12th November 2006, 02:01 PM
mavelikkara prabhakara varma(vocalist)
He is 77. But this makes no difference to his phenomenal musical prowess. Ask any thing about classical music. His adrenalin starts to flow with new vigor. That is Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma –the recipient of Swati Puraskaram -2005 instituted by the Government of Kerala. This maestro was in the city recently. In an interview he talks about his passion for music, how he miserably failed in studies and later became a Post Graduate, and about his disciples.
Prabhakara Varma hails from Mavelikkara Kottaram where his formative years were marked by an unbridled passion for music. Born in 1928 to Chandra Prabha [daughter of Kerala Panini A. R Raja Raja Varma] and Rama Varma of Kilimanoor Palace, Prabahkaran’s inspiration for music stemmed from the songs rendered by his maternal aunt Bhageerathi. The swaras and her tonal quality enthralled him. His thoughts were saturated with musical notes and obviously he was below average in his studies. ‘I always fail” laughs Prabhakara Varma who was affected by polio when he was in his mother’s womb.
Nothing stopped him from hearing the music even during examinations. Annual exams always coincide with the temple festival. Rajaratnam the nadaswaram wizard was performing at the temple. “I just could not jot down what little did I knew. The invigilator came, snatched my answer paper and said: “Go and listen to the music” I ran to the venue swiftly, to hear Rajaratnam. The family members often scolded Bhageerathi for spoiling me like this. Soon my cousin LPR Varma joined the Music Academy and I became restless. My father insisted that I should complete at least ESLC. To every body’s surprise I got through it in the first chance and that was news in the family circle” he said and continued:
“It was a golden period in the Academy. We had stalwarts like Semmnagudi, KS Narayana Swami and C S Krishna Iyer. Those were also the days of gramophones. I have heard many times the concerts of great masters like Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Mahahrajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and Rajaratnam Pillai. They created tremendous impact in me. All the kritis were indelibly etched in my memory. During my practical exam Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer asked me to render Hammer Kalyani-a Hindusthani raga rarely sung in those days. Swati Tirunal has composed a beautiful composition Gangeya vasana dhara in this raga. That was the least expected question. I rendered the raga briefly. I have heard Ariyakudi singing this tune. After my presentation he asked: “From where did you learn this?” I answered”.
In 1957 he joined the Academy as the Asst. Professor and retired as the Principal. Mean while he had to wipe off the stigma that he was not a bright student. So he appeared the University exams. For BA he took music as the main subject. The university issued a special order exempting him from under going the practical exam. But for the post graduation he had to. “Dr. Revamma asked me to render Narayana Gaula yet another rare raga. As an obedient student I rendered it” says Varma whose primary disciples include Dr. K. Omanakutti and Neyyatinkara Vasudevan.
Prabhakara Varma took the effort to notate the compositions of Thulasivanam. He had done a comparative study of Deekshithar and Swathi Tirunal. He humbly says that it takes more than a lifetime to mature as an artiste, and the fact that he is able to do so at this age is due to the blessings of the God, his teachers, the sadhana and the grace of Maharaja Swati Tirunal himself whose family he belongs to. “If you look at the genealogy he is my great grand uncle.” he said with folded hands. This chronic bachelor stays with his niece at Tripunithura
12th November 2006 02:01 PM
12th November 2006, 08:45 PM
_Bombay sisters C. Saroja and C. Lalitha who have mesmerized the audience all over the world presented an excellent concert in concert in connection with the Swati Nritha sangeetholsavam, organized by Swati Tirunal Sangeth Sabha.
Their greatest assets were crystal enunciation of the sahitya, and neraval which flows with impressive ease.
“Though we are called Bombay sisters, we belong to Thrissur. Our father Chidambaram a great connoisseur of music was working in Bombay. So the family settled there. He wanted us to become good musicians.” They said.
Mani popularly known as Chellamani (father of play back singer Hariharan) initiated them into music. On securing scholarship the sisters moved to Chennai. They joined the Madras central college of music. Musiri the legendary singer was the Principal. Impressed by the sisters he gave special attention them.
Only Lalitha had the scholarship. He gave special training to her and said that I could be pesent provided I should not sing. Including me in training would have gone against the Scholarship rules and regulations. I was deeply moved by the gesture” said Saroja.
Their debut performance was held in 1960. After the concert they were christened as Bombay sisters by a saint Maunaswamigal. “During Navarathri we performed at the Sai Baba Center at Mylapore. Our concert was scheduled prior to the great GNB’s performance. Suddenly he fell ill and as per his directives our concert was extended. It was a big success. His magnanimity provided a turning point in our career.” Said Lalitha.
Bhava sangeetham, and neraval are the two significant features of Musiri School of music. Each raga is an entity with its own characteristic aesthetic expresson. This uniqueness called bhava is the life of raga.
“When we sing, we give much importance to it. The under lying emotion of the sahitya can be brought only through bhava sangeetham” they say. The Bombay sisters’ rendition of Padmanabha Satakam for instance, substantiates this statement.
“Each one of us show our brilliance when we render elaborate alapana and kalpana swaram individually. It is music created on the spot, flows out spontaneously bringing out the vivid points of excellence. When we sing together there is no competition between us. The balance is struck naturally and we are comfortable” they explained.
These sisters have only few disciples. “We are busy performers. Secondly these days students have other diversions too. They give more importance to academic studies. Finding a mutually convenient time is difficult-they said.
Bombay sisters have umpteen numbers of cassettes and CDs to their credit. They expressed their sincere gratitude to their family members without which their career may not be as luminous as this.
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12th November 2006, 08:48 PM
u p raju(mandolin)
Born in a musical family it isn’t all that surprising to see U P Raju’s inclination for music. But rendering the traditional carnatic music through a western instrument is a stroke of genius. The artiste was in the city to perform at the Chembai memorial Trust.
Raju belong to the first generation of mandolin artistes. His guru is Rudraraju SubbaRAJU- A VOCALIST AND THE DISCIPLE of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. “WE REPRODUCED WHAT HE RENDERED. With much trial and error we mastered it. I have spent seven years with my guru. The class was very tough but the passion for Mandolin, the will and perseverance made me what I am today” he said.
It was a shower of melody. The swaras sparkled. He was never in a hurry even at an exceedingly high speed. The audience was awe struck to see his fingers sliding on the strings.
The sweet notes of entaro mahanubhavulu in sree ragam wafted down the breeze from the concert hall. With his mellow music, he had every one under his spell for three hours. Audience could asses with admiration his creativity, talent and perseverance.
mandolin we play is a modified form. We call it electrified mandolin. These modifications are required to produce sustained noted-said Raju. The techniques of veena and violin are employed. The plucking is akin to veena and the fingering resembles that of violin. Unlike violin the strings are hard and there are taala strings like veena.
It was Sreenivas who first performed carnatic music in Mandolin. H e had to face much criticism initially as it was a non traditional instrument. A disciple of Subbaraju he showed the rest the clear path.”
When we compare our old rendition with that of today, we would find a lot of difference. We have improved a lot. Our disciples are lucky as there is an established system today.
There existed a belief that rendition at a slower pace would not be pleasing. I do not believe. Ragas like Kirvani can be rendered.
But we have not tried Hindustani music. We play bhajans and similar numbers set to Hindustani music. Mrudangam, Ghatom, Ghanjira ae usually as accompaniments. Once in a while tavil is also used.
“My wife Nagamani is also a Mandolin artiste. We have performed together many times.” He said. Lucky couple.
12th November 2006, 08:49 PM
___The name Shashank is now synonymous with flute. This flamboyant flautist enthralls the audience all over the world. With vast musical range and technical dexterity he has managed to elevate the simple bamboo flute to stellar heights. He was in the city recently for a personal visit.
A wistful glint in his eyes is hard to miss as he explains his love for Hindustani music. “It is my passion. Now I have started learning Hindustani vocal under Pandit Jasraj. He is a great performer and I can learn from the performer’s angle. It is new language with a lot of ornamentation. I may perform a Hindustani concert after five or six years. Learning music has to be always vocal. I have to learn the ragas and the hundreds of compositions-said Shashank.
Born in 1978 he was initiated inot the world music at a very early age almost when I started talking. As per the advice of T R Mahalingam the great flautist the world had ever seen Shashank started learning music under Palakkad K V Narayana swami.
At the age of 6 he casually played his fathers and surprised the listeners. His debut concert was held at Adelaide 15 years back.
“Being an instrumentalist there are limitations in the selection of songs and ragas. But I chose rags which are not elaborately rendered-like kapinarayani. I like to dwell on the less tread path. I am always engrossed in exploring the depths of music. I take risks to plunge in and explore and see where it leads.”
HIS CONTRIBUTION is the introduction of multi flute transposed fingering technique to merge flutes of different frequencies, producing deep bass to the shrill sounds. He has played jugalbandi with musicians of India and abroad.
HE HAS PERFORMED AT Rashtrapathi BHAVAN, Kennedy center, J Paul Getty Hall Hollywood, National academy of sciences-Washington DC, Xebec Hall Kobe-Japan, UNESCO Paris, tropical institute Amsterdam, Museum Reitberg Zurich and Seoul Plaza. He has 29 cd albums to his credit.
Shashank is wedded to SHIRISHA POPULAR Bharatanatyam and Kuchupidi dancer.
My house is a museum dedicated to the clutters that one finds in the Indian kitchen. VESSELS especially URULIS of all imaginable sizes and period furniture are my father’s weakness.
Shashank has no disciples. ‘I am a busy traveling artiste and secondly many think that I am too young to teach. My only disciple is my sister who is accompanying me these days. In a year or two she would give solo recitals” he said.
(I E dec-2005)
12th November 2006, 08:54 PM
That was a gathering of nearly two dozens of people above forty. They have assembled to learn a few gems from the vast repertoire of carnatic music. When they sing it is hard to believe that they have no basic training in music.
“This is the fourth batch of students. I teach them Pancharatna kirtanams, Navaratari kritis and Navavarana kritis. This class is meant for music lovers, who earlier had no opportunity to learn music, but wanted to sing classical music. I consider it a great service” said Parvathipuram Padmanabha Iyer, who belongs to the family of Mullamoodu Bhagavathar.
I was initiated into music by my uncle Harihara Bhagavathar of Mullamoodu School. “He taught me a number of rare compositions composed by Maharaja Swati Tirunal. I music academy and took my ganapraveen. I had my advanced training in music from Gayaka Ratnam Vechoor H. Harihara Subramania Iyer. It was a totally different experience. Still I follow his padantharam. Though I had the opportunity to learn music under K V Narayana Swami, I was not in a position to stay in Chennai for a long period. I consider him as my manasika guru” he said.
Padmanabha Iyer is currently working as a teacher at the Govt. Model High School.
Today children are under academic pressure. How interested are they in learning music? What is the space available for a music teacher?
“Each class has one period per week for music. If you take the entire students in a school only a hundred students will have a flair for classical music. I have asked them to remain after 3.30 twice in a week and give them special training in music. In our school we have all facilities and the PTA is supporting this as well. In most of the schools the scene is entirely different and unfortunate. PTA is not interested in these activities. Most of the music teachers are asked to handle other classes, like history. Music teachers never protest, and many consider it a privilege” he explained and added “Music should be made a compulsory subject and 5 marks should be allotted for theoretical knowledge.”
His program “Raga of the day” telecast in Asianet Suprabhatham is the forerunner of similar programs in various channels. He covered 250 ragas in 350 episodes. His current program Saadakam in Surya is equally popular.
He recently gave a vocal concert at the Rashtrapathi bhawan. He has given many stage performances, in Kerala, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. He also conducts demonstrations for Music lovers and students.
12th November 2006, 08:55 PM
He has come all the way from Nilambur to meet his guru Kumara Kerala Varma the veteran musician, and the disciple of Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer. He is to perform at the Navarathri Mandapam on the last day. He has to come for a rehearsal performance. Meet Vechur Sankar, one of the upcoming musicians.
Like most of the musicians he too belongs to the traditional family of musicians, who regularly perform at the Vakkom Mahadeva temple annually. His grand father has composed many songs praising their tutelary deity Sastha. “Of all the family members Vechur Harihara subramanian, could carve a niche in the field of Carnatic music. He was based at Thiruvananthapuram. So he entrusted his disciples Vaikom Vasudevan Nampoothiri and Vaikom Gopala Krishnan and my aunt Vaikom Rajammal trained me in music. Once in a while when we meet he never fails to teach me kirtanams,” said Sankar.
“Vechur uncle was a great musician. He always rendered in a slow tempo, in perfect unison with the sruthi. He unfolded the raga gradually and never made concessions to popular taste” reminisce Sankar.
He participated and won prizes in the school and university youth festivals. As part of Scholarship program he had his advanced training from Kumara Kerala Varma. Ten years ago he joined the Music sohool of Pala C K Ramachandran. Pala c k and Kerala Varma provided the vocal support for Semmangudi for longtime.
Sankar is an employee of the South Malabar Gramin Bank, Nilambur. Recently the institution accepted him as a musician and offered him the special privilege of an artiste.
“Nilambur though a remote place has plenty of discerning singers and listeners of Carnatic music” he remarked.
“Now I can bring out cassettes and CDs” he said and added “wherever I go I make it a point to sing at least three compositions of Swati Tirunal including a Padam. For the neraval apt phrase is chosen. My tutors have taught me the right splitting of phrases, enabling to bring out the bahva. I follow the padantharam of Semmangudi known for elaborate rendition of the raga, and improvisation. Paahi parvatha nandini in Aarabhi is the song of the concluding day of the Navarathri Festival, at the Navarathri MANDAPAM. The rapid and elegant flow of its music made this song more popular”
“I consider it a great blessing to sing at the Navarathri Mandapam where great legendary musicians had rendered for year after year” said Sankar.
12th November 2006, 08:56 PM
He has many unknown disciples. Many write to him to clear their doubts in music. Still others come in search of him to learn new songs. He is the most revered person in the music circle. Meet R. Krishnaswami the veteran vocalist.
Though he belongs to the family of music lovers, his uncle initiated him into music. A close associate of the great composer T. Lakshmanan Pillai, his uncle entrusted Krishnaswami with him. Lakshmanan Pillai could identify the innate talent in him and was so confident that he engaged him to notate his works. “Though I refused initially, I have to concede. I was in my late twenties. Later on looking back, I felt that certain compositions need re-notation. I am at present engaged in that work,” said Krishanswami.
When the Swati Thirunal Music Academy was established, he joined the institution. It was a period when stalwarts like Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, K S Narayanaswami, were the tutors. Hence, the foundation laid was strong.
In 1950, he joined AIR and was in charge of music-based programs. It provided him opportunities to meet the great musicians.
All India Radio regularly conducted music lessons. Krishanswami was the tutor for three decades. Thus, he had many unknown faces as his disciples, who promptly took down the lessons when the program was aired. Many like Jalaja Varma wrote to him. Many came in search of him, to learn music. When popularity of the program increased, certain forces were working overtime to tarnish his image. “Yes. Somebody managed to include a letter in the ezhuthupetti, severely criticizing the program and the authority instead of supporting me openly said that we are planning to change the tutor. Thus overnight every thing was settled as desired by the wicked forces.” His voice choked and he became emotional. “That was not the way to oust somebody.” He remarked.
But I am happy that aspiring musicians who approached me after listening my radio lessons have later became popular singers like, Dr. Jalaja Varma, Dr. G Bhuvaneswari, and Dr. B. Arundathi. TR Rema is popular in Chennai. My daughter Premalatha is working in the Department of Music, Women’s college,” said Krishnaswami the recipient of this years Sangeetha Ratna Award, instituted by Adi Sankara Vedanta Sanskrit Society, besides many other awards and accolades.
“I conducted lessons exclusively on Deekshitars composition for one year. Then I taught Pancharatna Keertana. I recorded and edited Navarathri Mandapam recitals. The two and a half program concludes by 8.30 pm and the same has to be edited with in one hour for broadcast at 9.30pm.,” remembered the Krishnaswami.
“I am happy that I am a contemporary of Semmangudi, Lalgudi, and KSN. The contribution of Semmangudi brought pure music to Kerala. Whether it is Swati Tirunal, Tyagaraja, or Deekshitar his rendition is of the purest form. Though I am the primary disciple of Lakshmana Pillai I followed his rendition. Semmangudi once happened to hear me singing a piece in Kamaz popularized by him. “That is nice. You are singing like me,” said Semmangudi. That shows his magnanimity-remembered this octogenarian.
Even today, many established musicians and upcoming artiste come in search of him. “The door is always open for them,” he concluded.
12th November 2006, 08:57 PM
vani jayaram(playback singer)
Vani Jayaram is a gifted person. Her flair for music is nurtured by great musicians of yester years. Her pencil sketches, oil and water color paintings speaks volumes on her aesthetic senses. She has won 17 prizes at the school final for extra curricular activities which continues in the college e days as well. Meet the multi faceted vani jayaram.
Whatever I have achieved in the field of music is because of my husband jayaram’s support-feels vani. Anative of vellore vani belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother is the disciple of Ranga Ramunaja Iyengar-a great veena artiste. Kadaloor Sreenivasa Iyengar, who taught vani’s sister music, was fascinated by her observation and grasping power. He taught her a few Deekshidar kritis when she was hardly five.
When the family shifted to Chennai Vani continued her music lessons in music under the tutelage of T R Balasubramanium, disciple of G N B and Trivandrum R S Mani (disciple of Semmangudi).
“AT THE AGE OF TEN I STARTED GIVING THREE HOUR CONCERT” SAYS VANI A GRADUAUTE IN Economics. MY MARRIAGE WITH JAYARAM IS A TURNING POINT IN MY LIFE. HE WAS THE EXCECUTIVE SECERTARY TO INDO-BELGIUM CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, MUMBAI. A talented sitar palyer he was trained by Sambu das a disciple of PT. Ravi Sankar. He took me to Abdul Rehman of Patiala gharana to learn Hindusthani music. The classes begin at 10 am and continued till 6 pm. So, resigned my job. He taught me the intricate techniques of thumri bhajans, and gahzals. Vasanth Desai happened to be there once. Impressed by my voice he gave an opportunity to sing for a Marathi play. I sang with KUMAR Gandharva. (marathi theatre insisted professional music recordings). Mean while Hrikesh Mukherjee asked Desai to compose music for his film Guddi. He made sing Bholorae papi hara….which turned out to be a super hit. It fetched me many awards” remembers Vani.
It is a nice coincidence that the all awards that received were for the classical based songs only. (apoorva raagangal, sankarabharanam and swati kiranam) Vani has sung in 14 languages with consummate ease. “It is god’s gift” she feels. Now she has devoted her time to Ghazals, geeths bhajans, folk songs. She also writes poems in Tamil and Hindi. She is running an audio recording unit in Chennai. She has worked with Pt. Birju maharaj, the legendary kathak maestro for two cassettes of thumri bhajans. Guru Kelu charan mohopatra played Pakhawaj for her rendition of Git Govind.
She is fortunate that she could sing for all popular music directors and had the privilege to sing with al stalwarts of India play back singing. She sang for the Hindi film Meera. The songs were composed by Ravi Sankar.
Vani organizes workshops and seminars for school children to prevent the onslaught of cultural imperialism. She would like to spend time with terminally ill patients and renders songs for them-an effort to ease their pain and wipe away the tears. (I E DATED 18 12 04).
12th November 2006, 08:59 PM
khalid anwar jan(vocalist from Pakistan)
Born in Jalander of undivided India, Khalid Anwar JAN migrate to Lahore on the eve of Independence. He went to Muscat to earn a living, and for the past three decades he has been teaching classical music. Meet this Pakistani vocalist who was in this city for a short stay.
In the interview he talked at length about KIRANA Gharana, the golden period of music its sad decline in Pakistan.
For Khalid music is always his first love. I do not belong to family of musicians. But all the family members love music. I still remember how we gather round the small radio every Saturday 9 pm to listen to the classical music-said Jan a chronic bachelor.
“At Muscat there are plenty of Keralites and most of my students are Malayalees. I came to India because of my disciple Manjari. SHE IS PERFROMING HERE AT THE Surya FESTIVAL. I AM HERE TO HEAR HER. “
THE VOCALIST HAD HIS TRAINING under the guidance of Feroz Nizami of Kirana Gharana. Nizami has composed a number of compositions for Hindi films including Jugunoo,starring Dileep Kumar and Noor Jahan,
Many consider Abdul Karim Khan as the founder of Kirana Kharana, Pople gather in thousands to hear Karim Khan expansive Bhairavi and Thodi at the Khwaja Mira Saheb Dargah.
Swaii Gandarwa the prominent disciple of Karim KHAN WAS ALSO A THEATRE Maniac. Once he refused to accompany his master on thampura saying that he had a sore throat and participated in a stage play. The master cursed him and since then Sawaii had to start singing one hour before the performance to clear his throat. Detractors of this Gharana mistook this exercise for the raagalap.Even now traditionalists sing aalap without rhythm accompaniment for about an hour-said Khalid Jan.
In the last century we had plenty of legendary musicians like Roshanara Beegum, Bade Ali Khan, Abdul Waheer Khan and Mubaraq Ali. Their repertoire was rich with tumri, dadra and ghazals. I could imbibe a lot from these singers.
According to Jan, India still has patrons for classical music. But in Pakistan it is almost declined. They consider classical music as outdated ones. They have lost aesthetic sense. We the classical singers have reduced to mere gaanae bhajanae wallahs.
He spoke at length about ghazals love lyrics of Persian origin. They are 10 centuries old and it was its brevity and rich suggestiveness that conquered the music lovers’ heart. It have deep root in Pakistan also. Iqbaal Banoo and Noor Jahan were the legendary singers.
This musician never misses Malayalam films.” Sathyan is my favorite actor and Yesudas is my favorite singer.” (436 words)
27th November 2006, 07:38 PM
“Music is an art which represents the divine beauty and grandeur of creation. God is the greatest poet, and this universe is HIS work- the intrinsic beauty and glory of which is expressed by music. One life time is not enough to learn music” said DR. N RAMANI, the popular flautist.
“My grand father Narayanaswami was a great musician. He played and taught all musical instruments except veena and flute was his favorite. Sikkil sisters are his disciples. Mymother and aunts were great singers and violinists. I am the nephew of the flute wizard Mali” said Dr Ramani.
“Mali’s rendition is intense and it is something one as to experience, When I heard Mali, I decided to concentrate on flute and in fact longed to play like him. This wish made me to devote more time for practice” he said.
“It was Travancore BROAD CASTING SERVICE which relayed my concert for the first time. In the late forties I approached my uncle for advanced training. Here began my commitment. I could acquire new dimension, depth and maturity imbibing the nuances and subtleties, of the rich legacy. Offers poured in and I could not complete my college studies.”
In 1956 I performed for Madras Music Academy. It was a turning point. I accompanied Veena Balachander to USA. WE gave separate concerts. Since 1971 I with Pt. Hariparasad churasya have been giving jugalbandi concerts.”
“It is a sacrifice and a compromise. To be frank, it is the south Indian performers who are forced to under go his. Academically both are benefited.”
“1950-70 was a golden period of Carnatic music. We had great musicians and serious audience” he opined.
Regarding the flute the instrument, he said there are several factors that determine the quality of the instrument. My flute is heavy. In my opinion Harikambodi is the ideal raga in which the preliminary swaras exercise can be taught in flute. The notes figuring in it allows to group it into consonantal pairs. Sa – pa bear the shadja panchama relationship, and the rest shadja madhyama relationship. Though this scale was known even in early times, the credit for imparting swarupa to it and endow it with a musical personality goes to Thyagaraja swamigal” explained Ramani.
Ramani has established Ramani;s academy of flute in Chennai with its baranches in Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Chennai Hyderabad and the USA. I HAVE MORE THAN 400 QUALITY DISCIPLES all over the world.
“Untiring practice makes a lot of difference. There is no short cut to learn music” he stressed.