Technology, web and internet for a variety of applications. Some of the younger generation of musicians are, themselves, tech-savvy while others still seek to make an impact with the help of friends who have the competence in this area. There are music classes that happen across the globe using the internet. They swell the coffers of the native musicians at negligible cost to the dollar-paying learner, thanks to the weak rupee. A welcome use of technology, indeed, to motivate musicians to remain in the profession instead of migrating to a routine office job, for which they qualify based on their college education. Are the media for distance-education effective? Are compromises made to keep this going? It will be unfair to comment without assessing the situation on the ground.

A recent development has been the launch of the Veena JJ mobile app by the veena duo, Jeyaraaj and Jaysri. How would it be if one can listen to any chosen kriti of Dikshitar at a mere touch? Well, that seems to be a long-term goal of this couple, who plan classifications under different heads. Their project is motivated by the realisation that the mobile phone has the widest reach, well beyond the internet. The target audience is mixed—it includes casual listeners as well as serious students of Carnatic music.

The couple's initial focus is on kritis, particularly those of Dikshitar, owing to their guru-lineage that traces back to Ambi Dikshitar, a descendant of the Dikshitar family. They have learnt from Calcutta Anantharama Iyer and his sister Champakalakshmi. Some rare kritis may not have been featured in regular concerts, similarly there are ragas that have to be understood through the sparsely available, short kritis that have just a pallavi and a samashti charanam. Ragas such as Easamanohari, Saraswati manohari and Udaya ravichandrika differ from those with the same names as used by Tyagaraja. Preservation of these rare musical pieces is one of the objectives. Access through the app will facilitate repetitive listening for those who wish to learn or to analyse.

For familiar ragas, the veena is used to demonstrate the gamakas clearly. Jeyaraaj and Jaysri feel that some kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar can serve as tutorials for learning the nuances of a raga.

Eventually, the scope of the project will expand to encompass the kritis of the trinity with an effort to preserve the pathantara. The couple cite an instance of Tyagaraja’s Chakkani raja margamu in Kharaharapriya; what they learnt from the late Chengleput Ranganathan, about a decade ago, matches the version rendered by the Alathur Brothers, over fifty years ago.   

In the current design of the app, the kritis have been classified according to the deity, raga, tala and composer. It will facilitate a prospective user to obtain a list of compositions devoted to a particular deity, a list of kritis in a raga and so on. There is an initial database of compositions, the creation of which required quite a bit of technical support and finance. They intend to charge a small sum for users to access the app, raise the money, record more music and expand the database in a phased manner. From what they describe, it seems a formidable task to find the resources, create the content and provide the access. As of now, the app works on android phones and is yet to be made accessible to i-phones.

The idea sounds good though ambitious and one hopes, for the art’s sake, they succeed.

D.K. Datar

14.10.1932
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Pandit D. K. Datar is one of India's foremost violinists. He had his initial training from the Late Pandit Vighneshwar Shastri. Later he received invaluable guidance from Professor B. R. Deodhar. But his style was really influenced by his close association with the Late Pandit D. V. Paluskar. His gayaki style of playing has a unique quality that is rarely found in today's violinists. Pandit Datar is well known for his systematic presentation of the "ragas" in the classical tradition. He also excels, in presenting thumaris, bhajans and other forms of light classical music.

He is a recipient of the Sangeet Natak Academy Award (1996) and the Maharashtra Government Award (1998). He has been visiting faculty at many universities such as Bombay University, S.N.D.T. University, M. S. Baroda University, Banaras Hindu University and Khairaghar University. He has performed duets with Shahid Parvez, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Vijay Raghav Rao, Sultan Khan, Devendra Murdeshvar and has accompanied D. V. Paluskar, Kishori Amonkar, Saraswati Rane, Hirabai Barodekar, Narayanrao Vyas, Kumar Gandharva and many others.

Pandit Datar has toured extensively in India and has participated a number of times in all of the presrigious music conferences held in Bhopal, Pune, Ahmedabad, Hydrabad, Madras, Baroda, Calcutta, Nagpur, Indore and Delhi. He also had successful concert tours of U. S. A., Canada, U. K., Europe, Iceland, Japan, U.A.E. and countries of South East Asia.

Nikhil Banerjee

14.10.1931 - 27.1.1986
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Nikhil Banerjee was one of the three outstanding sitar players dominating Hindustani music during the last 30 years. Pandit Ravi Shankar, the most wellknown of the three, became famous for first exposing the West to Indian classical music through his cotttact with George Harrison and the Beaties. Nikhil Banerjee was in fact Ravi Shankar's gurubhai; both artists were trained by the same teacher, the late Baba Allaudin Khan of Maihar. Ustad Vilayat Khan, the third sitarist of the trio, represents a long and distinguished gharana of instrumentalists from what is now Bangladesh.

At the invitation of the American Society for Eastern Arts, Nikhil Banerjee first came to the United States in 1967 to perform .on the college campuses and give instructional classes in sitar. In 1974 and '75 the Center for World Music sponsored the teaching programme, which in 1976 and '78 was organized by Musical Traditions, an offshoot of ASEA. Greeted by enthusiastic reviews wherever he went, Nikhil Banerjee saw his reputation soar at home and abroad. In 1968 he was awarded the distinction of Padma Shri by the Government of India, and he was given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1974. Between 1967 and 1973 six long-playing records of his were released by the Gramophone Company of India (EMI).

In November 1985, Nikhil Banerjee fufilled a lifelong ambition when he performed in Carnegie Hall. Reviewer Robert Palmer of The New Yark Times wrote :

"The extraordinary fluidity and assurance of his rhythmic ideas and phrasing set a pace and a standard that would

Friday, 13 October 2017

Chitti Babu

Birthdays & Anniversaries
13.10.1936 - 9.2.1996

Chitti Babu (13 October 1936 – 9 February 1996) was a renowned veena artiste in Carnatic music. He was perhaps the most popular exponent of his instrument in his time.


He had a significant stint in film music from 1948 to 1962, when he worked in the south Indian film industry, playing the veena for numerous background scores in movie soundtracks under the batons of many eminent music directors of the time like Saluri Rajeswara RaoPendyala Nageswara Rao, and Viswanathan-Ramamoorthi, among others. His veena playing was a key element in many hit songs in Telugu and Tamil.


While continuing with the principles of his his guru Emani Sankara Sastri, Chitti Babu, created and evolved a distinctive style and identity. He offered exquisite tonal quality and versatility and produced sounds as varied as Vedic hymns and birdsong. He played many western-music based compositions of his own. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Chitra Visweswaran

Birthdays & Anniversaries
12.10.1950

Chitra Visweswaran is a famous Bharatanatyam exponent, reputed guru and an excellent choreographer. Born on 12 October 1950, Chitra was initiated into dance by her mother Rukmani Padmanabhan, and then put through her paces in Western classical ballet in London. At the age of ten, she came under the tutelage of the well known devadasi dancer Tiruvidaimarudur T.A. Rajalakshmi. Chitra performed her Bharatanatyam arangetram on 12 April 1962. An eclectic background covering Manipuri, Kathak, Rabindra nritya and sangeet, Carnatic music and theatre, launched Chitra on a voyage of discovery at a very young age in Calcutta.



In 1970, after graduating in English Honours from Calcutta University, Chitra received the National Scholarship for advanced study in Bharatanatyam from the Government of India. She relocated to Madras and spent her scholarship period of four years learning from the doyen Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. After some years Chitra chartered her own course, imbuing her knowledge of the cognate forms of arts with a scholastic approach and developing an individualistic philosophy of movement.

Her holistic vision of dance and her husband R. Visweswaran’s pursuit of music ensured a continuum through the Chidambaram Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA), which the couple established at Chennai in 1975. Together, they created several solo pieces, thematic presentations and group productions. Backed by research towards the extension of the Bharatanatyam repertoire, Chitra has  created a voluminous body of work, covering several margams, thematic solo, group /dance theatre productions, which reflect her individuality and are a synergy of tradition and innovation. She recently penned the lyrics and composed the music for Sri Pothai Kuravanji.

Chitra Visweswaran was among the first to perform extensively abroad, and in the process,  she equipped herself and her students in acoustics and lighting design. She has performed solo and presented her work at several prestigious venues and festivals including the United Nations, the Festivals of India abroad, and at the golden jubilee celebrations of India’s Independence held in different parts of the world. She was the first Indian dancer to appear on Portugal TV and more recently, the first Bharatanatyam choreographer to be commissioned to present choreographies by the Opera of France at Lille and Paris.

Her performances have been archived by Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi and NCPA, Mumbai. Her dance has been telecast by important television channels including BBC, Singapore Broadcasting Company, Sydney Television, French Television, Doordarshan and Roopavahini. She has presented several papers, lecdems and workshops on dance, and  has collaborated with doyens in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak. She has served as board member, Kalakshetra Foundation, and the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. She graced the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Fine Arts as a Professor Emeritus in the University of Madras. She served as  Member, General Council and Executive Board of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi, and as Member Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram. Chitra Visweswaran is the Managing Trustee of CAPA, and Dean of Lalitha Kala Mandir, the fine arts wing of Sri Muthukrishna Swami Mission. She is now the President of ABHAI (Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes of India).

Chitra is the recipient of several prestigious awards and honours including the Nritya Choodamani (1980), Kalaimamani (1983), the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Padma Shri (1992), Honorary Citizen of the City of Bourges, Viswa Kala Bharathi, and Natya Kala Acharya from The Music Academy (2014).

Chitra is a voracious reader and has delved deep into literature, the fine arts,  theatre, history, religion and philosophy. She is an aesthete and a connoisseur for whom Bharatanatyam is not only a passion but a spiritual experience.

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Vittal Rangan

By Mannarkoil Balaji


Young voices
(Conversations with emerging artists)

Brilliant in academics, Vittal Rangan, a promising young violinist, is an “A” Grade Artist of AIR and Doordarshan. He has won accolades from senior artists and is the recipient of a number of awards. He also belongs to a rich musical lineage on his parents’ side and his guru’s side. Widely travelled, Vittal Rangan, has been a favourite accompanist of many senior artists, as well as a fine solo violinist.


Tell us about your guru parampara.

Born in a musical family, my initial training began in vocal music when I was five, from my mother Chitra Bilvam who is an alumnus of Tiruvaiyaru Raja’s Music College and an AIR graded artist, Bengaluru. Thereafter I also self-learnt the harmonium and used to play it during bhajan sessions conducted in our home.   Further, my mother was very keen that I learn violin, particularly because of its high versatility and mellifluous sound. I had my initial lessons on the violin from the late R.R. Keshavamurthy for a brief period. Once, we happened to attend an ensemble led by vidushi A. Kanyakumari at Sri Rama Seva Mandali, Bengaluru. I was spellbound and inspired by the way she played along with her disciples and from then on it was my dream to become her disciple, which came true in 2003. My guru is a disciple of three legends—Ivaturi Vijeswara Rao, M. Chandrasekaran and M.L. Vasanthakumari.

School holidays brought me from Bengaluru to attend violin classes at length in Chennai, with either my mother or father accompanying me. We always looked forward to the music season in December when we stayed for three to four weeks listening to concerts. Apart from violin classes we also attended lecture-demonstrations and workshops. These left an indelible mark on the progress of my musical career.

Can you describe your guru’s teaching methods and her uniqueness?

My guru’s bani combines the aesthetics of both instrumental and vocal music, with a focus on the vocals.If you listen to her playing the violin, it would sound beautifully akin to someone singing. Her approach inteaching her disciples is a fine blend of true dedication, devotion and concern. The true challenge for a violinist lies in precisely reproducing the subtlety of the vocal chords. She always insists that we repeat on the violin whatever she teaches through voice. This technique enabled me to appreciate the nuances of vocal music and thereby, improved my capabilities both as an accompanying artist and soloist. Further, she emphasised the importance of practising an exercise named ‘tristhayi’ which involves traversing all the three octaves. It greatly helped me in achieving clarity, speed and sruti suddham.

Any interesting experiences?

It has been an honour to accompany my guru on stage during her solo performances. It is highly challenging as it demands great concentration, especially during swaraprastara and ragamalika. One of the experiences I remember vividly, was in 2009 in Hyderabad when I had just started accompanying her on stage. She played a rare raga called Pushpalatika and rendered a fast paced kriti Ikanaina with kalpana swaras. I was not aware of the raga or the kriti, but she suddenly asked me to play my turn of kalpana swaras, which I got through successfully, based on observation of the raga on the spot! Impressed by that she immediately expressed her appreciation in public by announcing that she had not taught me the raga and that I had played it for the first time.

Another important point about her is that she telephones me immediately after every concert of mine and reviews it. In the ensuing classes she provides appropriate inputs as to how and where I could make improvements. Such is her personal care for her disciples. Learning from her has not only taught me to be deeply involved in music, but she has also inspired me a great deal about the importance of imbibing higher qualities and maintaining impeccable character as a human being.

What is your take on fusion music?

Fusion music is a wonderful medium to express the beauty of Carnatic classical music. Certain ragas, when played in the context of other genres, highlight their mood and intricacies. My strong foundation in Carnatic music, has enabled me to appreciate many genres of music and also attempt to explore them.

At such a young age you seem to have played for several doyens of Carnatic music.

I took up Carnatic violin not to establish myself as a popular artist, but to sincerely learn at least a drop from the ocean contributed by our elders. I have been fortunate to have accompanied many stalwarts and senior musicians such as R.K. Srikantan, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, O.S. Thyagarajan, Neela Ramgopal, N. Ravikiran, Bangalore S. Shankar, T.M. Krishna, Ranjani-Gayathri, Malladi Brothers, Abhishek Raghuram, and Shashank.

Any interesting episodes with these musicians?

During one of the performances, I had made a humble attempt to explore a rare raga called Sivakambhoji and uploaded its recording on Youtube. Having listened to this, vocalist Abhishek Raghuram asked me to play the raga alapana in one of his own concerts, which meant a lot to me.

What are you afraid of on stage and how do you circumvent those fears?

As such, I do not have any stage fear. However I am very cautious with regard to maintaining the sruti suddham and clarity of expressions. I practise every day to meet the demands of performance and make it a point to listen to my own recordings for further improvement.

Tell us about your parents’ role in your career?

I belong to a family with a rich musical heritage. My paternal grandmother and her sister (Saraswati Doraiswamy and Jayaratnam) were both violinists and my father used to tell me that both of them practised rigorously during Brahma muhoortam or the early morning hours. My maternal grandmother Mangalam is an ardent devotee of Tyagaraja and sings his kritis while performing her household chores. She is my oldest rasika, aged 90, and still coaxes me to play for her at night, even after a long tiring day. This sometimes inspires me to practise relentlessly into the wee hours.

My father, the late D. Bilvam was a vainika, a student of C. Krishnamurthy. He had the uncanny ability to play any instrument and he was also adept at playing the mouth organ and the flute. Probably due to this genetic influence, I also self-learnt to play the harmonium. He was a music lover and his constant encouragement inspires me. His unflinching support and blessings have helped me in achieving many things in life and I am able to feel his presence around me, even today.

Chitra Bilvam, my mother, learnt from T.M. Thyagarajan. She is also my first guru and provides many inputs and suggests areas of improvement after every concert. She discusses the intricacies and I take those important points given by her.

Apart from my parents we have, in our family, the famous musicologist Gowri Kuppuswamy and we are also related to Vishaka Hari and Saketaraman, both musicians of high repute.

(Mannarkoil J. Balaji is a mridanga vidwan)