16th December 2011, 03:11 PM
Rajhesh Vaidhya, who is making a name for himself as the artist whose “fingers move at a blistering pace on his electric and amplified stringed instrument,” is in the midst of coordinating his Anusham Chamber Concerts, practising for solo performances scheduled for the Season, and working on an album. “I love this hectic pace,” says the veena whiz kid during a chat. “This is what I know best.”
16th December 2011 03:11 PM
19th December 2011, 03:16 PM
22nd December 2011, 08:15 PM
western vs carnatic music
Four Chennai musicians, whose roots are firmly in the Carnatic tradition but who experiment with new forms, will present a Festival of Parallels on western and Indian classical music. In a series of lecture-concerts from December 24 to January 2, 2012, pianist Anil Srinivasan, vocalists P Unnikrishnan and Sikkil Gurucharan and violinist Lalgudi GJR Krishnan will compare and contrast the work of classical composers from across cultures through talks and performances. Srinivasan will present western compositions, while the others will perform traditional Carnatic ones. For instance, Krishnan will talk about and perform the work of violinist and composer Lalgudi Jayaraman.
23rd December 2011, 08:48 PM
seat yourself at a Carnatic music concert and you will find that, for the first few minutes of each piece, this exercise consumes a certain section of the audience. This rasika, during the alapana, transforms into an intelligence officer gleaning meaning out of garbled transmissions. The music, at this point, isn't a portal to pleasure but an exam question awaiting an answer. Is this Shri or Madhyamavati? Twenty points. Vexed foreheads are uncreased only when the pallavi begins, whose opening words lead those with raga-identification books to rifle through relevant pages. Those without guides may corkscrew their necks in the direction of the omniscient mama behind — him of the fierce, sandpaper-voiced whisper — who is enlightening his mildly baffled wife. This acquired knowledge will then be passed on from row to row, a heaving body in a silent mosh pit, till everyone in the auditorium knows the name of the raga emanating from the stage.
These listeners have, in these furtive endeavours, missed crucial minutes of the piece, but they are not to be blamed. They are afflicted, the poor souls, with what might be called the TOUR syndrome: the Tyranny of the Unidentified Raga. It's a compulsive condition; one that convinces the rasika that the composition they are listening to cannot be enjoyed unless they know the name of its raga. They may not care whether the canteen dosa came off a multi-serve griddle or a solitary skillet, but Sheshachala nayakam, they maintain, cannot be satisfactorily digested unless they label it a Varali. Only after arriving upon this information, whose importance assumes the proportions of a sphinxian riddle to be cracked open in order to be let through, can they begin to focus on the artiste's expressiveness and phrasing, the warmth and colour of tone and timbre, the aspects of a concert that would normally attract listeners.
Technical knowledge is important — to the critic evaluating a performance; to the mature listener looking to sink deep into the music — but it is not the primary aspect of a Carnatic music concert. Like the language the composition is set in — Telugu or Kannada or Sanskrit — these details about raga and tala, korvai and karvai are essentially building blocks, with which the composition is constructed by composer and singer. The purpose of the composition, however, is to transcend these blueprints and transport the listener to a realm of emotion similar to the feeling that arises upon sighting a majestic painting, unaware of its roots in oils or watercolours, or savouring the creation of a chef before whose art the only possible response is to close the eyes. You don't need to acquaint yourself with the contents of the spice rack, just the capacity to surrender to the moment would do.
25th December 2011, 09:20 PM
classical music 2011 roundup
Chaste classicism. Uncompromising adherence to tradition. Experimentation and innovation too. Lots of fusion, and some confusion. Collaborations between genres Indian and western. Crossover music, world music… Some surprises in the tone, timbre and tenor of music. We saw all this and more in the field of classical music and dance in 2011.
Navtej JoharHowever, it was classical music that ruled the scene. Tradition remains rock solid even as transition happens. Dr Pappu Venugopal Rao, secretary, Madras Music Academy, says, “Classicism survives. Adherence to tradition is still the benchmark by which classical musicians and dancers are judged.”
Pandit Jasraj also opines, “Classical music will always survive –––– our traditions, Hindustani and Carnatic, are so great, so strong.” The venerable Jasraj himself continued to enthrall with his golden voice. Other illustrious musicians also continued to wow critics and connoisseurs –– sarod player Amjad Ali Khan, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia, santoor player Shivkumar Sharma, vocalist Parveen Sultana and tabla wizard Zakir Hussain.
Celebrated musician duos, vocalists Rajan and Sajan Mishra, and Gundecha Brothers, cemented their reputation with riveting performances. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, Ajoy Chakrobarty, Shruti Sadolikar and Shubha Mudgal also impressed.
Even as the void left by the departure of icons like Bhimsen Joshi and Gangubai Hangal continued to be felt in Hindustani music, the younger generation dazzled with their concerts –– like vocalist Sanjeev Abhayankar, flautist Ronu Majumdar, sitarist Shubhendra Rao and rudra veena player Bahaudddin Dagar.
Bharatanatyam’s three reigning divas — Alamervalli, Malavika Sarukkai and Priyadarshini Govind –– awed audiences with their outstanding talent. Shobana presented her latest creation ‘Krishna’, a musical which amalgamates film and classical dance, to widespread appreciation in Chennai. Teacher-dancer Anita Guha once again won praise for her choreography skills. Among the abundant talent of the younger generation, Mythilli Prakash once again garnered critical acclaim.
Kuchipudi’s doyennes like Shobha Naidu, Manju Bhargavi and Vyjayanthi Kashi also came up with impressive performances while the legendary Vempati Chinna Satyam’s son Ravi Shankar worked hard to keep his father’s great legacy going. Swapna Sundari presented widely appreciated performances of ‘Vilasini Natyam’. Kuchipudi dancer and scholar Alekhya Punjala released a full-length DVD presentation of the popular Kuchipudi dance-drama ‘Bhamakalapam’.
Interestingly, while Bharatanatyam is going ahead with more dance-dramas, Kuchipudi, which originally drew mostly on these items, began to head more towards solos, as Dr Pappu observed.Shobhana
In Kathakali, which is gaining increasing visibility in the past few years, we saw many an absorbing performances. The art which has gained from the Kalakshetra association also saw the highly accomplished Leela Samson and maestro Sadanam Balakrishnan star in a widely appreciated production, ‘Lavanasuravadham’. This was the year when that rare breed –– female Kathakali artistes –– also made their presence felt.
As always, we saw eminent Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan come up with interesting shows. A Kathak duet between Jyoti Manral and Seema Malhotra at Lalitarpan Festival in Delhi drew the praise of connoisseurs, including Shovana herself. Malabika Mitra, Aloka Kanungo and Prerna Shrimali also displayed their mettle as did other talents of this genre.
Odissi virtuoso Sonal Mansigh continued to draw crowds with one of her recently choreographed pieces, ‘Shiva Shringar’. And Ratikant Mahapatra, son and student of the late legendary Odissi guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, presented ‘Samsmaranam’, a tribute to his father.
It was gratifying for senior Mohiniattam artistes to see a growing number of youngsters take to the lasya-dominant art. “It is wonderful to see their enthusiasm. I also find that many artistes in this genre are exploring newer dimensions,” exclaimed Mohiniattam doyenne Bharati Shivaji. They even performed alongside dancers of other genres.
In fact, one noticed some interesting productions which presented an anthology of classical dance styles, though not all of them were harmonious or successful. Institutions like Kalakshetra, Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy, Kalamandalm and ITC Sangeet Research Academy, besides Nrityagram, continued to function as great support structures for classical arts.
Well-known annual dance festivals like Khajuraho, Konark, Delhi International Arts Festival and countless others spread the fragrance of our classical arts. TTD’s ‘Nada Neerajanam’ at Tirumala too continued to showcase the country’s greatest artistes and upcoming talent in classical dance and music.
Tagore was a hot favourite this year, considering this was his 150th birth anniversary. His poems, dance-dramas, short stories and lyrics found their way into several presentations of Kathak, Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Odissi.
The current queens among female Carnatic vocalists, Sudha Ragunathan and Bombay Jayashri, came up with dazzling performances. Among the female instrumentalists, while A Kanyakumari, Sukanya Ramgagopal and Emani Kalyani Lakshminarayana ruled, younger artistes like Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and Veena Gayathri impressed with high calibre performances.
Music colossus M Balamuralikrishna continued to mesmerise audiences with his tremendous talent and awesome creativity. Staying entirely true to tradition and displaying to the world what the grandeur of pure classicism is all about were both stalwarts and young stars.
Thanks to the proliferation of mass media, we saw classical music and dance move beyond the usual platforms to television through reality shows. It is a good augury that classical arts are finding more mass appeal. However, as Bombay Jayashri said, “This increased number of platforms for the burgeoning talent among the youth is heartening. But we must take care that the identity of Carnatic music does not suffer in the process.”
Contemporary dance is a comparatively new phenomenon in India as compared to the West, but is evolving steadily and witnessing receptive audiences today. Specially choreographed creations in the contemporary idiom were presented by Navtej Johar, Aditi Mangaldas, Anusha Lall and Madhu Natraj, and groups like Nritarutya and Jayachandar Palazhi’s Attakalari.
It is a matter of pride for us that many of our classical dancers and musicians have found platforms for their art in foreign stages too. In New York, the Erasing Borders Festival of Indian Dance showcased three Indian classical dance styles –– Bharatanatyam by Rukmini Vijayakumar, Manipuri by Natya Academy artistes and Mohiniattam by Mandakini Trivedi. Indian artistes also played alongside artistes of other genres –– through fusion, crossovers and collaborations. While santoor player Rahul Sharma tied up with Richard Clayderman, violinist Jyotsna Srikanth collaborated with western greats Simon Thacker and Robert Atchison.
Well, as the year is about to end, many exciting things are still happening — the Chennai Music Festival being one of them. Let’s look forward to another great year.
26th December 2011, 08:55 PM
Musicians embrace some aspects of digital technology while decrying others. Carnatic music has had its own unique love-hate relationship with emerging technologies. In the midst of a raging debate about ‘recording' and ‘reproduction', many musicians have begun teaching over Skype in the last 6-7 years.
27th December 2011, 08:07 PM
Tyagaraja kirtana background stories
A close friend of Tamil writers T. Janakiraman and Karichan Kunchu, Athreyan has written a total of 28 such stories over the years, but could trace only 12 of them and has published them in this book.
There is an apocryphal story that Madurai Mani Iyer steadfastly refused to sing Tyagaraja's Kalyani raga composition Nidhi chaala sukhama. The bard is said to have composed it after rejecting an offer from the Tanjavur king to become a court musician. “How can I sing that song when I am accepting money for my performances?” Mani Iyer would ask.
The stories in Sri Tyagaraja Anubhavangal are not his own construction, Athreyan observes. “They were narrated to me by Umayalpuram Swaminatha Bhagavatar during my student days in Kumbakonam. I used to wash his clothes out of respect. I also got to listen to many stories while I heard some conversations Swaminatha Bhagavatar had with Yagnaswami Shastri, and also from Embar Vijayaraghavachariar.”
Swaminatha Bhagavatar was a disciple of Umayalpuram Sundara Bhagavatar, who learnt directly from Tyagaraja.
“Tyagaraja had a very sensitive mind. All his compositions were born out of personal experiences, in a spontaneous outpouring. Unlike Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri, who composed to enrich Carnatic music and give shape to ragas, Tyagaraja was not driven by any such motives. His compositions are purely an outcome of sukhanubava,” explains Athreyan, singing a line or two from each composition that he speaks about.
In one of his stories, the author also expresses concern about some musicians not paying enough attention to the words, pronunciation and context of every song.
And the fictionalised versions of the real-life incidents offer some insights into Tyagaraja, a saint-composer, ardent devotee of Rama and also a man given to human emotions.
The story behind the Hindola raga composition Manasuloni is a case in point. According to Athreyan, Tyagaraja was disturbed by how his kriti Paluku kanda chakkera in Navarasa Kannada was interpreted by a group of dancers.
“He suddenly plunged into sadness, after seeing how the crowd there started celebrating the erotic postures. Spontaneously, the pallavi of Manasuloni was born. But it took quite some time for him to complete the composition,” Athreyan said.
The fact that Arunachala Kavirayar's Rama Nataka keertanas made a tremendous impact on Tyagaraja is exemplified by his Yadukula Kambhodhi song Etavuna nerchitivo.
He composed the song after spending a whole night watching Rama Natakam at an open field. When he was asked to come to the dais, he turned emotional and hugged the blacksmith who performed the role of Rama and wiped off the sweat on his body with his towel.
27th December 2011, 08:17 PM
Ravikiran on Madurai mani iyer
He is undoubtedly among the greatest India has produced. His life symbolised shruti shuddham and his music transcended the region-and-culture-specific values of the Carnatic genre. His music could sit seamlessly in the pantheon of pitch-perfect artistes in any part of the world across time. My grandfather, Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar, is known to have phrased it colourfully — “Even if the sun rises in the west and the oceans trip over themselves, Madurai Mani would never deviate from shruti.”
Mani Iyer's treatment of attractive non-major ragas such as Jayantasena, Kapinarayani, Ravichandrika and Pratapavarali elevated their status several notches. His mastery over the ‘big' ragas, Todi, Kalyani, Bhairavi and Kambhodhi was second to none just as his command over other popular parent ragas such as Keeravani, Charukeshi, Shanmukhapriya and Vachaspati. His concert formula (at least in later years) studiously eschewed ragas that sounded melancholic or poignant (Mukhari, Neelambari) and even when he chose to sing a raga like Varali, he preferred the crisp Kaavaava laced with swaras. His choice of rakti (evocative) ragas would lean towards Anandabhairavi, Sahana, Devagandhari, Dwijayavanti followed by kritis such as O jagadamba, Shree kamalambikayam, Seetavara or Chetashree, rendered almost cheerfully!
Madurai Mani Iyer was synonymous with swara singing and was an indisputable master of this. He could repeatedly spur even the most stoic audiences to express themselves through rounds of thunderous applause. And he didn't need to resort to a Ramanujan-level of arithmetic to woo audiences.
29th December 2011, 12:39 AM
"A genius [Palghat Mani Iyer] who redefined the art of mridangam playing"
30th December 2011, 08:34 PM
singers straddling carnatiic & film music
Many youngsters are learning Carnatic music these days, but quite a few seem to have playback singing as the primary option. Or are they eyeing the reality shows with stupendous prizes? Is it possible to be a successful classical and light music singer? Mahathi, the great granddaughter of Sangita Kalanidhi Pazhamaneri Swaminatha Iyer, trained in Carnatic music, before she sang a film song for ...