Song of Surrender

Thursday, 26 April 2018

T K Shanmugam

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A Janardhanan

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Immersed in the raga: Sruthi Sagar

The Concert Scene
By Ramaswamy Narayanan


J.B. Sruthi Sagar makes music as though born with a silver flute in his mouth.

When I first heard him,  Sagar came through as a revelation to me. His musical sense and sensibility belie the young man's years. As he plays with eyes closed, completely immersed in his music, there is instant bonding with the rasikas.

As I entered the concert hall, he was in the midst of a raga made for the flute: Begada.The gamakas not overdone, his brief raga essay was enchanting. Sagar chose the perfect kriti to follow, Nee pada pankajamula nenera namminanu, Tyagaraja's ode to Rama's lotus feet. The powerful anupallavi lines were beautifully rendered.

Next, Sagar played Mayamma yanine pilachite, Syama Sastri's moving entreaty to Meenakshi in Ahiri. Sagar played the great kriti as it should be, in reverential chauka kalam. One could almost jear the words Sarasija bhava Hari haranuta sulalita nee padapankajamula sthiramani, so clearly was Sagar playing each syllable. It was a reverie from which I woke up only when the song was over!
Sagar next played Shanmukhapriya, not elaborately but at just the right length to convey his vision. He made long and powerful statements in the upper octaves to bring out the sharp and energetic mood of the raga. It was the final 60 seconds of his ati mandra sthayi that gave me goosebumps .


The song he played was Tanjavur Sankara Iyer's Paamalai sudiye, the lilting piece almost indistinguishable from a Sivan composition. This was rendered with aplomb and crystal clarity.


The kuraippu here, as elsewhere, showed that even in the second kalam, the swaras must be soaked in the melody of the ragas. This is the other appealing feature of Sagar's playing.


The day's accompanists have become veterans on the circuit this year. B. Ananthakrishnan lifted the concert with his mellifluous violin support. Thanjavur Praveen and Nerkunam Sankar gave percussion support with understanding, and played a tani of lively rhythmic patterns.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

GNB day at Ragasudha Hall

Nisha Rajagopalan and the Wow Factor

The Concert Scene
By Ramaswamy Narayanan

                                 


It was one of those concerts where the wow factor ran right through.

I said wow when Nisha Rajagopalan began with the Maharaja's invocation, Jaya jaya Padmanabha Murare.


I said wow again when she concluded with Dikshitar's Krishna Jayanti song in enchanting Kurinji, Sri Venugopala sri Rukminilola.



In between, my eyes stayed closed in sheer enjoyment of quality music and technical brilliance that did not overwhelm visranti. 

The wow factor stayed because Nisha instinctively guarded against monotony at any point in the concert. (She must be listening very closely to her own singing, I thought).


For example, after etching a strong Kapi as the second number, she sang the Saint's Mee valla guna doshame. Sensing the dominant melkalam rendering of the sahityam, she balanced it with a series of keezhkala kalpanaswaras which added freshness and variety. Similarly, Simhendramadhyamam came next with Dikshitar's Kamakshi kamakoti peetha vasini and closed in a crescendo of kuraippu reminiscent of MLV. Sensing it, Nisha balanced it again with the Nandan charitram Vazhi maraikkudu rendered in an absolute vilambam that brought tears to the eyes. I could give two more examples, but you get the idea! Not only between songs, but within each song as well, the artist has to keep balancing for the sake of freshness and variety, and this Nisha did fairly effortlessly.


In terms of substance, three ragas, Kapi, Simhendramadhyamam and Dhanyasi were essayed and there were two sumptuous niravals. All three ragas were sharp and clear from the word go, and gave unalloyed listening pleasure.

It was equally hard to choose between the major kritis rendered. The niraval at Kamalesa sodari Kamalakshi Narayani in Simhendramadhyamam was powerpacked with emotion.
The other niraval came in Tyagaraja's Dhanyasi kriti, Dhyaname varamaina Gangasnaname. Nisha did not take up the usual charanam lines for vinyasam. Instead, she went right back to the pallavi line for the impassioned niraval. After all, the crux of the whole kriti being in the opening line, er effort came out deeply moving.

I guess you can now see why I said the wow factor ran right through the concert.
L Ramakrishnan's violin support was an important enabling factor during the whole concert. His raga essays were sonorous and his keezhkalam opening in Dhanyasi was out of the world. Equally arresting were his quicksilver ripostes during kuraippu. The percussion team of Sherthalai R Ananthakrishnan and Trivandrum Rajagopal shadowed the kritis closely and played a long and collaborative tani.






Sunday, 22 April 2018

Kandadevi S Alagiriswamy

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21.4.1925 - 13.10.2000

Saturday, 21 April 2018

T K Govinda Rao

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Revathi Ramachandran is the new Director of Kalakshetra

By Buzybee

Revathi Ramachandran has officially taken charge as Director of Kalakshetra on 20 April 2018. It is a welcome move as the post was vacant for almost eight months.


Revathi Ramachandran, Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer and teacher,  is a direct disciple of Guru Mangudi Durairaja Iyer. 

An A Grade artist of Doordarshan, Revathi has performed in prestigious organizations in Chennai and different parts of India. She has travelled widely to many countries including the United States, France, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Italy for group presentations and workshops.

As recipient of  a fellowship from  the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Revathi has done research on the traditional art of Bhagavata Mela. She has assisted famous scholars like T.S. Parthasarathy, Dr. Arudra and Dr. R. Nagaswamy in their lectures, by demonstrating Suddha Nrittam and Tiru Tala Jati. Revathi  has coordinated the production of a CD-ROM titled ‘Bharathanatyam’ apart from choreographing and directing teleserials like ‘Deiveega Tirumanangal’,  ‘Kodhai Paadiya Paavai’ and ‘Gnaana Parambarai’. She had the opportunity of performing in the Hindi teleserial 'Noopur' presented by dancer-actor Hemamalini.

Over the years, Revathi has been exploring the richness of classical dance guided by various gurus, including Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam. Her understanding of the art has been  further enriched by her training in nattuvangam with Guru Bhagavatulu Seetarama Sarma, veena from Kalpagam Swaminathan and  Kuchipudi from Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam.

She is the recipient of several awards including the Nadana Maamani, Yuva Kala Bharathi, Isai Kalai Chelvar, Natya Kala Sikhamani and the Arsha Kala Bhushanam Award.

Every year Revathi diligently pays homage to her Guru Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer by organising a festival in his memory.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Palani Subramania Pillai

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20.4.1908 - 27.5.1962
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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

V P Dhananjayan

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17.4.1939

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Monday, 16 April 2018

Vidushi S Sowmya

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16.4.1969

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Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi

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16.4.1963

Swati Tirunal

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16.4.1813 - 27.12.1846
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Sunday, 15 April 2018

G J R Krishnan

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15.4.1960

Sultan Khan

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15.4.1940 - 27.11.2011
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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Ali Akbar Khan

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14.4.1922 - 18.6.2003
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Thursday, 12 April 2018

Muraliganam full of Empathy

The Concert Scene
By R Narayanan


AS Murali's impassioned concert with VV Ravi, Sivakumar and Sunil Kumar could well be summed up as a niraval master classwithout pedantry. In his two hour performance, the first hour could be called a precise and competent demonstration of kalpita sangeetam from a Kalakshetra guru to the good number of his students who were there in the hall.

The second half saw Murali soar to the heights of manodharma sangeetam in which the depth and passion of the self-effacing artist took over from the teacher, paving the way for the  niraval master class. 


Niraval is all about empathy.That is why it is the highest form of manodharma-unique to our music—empathy of the artist today for the composer of ages ago. If there is a great composition with an even greater passage,rest assured that the birth-pangs were not without pain and anguish. To bring back the birth-pangs, soaking that sahitya in the ragarasam in a vinyasam today, the artist needs to put himself into the heart and soul of the composer. When that kind of empathetic niraval   occurs, your eyes close and, on occasions like today, even tears well up in your eyes.

Murali chose the Appar tevaram on Tiruvannamalai in Keeravani yesterday; the second and seventh verses of the 5th decad, immortalised on concert platforms by TM Thyagarajan's notations and KV Narayanaswamy's niraval. And,Murali sang all eight lines beginning"வானனை மதி சூடிய மைந்தனைத்தேனனைத் திருவண்ணாமலையனை..." with deep understanding all the way. Then the niraval came at வீரனை விடமுண்டனை விண்ணவர்தீரனைத் திருவண்ணாமலையனை.

From the very first vinyasam,Murali zeroed in on with empathy"விடமுண்டனை"  as the crux of Appar's whole agony over Lord Siva consuming Aalakaal visham! 


There was no looking back as the niraval from lower to middle to upper octaves rolled on for a full 20 minutes of supplication soaked in gorgeous Keeravani, just made for that emotion. Even the final trikalam was no mere crescendo but soaked in raga-sahitya. Swarakalpana followed without disturbing the serenity of the moment.


The tour de force was possible largely because of V V Ravi's reassuring presence on stage. Ravi's violin these days has taken on the contours of Upanishad-like brevity, all frills eschewed, only the purest essence offered. As Ravi soared together with Murali in mel shadjam and beyond  during the niraval, the rasika's cup was full to overflowing.


Sivakumar and Sunil Kumar provided high quality percussion support throughout.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Pudukottai Krishnamurthy is no more

"A Great loss to the Music Fraternity," 
said veena vidwan Ananthanarayanan in a Facebook post today. He added:Maha vidwan veena maestro Pudukkottai R.Krishnamurthy passed away today.

 My sashtanga namaskarams.

"Please don't miss this great video "


Another veena artiste Ramnath Iyer said:

"Very sad news. A great vainika who combined tradition and modernity in his playing. He had developed special fingering techniques that made his concert very engaging and exciting for the audience. May his soul reach the Almighty."

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Master class by Rama Ravi

The Concert Scene
By R Narayanan

Age cannot wither nor custom stale the infinite variety of Sangita Kala Acharya Rama Ravi's music.

It is music of pristine purity,-straight from the heart,completely uncontrived,therefore flows like a perennial river.

I am nobody to presume to review Rama Ravi's music. I can only pay obeisance before it. Truth to tell, it was more a master class than a concert. All the fortunate rasikas who came to listen took away learning added to pleasure.

To cite the example of Kharaharapriya, the great spatial raga with deep valleys hidden behind its cliffs, that can trip the best. Many can sing it at length and competently, yet missing its heart, and the impact on the listener. Rama Ravi sang the raga for a mere five minutes, yet the listener experienced what I call "the Grand Canyon effect" more than once. Wow! I sensed how a master transfers her own musical vision to the listener. To her credit, Rama's daughter Nanditha Ravi completed the rest of the raga elaboration in total sync with the vast canvas deftly sketched by her mother. The grand Tyagaraja kriti Rama niyeda prema rahitulaku just merged with the tide of the raga.

Again the same thing happened in Natakurinji. You can experience it only if I say it in Tamil.

வழி மறைத்திருக்குதே மலை போலே ஒரு மாடு படுத்திருக்குதே..

Tears welled up in the listeners' eyes when, through repeated arohana statements, the huge mountain of a bull hiding the Lord from poor Nandanar's eyes was evoked.

Sahana, Saveri and Khamas all stood out in their own ways. Space alone is the bull standing between me and more writing!

Nanditha Ravi was a picture of composure as she rendered the support voice to her distinguished mother. She was spot on during kuraippu exchanges.

Dr Hemalatha rose to the occasion with her impeccable bowing which blended with the nuanced vision of the vocalist. No mean task, that.

I came away regretting I was not 60 years younger and able to enrol as a student of Acharya Rama Ravi.

In 150 minutes, Rama Ravi showed us the hidden treasures in a dozen ragasSahana, Saveri, Begada, Gowlipantu, Kannada, Kharaharapriya, Dhanyasi, Natakurinji, Behag, and Khamas. Without ado or artifice, she went straight to the heart of the ragas, so much so, with or without alapana, kritis rendered with or without niraval or swarakalpana, the ragas shone lustrously through a firm stay on the jeevaswaras. As her natural voice merged with the swarasthanas in melsthayi, one felt: "Oh, this is how this raga is to be sung."


J Vaidhyanathan observed, absorbed and responded in a suitably subdued percussion support. Harihara Sharma on the khanjira played the perfect foil through the concert, until he participated assertively in a brilliant joint venture tani with JV.

Kishori Amonkar

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10.4.1931 - 3.4.2017
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Sabri Khan

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10.4.1927 - 1.12.2015

Monday, 9 April 2018

Are gharanas relevant today?


A tabla player’s perspective 

By Soham Bhatt

While it is commonly perceived that gharanas are losing their relevance in today’s times, this article attempts to put forth a persuasive case for the relevance of gharanas in Indian classical music.

Literally speaking, the Hindi word “gharana” means “home”. It commonly refers to a distinctive school, ideology, style and pedagogy of north Indian classical music, generally originating from a lineage of teacher and disciple, traditionally called the guru-sishya parampara. In Sanskrit, 'guru' means someone  who enlightens, 'sishya' is a student, and 'parampara' the lineage or tradition. According to the Natya Sastra, music comprises vocal, instrumental and dance. Gharana refers to a homogeneity of the musical ideologies, aesthetic appreciation, styles and techniques in north Indian classical vocal, instrumental and dances, and is typically named after the place of origin of the musical ideologies. For instance, khayal music has ten prominent gharanas—Agra, Patiala, Gwalior, Kirana, Indore, Jodhpur-Mewati, Rampur-Sahaswan, Bhendibazar, Jaipur-Atrauli, and Sham Chaurasi. The tabla has six distinct gharanas—Delhi, Ajarada, Farukhabad, Lucknow, Banaras and Punjab; and Kathak has three major gharanas—Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras. All these gharanas derive their names from their place of origin.

The origin of gharanas can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century around the collapse of Mughal rule in India. Ethnomusicologist Daniel M. Neuman, in his book The Life of Music in North India: the organization of an artistic tradition (1990, University of Chicago Press) describes the origin of gharanas as an adaptive response to a changed socio-cultural environment after the mid-nineteenth century, with the introduction of railways and telegraph systems, the Indian uprising against British rule in 1857, and a gradual increase in urbanisation.

Gharanas in Tabla

It is widely believed that the tabla evolved through experimentation from the pakhawaj, the single barrel-shaped north Indian drum, sometime in the early 18th century. The word tabla collectively represents a pair of drums of which one is the treble drum, also called the tabla or dayan, or right drum (generally played with the right hand), and the other is the bass drum, also called the bayan or dagga or left drum (since it is generally played with the left hand). Siddhar Khan Dhari of Delhi is commonly credited with the invention of the tabla in early 18th century. This was the period when khayal was gaining prominence in the royal courts. The pakhawaj, dholak and naqqara prevailing in those days were not most suited to accompany the subtle, soft and highly-modulated khayal style. Hence, the need to have drums that could lend accompaniment to khayal led to the invention of the tabla.

As Siddhar Khan Dhari’s sons, grandsons and their students began to settle down in other parts of India namely Ajarada, Farukhabad, Lucknow and Banaras, developed new styles (including ideology, playing technique and repertoire of compositions), and taught the style to their students, the need to have a distinct identity for their styles led to the formation of gharanas. Thus, the Delhi, Ajarada, Faruukhabad, Lucknow and Banaras gharanas got their names from the places where a new ideology, technique and repertoire of tabla playing evolved. The Punjab gharana in the west developed independent of the Delhi gharana.

As per musicologists, to be recognised as a gharana, a musical tradition has to survive at least three generations of the guru-sishya-parampara pedagogy which is an age-old Hindu traditional way of imparting knowledge, including music, primarily through the oral tradition. It has its roots in the Vedic era, when students spent several years at a gurukulam to seek knowledge from the teacher. In this format of teaching, the teacher-student relationship is highly intimate and spiritual. The student unconditionally surrenders to the guru, pays obeisance to the teacher, stays with the teacher for several years, helps in daily chores and learns with a deep sense of gratitude and humility. In return, the teacher not only imparts knowledge and wisdom satisfies the student’s musical curiosity, but also teaches life-skills and values such as commitment, focus and hard work. Teaching occurs in both formal and informal set ups. While the teacher and student formally engage at a defined time and the student is required to practice rigorously for several hours daily, informally, the process of teaching and learning continues through the day and night. For instance, when I am with my guru, whether  taking a stroll, or having meals, or even while resting, the discussions revolve around music, including great maestros, recitation of tabla compositions, and exploring their beauty.

One of the highlight of this relationship is the ceremony called ganda-bandhan, wherein the teacher ties a sacred thread on the right hand wrist of the student and formally accepts him as a student under the guru-sishya parampara. Ganda-bandhan symbolises the guru’s faith in the student’s commitment to imbibe the traditional knowledge, nurture it and carry it forward. It establishes an enduring and intimate connection between the two. Over time, this relationship evolves into a spiritual bonding, which enables a seamless transmission of thoughts and knowledge between the two. The guru-sishya relationship is symbiotic, and not one-way traffic in which only the student learns from the guru. The student inspires the guru to teach in a manner that suits the student’s style, temperament and personality. This tradition puts an onus on both the guru and the student—for the guru, it is the responsibility to unconditionally open his knowledge bank to the deserving student, and for the student it becomes a responsibility to nurture, sustain and share the knowledge received from the guru in its purest form and to take the tradition forward.

Therefore, the fundamental ingredients of a guru-sishya-parampara are unconditional surrender to the guru, not getting distracted by external stimuli, not being constrained by time, and unconditional and selfless flow of knowledge from guru to sishya. These ingredients ensure effective transmission of the knowledge, intricate style, technique and repertoire of compositions of a gharana from the teacher to the student and preserve the purity of a gharana. No wonder, in today’s fast-paced world when students are in a hurry to learn, perform and get accolades and with socio-economic and technology (mobile, social media) distractions, it is almost impossible for a musical tradition to survive three generations of uninterrupted guru-sishya-parampara. Hence, the formation of a new gharana today is a distant reality.

Are gharanas relevant today?

Traditionally, students of a particular gharana were expected to abide by the traditions and musicianship of that gharana and not abiding was often frowned upon by the guru and the audience. Gharana, in that sense, is a limiting concept. It confines the musician to the ideologies of that gharana. In tabla, each gharana has its own nuances, beauty and constraints, making them more appropriate for a particular form of music. For instance, the Lucknow and Banaras gharanas are more appropriate for accompaniment with Kathak dance, whereas the Delhi gharana is more appropriate for accompaniment with khayal. By limiting to one gharana, the tabla player limits his ability to accompany varied forms of music. On the contrary, the knowledge of and ability to play the repertoire of different gharanas makes a tabla player versatile and well-rounded. For instance, Ustad Zakir Hussain, one of the most famous tabla players of this century, can beautifully draw compositions and phrases from the vast repertoire of different gharanas and play them in solo as well as accompaniment performances. Does it mean that the concept of gharana should be done away with?

No. A student must rigorously learn one gharana for several years, at least seven to ten years under the guru-sishya-parampara, and gain proficiency over the ideology, technique and repertoire of that gharana. This develops a strong core and foundation. Proficiency in one gharana offers the student an ability to better appreciate the subtle nuances and differences in other gharanas.

Knowing a gharana is like knowing a language. A language enables you to read and understand the literature, philosophy and culture of people who are native to that language, and connect with them. However, how do you connect with people of other ideologies, culture and philosophy? By learning their native language and appreciating the literature that has shaped their minds. Thus, the knowledge of more languages enables you to connect with more ideologies, literature, cultures and people, and become more well-rounded. It helps in developing empathy and an appreciative attitude towards people from different regions with diverse socio-economic and linguistic backgrounds. However, it is important to have mastery over one language to be able to express oneself effectively in other languages as well. As research done by UNESCO has shown, children learn better in their mother tongue. Once children have mastered their mother tongue, they can possibly pick up other languages quickly. Likewise, proficiency over one gharana is a must before learning other gharanas. Knowing different gharanas makes an artist more well-rounded by exposing the artist to the ideology, language/phrases, thinking process, compositions and their interpretations, manner of expression, thus expanding an artist’s own repertoire, making him/her more versatile and better connected with fellow musicians and a diverse audience.

Today, when students can learn the compositions and the styles of different gharanas through freely available online videos of maestros of different gharanas, it is still imperative for a student to maintain focus on learning one gharana from a guru, before dabbling in other gharanas. To conclude, gharana will continue to remain the backbone of the art and science of the tradition of tabla.

(The author is a student of tabla and a recipient of the National Scholarship in Tabla from the Center of Cultural Resources and Training, Ministry of Culture, Government of India. He can be contacted at soham291103@yahoo.com.)