Monday, 22 December 2014

Photo Exhibition: A rasika's frames

Bhargavii Mani's dream is coming true as she readies to part the curtain on a show by Art at Edge titled Arpana.
You will make her doubly happy if you take time to check out her show this 'season'. This Chennai-based designer and photographer is hosting a show of her unique photos of some leading and senior artistes, musicians and dancers and gurus.
These pictures are shot, not for the camera or for an assignment but in an easy atmosphere and seek to capture the artiste and his or her passion. As she puts it, "The defining moments when the artiste and art merge into seamless mastery have been captured through the eyes of a rasika. "

The launch of this show is on December 22 at 4.00 pm at Lalit Kala Akademi, Graemes Road by N Gopalaswami, former Chief Election Commissioner of India. ( It is open till Dec.28)

The photographer has also arranged for a few events that run alongside the show. Here are two of them -

23rd December 4pm - Vikku Vinayakaram keeps you in rhythm with the late Mandolin U Shrinivas and goes onto explain his journey with his Chatur Ghatam

24th December 4 pm – Mandolin U Rajesh and Anil Srinivasan string the keys to rediscovering the lure of ragas at Arpana. An evening dedicated to lateMandolin U Shrinivas, the musician, composer, a guru and a brother. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Sabha Canteen Tour!

A small group of the Chennai Food Walks community went down to three sabha canteens on Saturday evening to sample the food here. This photo was taken at the canteen on the Narada Gana Sabha campus on Saturday evening.

Kutcheri space out of old film studio floor

What was once one of the film shooting floors for popular actors like MGR is the venue for the music fest of Valayapatti Kaashyap Naadhalaya. Sathya Studios, located on the banks of the Adyar river was once a buzzing film studio with many floors which were bustling in the heydays of Tamil cinema shot indoors.
Long after the studios were closed, a college for women opened, managed by people who are part of the MGR family. One floor, now air-conditioned has been made into an auditorium. It is huge, brightly-lit and set in a sprawling campus that is quiet after the day is done for the college.
Friday's opening event saw a small audience. Nagaswaram artistes are given space at this fest which is open to all.
This may not be a great auditorium but one can listen to music in quiet - the roar of the Adyar traffic is far away.

But the organizers must light up the entrance gate - people new to this venue miss the entry. This campus is now the MGR Janaki College for Women.

Natya Darshan; The first morning

Featured here are notes made at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, venue for the 4-day Natya Darshan conference on dance hosted by Kartik Fine Arts which began on Friday. Lec-dems in the morning, recitals in the evening.
<< Over the years, this particular event of the 'season' has built a style of its own. Stage design, projections, reception and communication - is often smart and welcoming. A simple effort of placing vintage furniture on stage for guests and artistes ( Anita Ratnam lent her collection this year) makes a visual statement. Victor Paulraj, now a experienced lighting designer who learnt under the late theatreperson Mithran Devanesan creates the right atmosphere, and with ease.  One plaint though - when all the house lights are switched off at this auditorium, negotiating your way inside is testy.

<<  Art historian B. N. Goswamy delivered the opening address. He did it with ease and offered visuals of loads of Indian paintings, all north Indian. But feedback was that while the art on the screen was sumptuous Goswami sounded more like a high school art teacher asking people to look here, look there right through his 20-minutes talk. He did not move to a higher plane.

<<  Dancer Uma Satyanarayanan, a senior sishya of Chitra Visweswaran who has been on a high in her career this past year presented a new piece curated for this event. But one wondered why she was not asked to share her 'creative process' on this. ( The seminar theme is - Lotuses Bloom). We asked Uma later that evening and she had no answer. She had a paper to read before her recital but  . . . .

<<  The audience watched keenly veteran dancer Shymala Mohanraj on stage - this Sri Lankan veteran who lives in the city and was an early sishya of the great Balasaraswathi. She kept her talk simple but made notable points and gave a nice demo - of dance of another era.

<<  There was a lot of sharing at Aniruddha Knight's lec-dem. One point that the dancer who traces his roots to dancers and musicians over nine generations of the famed Veena Dhanammal family was that there is music in dance and dance in music and the two must go hand in hand for a great recital. "I have to learn the song and be able to sing it before I start performing, " said Aniruddha. Vocalists Usha Shivakumar and Vidhya Sankarnarayanan joined him in the demo - showing the audience the variations a song takes when it is plainly sung and when it is sung for dance.

<<  The hosts have made a few offers to dancers and students to draw them to Natya Darshan but not many seem to be keen. One did not find lots of young dance students in the hall - are they not keen to learn, to watch, to listen?

In memory of Prof. TRS . . .

In a small hall at an art gallery on Eldams Road in Alwarpet, a quiet concert series is on now. It is promoted by Music Education Trust (MET), founded by late T. R. Subramanyam (TRS) who was known for his intellectual and practical sides to music.
Formally inaugurated in 1989, MET's objective is, as its name suggests, to provide education on music, particularly Carnatic music.  Workshops, festivals, symposia and focus group meets have always been a part of MET since its inception.  
The Chennai Chapter of MET was formally inaugurated by Dr. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer in the year 1990.  
Artiste Mohan Santhanam says MET always endeavours to hold concert festivals with a difference.  
"This year the festival consists of a series concerts by prominent artists each of which will feature a Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi set in a Vivadi raga," he adds. The series is on now.

Call 24662571

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Jottings at a Wedding Hall; one more festival launch

The opening evening of the December Season festival of Indian Fine Arts Society was held on Wednesday, December 17 at the Ethiraja Kalyana Mantapam, Alwarpet. A few jottings of the event.

< Till the other day, the mantapam hosted a series of weddings and receptions. This evening, it was a venue for a music and dance festival. You would have been forgiven if you thought you were now attending a wedding reception! The decor was similar, a welcome party was at the main door and the senior artistes who were to be on the stage, dressed in the best silks were also seated at the entrance; there was a reason for it. They and the sabha elders were led to to the stage by the nagaswaram artistes who had been playing since 3.30 p.m.

< If you are a rasika who attends events like these you may well shake your head when you have to listen to emcees and hosts reeling out the profiles of well known artistes. Some hosts try their own versions of introduction and can be a source of amusement for their goofiness. 'We have seen her since her teen years,' can even be embarrassing to an artiste when this isn't true. This evening here, there were some hilarious spots.

< Many speakers mentioned that on stage, were a group of talented women. Now, there was one person who would have raised his eyebrows. Mridangam vidwan Mannargudi Easwaran, decorated with an award instituted by Umayalpuram Sivaraman was on stage. On either side were women - guest Chitra Visweswaran, the awardees Priyadarshini Govind and A Kanyakumari, guests Bombay Sisters and Nandini Ramani. 

< These occasions can get speakers go personal. Too personal - these can be lighter moments and some can make you wince. Kanyakumari, reacting to C. Saroja's anecdotes of the Bombay Sisters' relationship with the violinist, recalled days when the Bombay Sisters would pack some idles for her for 'tiffin'.

< Kanyakumari went down memory lane. The year when she had decided to study music at Queen Mary's College on the Marina. The office had told her that the seats were filled up. So, in keeping with her devotion to the Lord of the Seven Hills, she had made yet another trip to Tirupathi and got back to the city. A relative had made a call to a officer at the government secretariat they knew and also mentioned about Kanyakumari's admission predicament. In a jiffy, a call was made to QMC and the young music student was admitted. " That was a turning point in my life," she said.

<  There was an emotional moment on stage. Priyadarshini dedicated her award to all those who had made sacrifices for her. She mentioned her husband and suddenly broke down. There was silence all around. It took some time for the dancer to compose herself. "I rarely get emotional on stage but……….", she said and carried on with a slow, paced speech. This is her second award this season.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Natya Darshan, dance seminar and recitals from Dec.18

If dance is your passion/interest then you may want to attend the annual Natya Darshan event hosted by Kartik Fine Arts at Bharatiya Vidya Bjavan, Mylapore starting Dec.18 evening and on till Dec.21.
The morning sessions are for academic talks and short lec-dems while the evenings offer recitals by some of the best creative artistes from India and abroad.

The focus of Natya Darshan - Lotus Blooms - is on the creative process of artistes, with speakers sharing their experiences.

The seminar is curated by dancer Malavika Sarukkai along with Prof. Hari Krishnan. Among the speakers are afrt historian B N Goswami, writer-researcher Vikram Sampath and dancer and guru Prof C V Chandrasekar.

The host, Kartik Fine Arts wants to encourage dancers and dance students to sign up for the entire seminar and will offer free tickets to 25 regulars for the evening recitals, some of them will be chosen to also perform at the sabha's next dance festival.

Though Natya Darshan seminars have been well organized and stimulating it gets small audiences at the academic sessions. The sabha wants dance gurus to encourage their students to attend the event.

Concerts online; how many are watching them?

More and more rasikas are enjoying the 'season' concerts online. A few people are making the effort to web stream them, now that the technology is easy and cheaper.
One man who is at it is Ramakrishnan of Arkay Centre in Luz whose cosy performance space draws many rasikas.
Fitted with the accessories required to webcast, the small team here puts out photos and live concerts. Ramakrishnan says though the number of people watching 'live' is small lots more watch the recitals if they are hosted online.
"This is a small but committed attempt..let us see how this progresses," says the arts promoter.

<<<<   HAVE YOUR SAY - If you too watch concerts online what is your experience? Mail to -

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Notes from The Music Academy

The season at The Music Academy opened on Tuesday, Dec.15 evening. Here are some scrapbook notes -

< LED advertisement boards greet you at The Music Academy campus on the evening of the inauguration of its 88th Conference. Cloth and flex banners are slowly giving way to new technology - adverts that hit you straight and hard. Stalls in the lobby are restricted, with many set up on the first floor - makes it easy for rasikas to move their feet.

< On the dot of 5 p.m. the curtains go up for the formal event. The backdrop is a departure from what we have seen the past years - the skies theme gives it a Christmassy effect. The Academy is stiff and formal about its 'season' events, gliding through the motions. So when Sangita Kalanidhi designate T V Gopalakrishan grabs the mike out of turn, you know that this is not the done thing on this stage!

< Inaugurations at all our sabhas are not packed, rousing ceremonies. The audience at the Academy is moderate. But everybody is dressed for the occasion - especially the women who are in their best Kanjeevarams. 

< The guest of the evening, Prof. K. Radhakrishnan, the chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is probably the most impressive speaker at the Academy in recent years. The space scientist, feted recently for the Mangalyaan project which had India put a satellite on Mars in its very first attempt, is also a longtime music and dance student and performer ( last week, he had performed in Bangalore, we are told). He delves into the religious texts, the cultural legacies, Carnatic music and the traditions of Kerala to deliver an impressive speech to an attentive audience. 

< Academy president, N. Murali makes two important mentions in his speech. The men and women the Academy decorated in the past who passed away this past year. He specially talks about Mandolin U Srinivas, welling in emotion - saying that Srinivas had first performed at the Academy when he was just 14 and continued to do so for 30 years, same day, same time. ( this day - Dec.23 - this year has been dedicated to this master). Murali also mentions the many grants made by well-wishers including one by Srinivas' father for 'best instrumentalist'.

< Murali also refers to ongoing development at the Academy, with plans to install modern lighting systems and more additions to the recorded vintage music at the Academy-TAG Centre located at the rear of the Kasturi Srinivasan hall. Architect P T Krishnan has led the renovation and development which has made this performance space a premier one.

< The canteen here hosted its first set of diners after the formal function and when the tiffin demands ran high the stewards took some time to deliver. Pakodas and bondas ran out quickly, dosas were the option and the coffee counter was busy on a mildly chill evening.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Music Academy's nice packet for members

The Music Academy members get their Season Ticket in a packet - and these landed in the box last week
The pack is neatly wrapped in a plastic pouch with a velcro seal, it has the invite cards for the inaugural function and the Sadas event, the coupon for members' breakfast on New Year's day, a coupon for the program book and a communique from the President of the Academy summarizing their efforts in ensuring a 'successful' conduct of this Season. 

Neat work.

- Report by R. Venkataraman

Faces of the season!

This is one for the photographer, on the evening when Naada Inbam launched its own music festival  at its Raga Sudha hall on Luz Avenue, Lux.  Vocalist Gayathri Venkataraghavan ( on they left) is seen with Naada Inbam's Jayalakshmi before the start of the first concert of this series.

Jayalakshmi is a low profile organizer, having taken over from her father who founded this sabha and built this hall - the late S V Krishnan.

The series here has space for some innovative recitals and features less known artistes too. The hall makes for a cosy space for music listening and is a favorite of many rasikas.

Yesudoss is also a story-teller

K. J. Yesudoss is a good story-teller. As good as the vocalist that he is. One recent evening, at the opening evening of Chenai Cutlural Academy in T. Nagar where he was decorated with a lifetime achievement award, he shared many stories of his life and of life's lessons.

The veteran artiste dwelt for some time on the attitude and approach of youngsters to the learning of music. He said that his father was only keen to see him learn music and did not encourage anyone to ask the young student to give a concert. "Father did not even shake his head to acknowledge the level of the skills I had mastered," recalled Yesudoss who even folded his hands, like a schoolboy to show the audience the situation that he was in when his dad spoke to him.

It was only when he turned 18 that his father allowed him to perform. 'It is only much much later that I realized the worth and meaning of my father's position," recalled Yesudoss.

He was hinting to the audience that youngsters must not be in a hurry to perform.

He took his time to speak, and speak freely. Even singing the strands of a couple of songs to demonstrate the challenge they posed to vocalists.