Thursday 31 December 2015

Special concert by Anil Srinivasan, Sikkil Gurucharan and Jayanthi Kumaresh

Here is a note from pianist Anil Srinivasan who collaborated with a variety of classical and pop musicians and has taken his shows around the world.

"We are hosting a very special morning show, featuring two short recitals - Jayanthi Kumaresh and Sikkil. C. Gurucharan with me, at Luz House. 
We've raised money specifically for rebuilding two schools - their reps will be present that day. This will be a chamber-style concert, ably supported by the promoters of Luz House. Percussionist B. S. Purushotham accompanies at both recitals."

The venue has limited seating.

Jan. 3, 7.30 am to 9 am. Luz House ( located on Luz Church Road, opp. Sastri Hall, behind the petrol station). 
Donations are welcome.

Safety issues at sabha halls

This is for managers of The Music Academy.
One evening, the only exit on the second floor had chairs blocking the door and walkways - chairs were placed on all the steps in the balcony area. 
This was for Sanjay Subrahmanyan's concert - we are happy his recitals attract so many fans, but this 'informal' seating arrangement poses a major hurdle in case of a mishap/accident/emergency.

The Academy and many other sabhas must also look at safety issues - all these are big spaces that host many hundred people.

- Report by Dr. Raja K. Iyer

New Year eve musical celebration

Vocalist and arts promoter K. N. Shashikiran has moved this annual show from The Music Academy to Vani Mahal. T. Nagar.

Scores of artistes and gurus, seniors and juniors will take turns to present short music recitals on stage to wind up 2015 and welcome the new year.

Free and open to all. On Dec.31, 10 p.m. onwards.
Prasadam will be served to guests.

Guests are also invited to donate to the Chennai flood relief fund which will go to help artistes and others who have been affected.

Remembering Chandralekha . . .

The iconic dancer and guru who worked out of her Elliots Beach-side house and studio in Chennai will be remembered this year at Spaces ( her home turned art center) with a outdoor photo exhibition of her and the works she choreographed. Curated by Sadanand Menon.

From Dec.29 to Jan.5. Open through the day. 
At No.1. Elliots Beach Road, Besant Nagar.

Srinidhi Chidambaram, new convener of Natya Kala Conference

Bharatanatyam dancer Dr Srinidhi Chidambaram has been chosen to be the convener of the next two Natya Kala Conferences at Krishna Gana Sabha.
A medical doctor by profession, she is also a senior dancer and is based in Chennai.

Reporting the Season on FB; a rasika shares his experience

Chennai-based music rasika V. Rajagopalan who actively uses social media during the December Season, shares his experiences in this note -

‘Govindanadi, Mukundanadi, move over Kolaveri di’ – thus began my modest journey of concert snippets on Facebook during Season 2011. I had attended a concert by Sanjay Subrahmanyan on December 19. 

I was swept off by that spellbinding concert –  that night I jotted my feelings of that recital on Facebook.

I had only a few friends on Facebook back then. But encouraged by the responses from them, I started writing notes from the concert halls. A lengthy post on the concert by Abhishek Raghuram at The Music Academy that Season got me several new friends and a few not-so-friendly rebukes! I recall with fondness the exchanges some of us had with T M Krishna  on FB on his Academy concert – he was very active on Facebook back then!

During Season 2013 I became very active on Facebook and started writing a series of concert notes under the title (didn’t know of hashtags back then!) ‘Season Snippet’. 

Thanks to the power of smartphone, I started posting live feeds of concerts during Season 2014. Akin to a ball-by-ball running commentary on radio of cricket matches, some of us on Facebook would post details of every raga alapana, the kriti, where the singer chooses to perform neraval and swaras and so on. This would open a concert at once to rasikas at other venues, other cities in India and abroad.

A key 'season' event is historian V. Sriram lectures. The live feeds of these lectures on Facebook got a big following.
On a similar note, I have also been posting live feeds of his Heritage Walks over the last three years – quite a few friends in other cities follow this keenly and chat with me in private, seeking more info.

Season 2015 has been a joy ride. I started using the hashtag #SeasonSnippet on my concert posts. This year saw the birth of several WhatsApp groups – primarily rasikas of certain musicians – with hyper-active conversation threads on every concert the group members attend.

Social Media has helped us the rasikas come closer. And connect like never before.

Monday 28 December 2015

Stage for young NRI artistes . . .

NRI rasikas quietly skipped the season ( though they are now said to be flying in to visit family and friends) and that color was certainly missing at the sabhas.

But a whole community of young artistes have been in the city this past week - some 80-plus young musicians from all parts of the USA have flown in to perform at concerts under the Cleveland Aradhana festival banner.

Auditoriums in R. A. Puram and in Thiruvanmiyur ( south Chennai) were the venues for their concerts.
Said the man behind the Cleveland arts body, V. V. Sundaram,"While we curate the concerts here the young artistes manage their own travel plans and pay for them."

This 'season'-based event has been happening for some years now, giving the USA-based young artistes the window to perform during the season here in Chennai.

Auto-driver's Subbudu experience; retold today

While hopping from one music sabha to another in an auto with a friend this season, this interesting incident took place with the talkative and aged auto driver, Ezhumalai.  

The initial topic of discussions was the Chennai traffic and the recent floods. 

Then, sensing that that we were music rasikas, Ezhumalai, told us that many, many years ago he used to wait outside Krishna Gana Sabha, T. Nagar for customers.  

He had had the opportunity to drive the legendary late Subuddu on many occasions during the music seasons of those years from Krishna Gana Sabha to the hotel where Subuddu used to stay.  I asked him if he knew who Subbudu was.  

Pat came the reply - "He was a great music critic. I got to know him and of him those years!" 

- Report by V. Srikanth

Saturday 26 December 2015

Thamizh isai music festival

A Thamizh isai music festival.
This just got off to a start at Bhavans in Mylapore on Dec.26 evening. And is hosted annually during the 'season' by Kartik Fine Arts sabha.
The sabha used to hold it at a college auditorium in Anna Nagar ( west Chennai) but over the years, patronage dwindled and the sabha managers, who run at least three series of concerts simultaneously for the 'season' threw up their hands, realizing it was not worth the sweat and have 'adjusted' the Thamizh isai fest into their Mylapore schedule.

Anna Nagar is a sprawling neighborhood but music and dance recitals hardly attract a decent number of rasikas.

Freebies for lucky rasikas!

If you have been attending the music concerts at Shringeri Mutt, Mandaveli ( south Chennai) conducted by Raja Annamalaipuram Baktha Jana Sabha you may have wondered why home stuff like casseroles, flasks and dinner sets are kept near the dais.

Now, these are gifts from the hosts - Raja Annamalaipuram Baktha Jana Sabha. 
The organizers distribute tokens to the rasikas before the start of the concert. At the end of the concert, a lucky dip is drawn and the lucky rasikas have the privilege to choose their gifts.

Way to keep the audience engaged!
What if you leave mid-way and your ticket gets picked up?!!!

- Report by Sundararaman C.

Sabha Canteen menus; online

Sabha canteens are drawing in foodies. Though the spaces are not packed since rasikas have been smaller in number.

To draw in more foodies, the Moremilaga mobile App, was launched to focus on sabha canteens' menu - it displays the menu of all leading sabhas ( The Music Academy, Mylapore Fine Arts, Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Mudhra and Indian Fine arts Society) on a daily basis.

Team leader Balaji says foodies and rasikas can quickly get to know "What's Special for the Day" at any of the sabha canteens from his App.
The menu is updated on a daily basis and primarily shows the day's special items, says Balaji.

You can reach Team Moremilaga's Balaji at 9884721755.

Elsewhere, foodie and entrepreneur Rakesh Raghunathan has put together a food and culture trail which he says "captures the essence of the December Season in Chennai."

"We update the daily lunch and dinner menus from major canteens regularly. The lunch menus go live by 9am and the evening snacks/dinner go live by 3p.m.," adds Rakesh.

KutcheriBuzz Carnatic Music Quiz; Bangalore team wins

The annual KUTCHERIBUZZ Carnatic Music Quiz was won by a  couple from Bangalore who were here in Chennai to soak in the music season.  
Held on Christmas afternoon at a small hall at P S School campus, Mylapore, the quiz attracted about 75 people and was conducted by R.Revathi, who is based in Bangalore and is a music student, writer-critic and runs a web site for children.
There was a written prelim round and the scoring was pretty high - many teens were seen in the audience, taking part.
Four teams went into the finals and these are the bests -
WINNER - 1. V. Sri Krishnan and B.Geetha
1. R. Hariram and C. Ram
2. Manikandan and T.R. Aravindhan
3. V. Harish Krishna and Lalitha

Prizes were sponsored by Mylapore Times, Sukra Jewellery, Suyra Greens & Sweets and Giri Trading Co

Safety measures at sabha halls / a rasika's observation

The excellent concert of Aishwarya Vidhya Raghunath at The Music Academy on Dec. 26 was briefly interrupted when the overhead light bulb came crashing down from the ceiling and fell right next to the dais where the kurcheri was going on. 

A similar thing happened a few years ago when Sanjay Subramanyan was performing, at that time the decorative backdrops snapped and fell on the dais. 

Aishwarya had finished the alapana in Ananda Bhairavi and violinist Sivakumar Anantharaman had just begun his response, the bulb fell down - but the three artists continued the concert after a brief halt and finished the concert on a high note.

How safe are our sabha halls? 
My observation is that minimum safety procedures are not followed at most venues. There are no emergency exit sign boards ( some exits are locked ), no exhibits of venue drawings marking the emergency exits prominently, no adequate fire extinguishers and no announcements of what to do when there is an emergency. 

These are musts in any public places hosting big concerts. Time for sabha managers to pay attention to safety guidelines and measures.

- Report by N Srikumar 

Lec-dem on Konnakkol/ some notes

On December 24, 2015, I had the pleasure of attending a lec-dem on “Konnakkol –Most Ancient and Most Modern” by vidwan Somasekhar Jois at Music Academy.
The speaker traced the roots of Konakkol, the drum language of South India, to the times of Ramayana. 
The rishis of the yore, in their infinite grace and wisdom taught this syllabalisation to those who could not chant the Vedic slokas. 
The speaker explained that the syllables like “Thathom” represented the Vedantic teaching “Tat Twam Asi” (meaning Thou art the Infinite) and the syllables –“Dhi tha laan gu” represented Lord Shiva’s family – “Dhi” standing for goddess Parvathi, “Tha” for Lord Shiva, “Lam” for Lord Ganesha and “Gu” for Guruguha or Lord Muruga .
Jois also mentioned the contributions of Mannargudi Pakkriya Pillai popularly hailed as the 'Grandman of Konnakkol' and other such stalwarts. 
In the present day, Trichy Thayumanavar has taken it a step further by using “Om” instead of “Thom”, “Harikita” replacing “Tharikita”, thus enhancing its spiritual value. 
Nattuvanars of Bharantnatyam have played an important role in the preservation of this art. 

Padanth is the Hindusthani equivalent of the South Indian konnakkol.
The speaker also revealed the dos and don’ts of rendering the Konnakkol. He emphasized that voice modulation, accuracy, pitch control and clarity were the pillars of Konnakkol rendition. He also demonstrated on stage how Konnakkol could embellish both the vocal and instrumental concerts. 

Somashekar Jois is a national award-winning multifaceted musician who is an audio engineer ; he also performs on the Konnakkol.

 - Report by Deepa Sekar

Veteran maestro for Christmas morning

Christmas morning's first concert at The Music Academy is reserved for the great violinist T. N. Krishnan. He was there on stage on Friday last, with Viji Natarajan and Sriram Krishnan, playing to a fairly large holiday audience. 
Krishnan is now rarely seen on stage - age limits his concerts and many rasikas believe the Christmas morning concert may have been this maestro's last at the Academy's 'season'.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Young stars; who have you spotted at the sabhas this season?

These are four young artistes - vocalist duo Apoorva and Anahita Ravindran, violinist Apoorva Krishna ( Bangalore) and mridangist, N. C. Bharadwaj - who were awarded for topping in the kutcheri format music contest held by Mudhra this year. 
This event - on Dec. 22 evening - was held at the hall inside the Ramakrishna Mission School, off Usman Road, T. Nagar where Mudhra's music fest is being held.
Have you spotted young artistes whose concerts rasikas must check out?
Share the info. KutcheriBuzz plans a Check Them Out listing for Season 2016.
You can comment here or mail to -

Some sabhas make a killing at box-office. Rasikas not amused.

Sabha managers seek to make a killing on the eve of a concert by the 'stars' of Carnatic music. Making money is part of their business. But this attitude is turning off loads of rasikas who cannot afford tickets priced tav Rs.400 and Rs.500. And depriving them of the music of the stars.
And the result is - many rows of empty seats in the front section of an auditorium.
If you want to ensure a ticket for 'star' concerts you have to get to the venue early to book one - which is a huge waste of time for working rasikas.
And if you manage to rush in 30minutes before the concert, you are offered the high-priced tickets.

The 'make a killing' strategy has certainly not gone down well with many rasikas. Some have decided to stay away from these concerts. "Fleecing rasikas who have limited budgets is a disservice, " said one disappointed rasika who was keen to be at Sankay Subrahmanyam's concert at Brahma Gana Sabha.

Soaking in traditional music, in North Chennai

For rasikas who wish to soak in traditional music, the morning and early afternoon concerts of Thamizh Isai Sangam must be checked out.
Concerts in nagaswaram, Divyaprabandham and Thirumurai are held; some concerts are by renowned odhuvars.
On Christmas day, 6.45 p.m. onwards a music troupe presents songs of the celebrated music director M S Vishwanathan (ticketed show).

Call 2534 1425 / 2534 1958 for information. Venue: Rajah Annamalai Manram, near Madras High Court ( north Chennai).

Season's Daily news sheet; offered as a file

The KutcheriBuzz Season's Daily news-sheet is being archived as a file and is available in hard copy form at the office. 
Costs Rs.100. 
Can be had after Dec.30, 11 am to 5.30 pm. 
Call 24994599 for bookings. Limited copies.
The Daily is a 2-page news sheet that publishes info, buzz, pictures and sidelights of the Season. It is circulated in leading sabhas every evening.

Season 2015; jottings by three rasikas

Featured below are jottings made by three rasikas on Season 2015.

<< Two points made during this 'season'
One - why do instrumental music concerts draw a small audience? From my experience, I find these artistes do not announce the kriti / ragam before playing the song and I am left guessing  all the time! 
Two - the air-conditioning is many halls is not maintained with relation to outside temperature. Seniors like us are left freezing in this December cold. So we try not to attend the post 7 p.m. concerts.
We request hall staff to keep a tab on the air-conditioning levels.
-  By D. Gopalakrishnan

<<  I attend the main concerts daily at Music Academy. This far, on most days, the shanmugapriya raga has been employed in ragam tanam pallavi.
For rasikas who are regulars this is surely an overdose!
- By V. Hariharan

<< The renovation at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha is welcome but we have a problem - by putting foam cushions on nice cane chairs, the back level has changed and many people are felling very uneasy.
The chairs were designed without they cushions in mind, we assume. So we have a back problem now! 
- By R. Savithri

Monday 21 December 2015

Elai sapad; menu at the Academy

The meals at the canteen at The Music Academy is served on banana leaves, the traditional way. The menu included 15 items and offers a taste of Kerala, Mumbai and Tamil Nadu. priced at Rs.220. Served from 11.30 a.m.
Good spread

Season is not taking off; zing is just not there

Now that all sabhas have launched their festivals one can safely say this - the season's zing is simply not there. 
We are at Narada Gana Sabha campus, Alwarpet - there seem to be more people in the canteen than in the queues to get in for the concert.
Many rasikas were disappointed that K. J. Yesudoss had cancelled his recitals - they were unaware of this and decided to move on.
"The other evening for Unnikrishnan's recital there were hardly hundred people here," a rasika tells us as he enjoys a dish of semiya during the concert break.

At Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore local residents walk in and out of the mini halls. That in anyway is their daily routine and is taken for granted.
Dance students make most of the audience at guru and dancer A. Lakshmanaswamy winds up his recital and a dance production of guru Ranganayaki Jayaraman unfolds.
Sabha managers are not taking a second look at their boxes for tickets and cash.

Next door, the R K Swamy Auditorium zone is bathed  in darkness ( the streetlights here never burn), there is some buzz inside - two young, star dancers of guru Sheela Unnikrishan are on stage and there are some 150 guests watching the recital here.
Most must be well-wishers and parents of the dance academy's students. But the sizable audience cheers the artistes on stage.

One has not seen a big queue at the box office counter at The Music Academy when tickets are sold from 9 a.m. More people double up to head to the canteen; and they aren't rasikas.

Clearly, the 2015 edition of the December Season is low-key. Understandable. There are many rasikas who have been severely affected by the deluge of December 2. They surely cannot think of enjoying music and dance in sabha halls now.

Quickie festivals!

Rasika Ranjani Sabha ( R. R Sabha), one of the oldest in the city hopes that its resurrected performance complex in Mylapore, hugely delayed by wrangles and funding will be ready for Season 2017.
It did not curate a fest this season but now, seems to have informally joined hands with a born-in-a-jiffy arts body to hold concerts at a city college in south Chennai.

Some people are smart at hosting quickie season festivals!

Critical Dancers; to dance or not to

There seems to have been a flurry of underground jibes at dancers this season. Jibes made at dancers who cancelled their recitals in the wake of the deluge and those who have gone ahead to perform.
In her speech as chuff guest the launch of the festival of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Kalakshetra director Priyadarshini Govind veered off her prepared text and touchéd on this issue rather firmly.
She said she was disappointed that dancers who are performing this season are being  targeted with sharp comments.
"The season provides artistes, technicians and others the renumeration that keeps them going," she said.
That is a sentiment that has been echoed by guests at other sabha functions.

"The payment may not be big but it is a source of income for us," said Umayalpuram Mali, mridangist on the sidelines of an awards ceremony.

Kutcheris on TV channel

Starting Dec. 21, Vijay TV is telecasting music concerts, 6.30 a.m. onwards for an hour. These concerts were hosted by Maximum Media at the Youth Hostel, Adyar recently.
Curator Subashri Thanikachalam also runs a online TV channel, at and for a small subscription, offers concerts, classes and magazine-type content.

Jaya TV has also been telecasting concert excerpts on its channel.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Talk on Alathur Bros.

Talks by writer-historian V. Sriram are sure to have a packed hall.
TAG Centre on TTK Road, Alwarpet was packed to the door and on the dais well before the Sunday talk on 'Alathur Brothers' began at 10.30 a.m.

R. T. Chari of TAG who plays host ( he also serves a good south Indian breakfast at the venue for all guests) said his staff counted 340 plus people in the hall.
What Chari does not enjoy doing is letting everybody know about the talks - he prefers only people on his regular 'talks' guest list to get preference though his team does not shoo away first-timers if they come in early.

The joke is that a section of the guests attend to enjoy the breakfast and filter coffee and look forward to some great humor at the talks.

Sriram's talk was packed with info. A recording will be available at TAG.
The Dec.27 talk is on M S Subbulakshmi.

TAG hosts a talk every month on subjects related to music/dance, culture, heritage.

Cattle Class. Patrons Class. And all that . . .

The message got through to The Music Academy.
Its staff have changed the signboard that said - PATRONS CLASS - to 'PATRONS.
A simple sticker got the job done.
And has hidden what was evidently a corny sign that guided guests to the front rows of the Academy auditorium.

Good to be sensitive even if a slip was made, unintentionally.

Lec-dems draw good audience; Academy is recording them for reference

The lectures at the academic sessions of The Music Academy and the lec-dems at Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha ( venue: Vidya Bharathi Hall, Mylapore) are drawing a good crowd in the mornings, even on weekdays.

At the Academy, the lecture by D. Balakrishna on 'Rare pallavis of stalwarts' and at Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, the lecture by T N Seshagopalan on 'Gayaki style of Veena' are still being talked about by rasikas and artistes who value such knowledge.

All the lec-dems at the Academy are recorded. 

R T Chari of the Academy team says that all these lectures will be made available at the library in about three months since some technical work will have to be done on the recordings before they are put in the library domain.

Past lectures are also available here.

These will be useful for scholars and academics and artistes - especially for those who could not attend the lec-dems at the Academy.

Photo shows senior vocalist Suguna Varadachari at a lec-dem at the Academy - on music of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar. Sanjay Subrahmanyan sits on all the lec-dems - he also seen in the picture - extreme left.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Checking out sabha canteens

Sabha canteens will be expecting the Big Rush this weekend and the next as families head here to sit for a feast.
The buzz on the menu at the sabha canteens is doing the rounds, well beyond the rasikas. So office-goers file in for a meal in the afternoon or a snack in the evenings. Families invade the places on weekends.

Lots of Jain families who enjoy great vegetarian food crowd the sabha canteens, especially on weekends. And they come from as far as central and north Madras.

The afternoon meal costs anywhere between Rs.175 and Rs.300 and the spread is pretty big with special dishes every other afternoon.

At Mountbatten's canteen, set up at Vidya Bharathi hall, off Royapettah High Road ( venue for concerts of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha), you can even ask for parcel meals - costs a bit extra.

Sabha canteens cannot make money only from feeding rasikas. One caterer at a Alwarpet hall has put up a promo signboard at the gate so the word gets out to the neighborhood.

Try the Guntur iddlis at the Music Academy canteen - to get fired up. Or the mini iddlis in mor-kozhambu served at the canteen at Mylapore Fine Arts.

Mountbatten's place is very pricey. And the canteen at Narada Gana Sabha seems to be the current favorite. ( it is located at the rear of the sabha campus on TTK Road, Alwarpet).

Concert excerpts on TV

To get a flavour of the season's music in your drawing room, you can now tune into Jaya TV - 8 a.m. and at 5 p. m.

Excerpts from concerts the channel has been canning at the recitals that are now on at Chettinad Vidyashram campus, R A Puram, Chennai are telecast every day now. You have to put up with adverts and flashy promos but the quality of the programme is good.

There is a substantial audience for TV-based Carnatic music concerts among seniors who cannot make it to the sabha halls.

And for the artistes featured, the extra mileage is always welcome - though they have to be dressed smartly for the cameras.

Friday 18 December 2015

Margazhi bhajans. In Mylapore.

Looking for an early morning religious experience this season in Chennai? 

Then you may want to join the bhajan groups that do the rounds of the mada streets of Mylapore, around Sri Kapali temple. There are three or four that do the rounds. One is that of Dr. Rukmini Ramani, composer and guru who follows the tradition set by her father, Papanasam Sivan.

Get here at 7 a.m. to join  the groups.

Anecdotes from a royal house . .

Gauri Parvathi Bayi, princess of Travancore is an engaging story-teller. 
And she shared many snippets of the 'season of Madras' and of the royal family's association with artistes down the ages at the opening evening of the 83rd edition of the festival of The Indian Fine Arts Society at a hall in Alwarpet.
She recalled the time in the 40/50s, when her grandmother and the family would travel to Madras and attend key concerts to listen to the greats on stage. 
"I was five then and would sit on the sabha chair and swing my legs and seeing this, grandmother would gently chide me, telling me to sit up or get back to the car and go home," she recalled. That evening, it was the great GNB's concert but the little girl had sobered down and sat through the concert.
Another anecdote - senior artistes Semmangudi Srinivasaiyer, Pappa Venkatramiah and Palghat Mani Iyer were guests at the royals' house in Kerala and the young Parvathi Bayi and her sister had just learnt to dance to a yadukala khamboji song. So they were coaxed to perform and the senior artistes were willing to play alongside.
But at the end of it, the girls threw up their hands. "They are not playing the way we know it for dance," said one of them, referring to the trio's music.

Parvathi Bayi said that as children they were obviously innocent and knew little about the great artistes in their presence. "We have got into the laps of Balasaraswathi and Rukmini Devi and happily amused them," she recalled
- Parvathi Bayi is seen 2nd from the left in the photo above; shot at the IFA event

Tanam; a scholar makes it easy to understand at lec-dem

Lec-dems sometimes fly over the heads of a lay rasika. They can be too technical and/or boring. But the lec-dem by Dr. R. S. Jayalaksmi I attended recently was illuminating, to say the least. 

A topic like Tanam (in an RTP), its structure and its development was demonstrated in simple, clear and quiet style and a novice to such intricacies that I am was well-educated that morning.

Jayalakshmi spoke on the types of tanams, the phrase oriented ragas, ghana ragas, ragas like bhairavi and shankarabharanam and what could be the apt ragas to sing a RTP in. 

She said that a vidwan who had grasped the essence of a raga could handle any challenges that a structure of raga could bring. 
She sang as well as played on the veena to demonstrate every point she made - this  made understanding the grandeur of the Tanam a lot easier. 

Hence, when I get to listen to someone sing an RTP  my understanding and appreciation as a rasika will be that much batter.

Dr. Jayalakshmi is an 'A' grade artiste of All India Radio. She holds a doctorate in music for her thesis “Gamakas in Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini”.  She is currently the teaching faculty at the schools run by The Music Academy and Narada Gana Sabha

- Report by Kalyani Hariharan

Dance guru Anitha Guha withdraws production

Bharatanatyam dance guru Anitha Guha who is based in Chennai and known for working on productions with children and young dancers decided to call off the staging of productions lined up at various sabhas.

The deluge did have an impact on her team. "Though not all of them were directly affected, four to five families have lost everything in this disastrous calamity," she says.

 And adds, "Hence, it was unanimously decided by all of us to the best of our effort support these families, our make-up artistes and the others affected both monetarily and emotionally. I am very happy that all the parents were more than willing to contribute to the cause even if their children did not have an opportunity to perform this season."

Guha's current production was titled ‘Sarvam Sai ke Samarpanam’ and was a collation of key excerpts from her previous dance productions.

Guha says she will also not perform the nattuvangam throughout the margazhi season in Chennai though the young dancers who learn under her will present solo recitals later at the sabha halls.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Season's hub - Bhavans

If there is one place that is a buzzing hub of music and dance it is the Chennai kendra of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

Look at this Wednesday's scene at the Bhavan's campus on East Mada Street - its two small halls on different floors are hosting music concerts, its classrooms are agog with music and culture classes, the main auditorium is hosting back to back dance recitals.

Kendra head K R Ramaswamy is actually not pulling his hair under pressure. But he has a quick job to do - to fix a programme for the Sunday morning since the scheduled event has to be pulled out. Ina  jiffy, contact is made and a Thamizh drama may well be on the cards.

"Bhavan's has programs 365 days of the year but there are times when work can get at you!", says Ramaswamy. He had to skip zipping down to Kilpauk, in the western side of the city where Bhavan's is now hosting a dance festival at a campus auditorium.

A maestro's wife goes back in time

"I owe everything to my mother, Meenakshi Gopalakrishnan," announced M. Narmadha, after her solo violin concert at Bhavans a week ago.
The senior lady was seated in the front row, enjoying the music of her daughter. And when the recital was done she chatted with me.

She recalled  the times of her husband, the late maestro M. S. Gopalakrishnan taking violin 'sikshay' from his father Parur Sunfdaram Iyer. 

"My father-in-law would make his son play the violin, the same song 12 times and if he made even the smallest mistake he had to repeat the song.  He used to sit in front of his son and count the number of times his sishya played. He was very strict and would not allow anyone to be around to take pity on the young artiste."

Obviously, this was bitter-sweet experience for Meenakshi, having realized that this was the only way to master an art.

That evening, Dr. Narmadha contributed her payment to a relief fund and handed over the cheque to the organiser of Bhavan's cultural festival. 

- Report by V. Vasantha

<< Rasikas attending the December Season in Chennai are invited to mail to us sidelights and notes on events they are witness to. We don't entertain concert reviews though. Mail -

Tribute to veena maestro Pichumani Iyer; Dec.18 morning

This is a tribute event to the memory of veena maestro Pichumani Iyer.
Arranged by Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha.
The sabha has arranged  programmes dedicated to Veenai R. Pichumani Iyer on 18th December 2015, Friday during this season at Vidya Bharathi, 55, Bheema Sena Garden Road, Mylapore. 

Pichumani Iyer lived in Mylapore for many years and had scores of sishyas. 

Here is the schedule -
-8.30 a.m.    Lect. Dem.  ‘ Gayaki Style of Veena’  By Madurai T.N.Seshagopalan.  
- 10.00 a.m.  ‘Musical  Tributes to Veenai  legend R. Pichumani Iyer’  by his students in India and abroad, P. Vasantha Kumar (Veena) followed by Iyer Brothers Ramnath Iyer & Gopinath Iyer ( Veena). Accompanists : Sherthalai Ananthakrishnan   ( Mrudangam) – Pudukottai N. Ramachandran ( Ghatam). 

Later, rasikas and artistes will pay tributes - recalling their memories of  R. Pichumani Iyer.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Season zing is missing. This far.

The season zing is still not evident in Chennai.
And the attendance at some evening concerts which feature senior artistes have had 100 plus people in the halls.
That too for a sabha that says its has close to 2000 members.

But sabha managers admit that NRIs will not be flying in for the season and that even rasikas from places like Kochi and Bangalore may skip it this year.

Importantly, many rasikas are still to recover from the losses that their have borne from the deluge - damaged white goods and stains left by flood waters. They may still not be in the frame of mind to attend concerts.

The season gets going always once Music Academy launches its festival. Now that this has happened, let's see how the trend is.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam makes a wonderful speech at Academy's festival launch

This was probably the most rousing opening evening witnessed at The Music Academy.
On December 15 evening, the evenly packed audience broke into a series of applauses for the Sangita Kalanidhi-designate, vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyam.

The applause was warm and long.

On the evening when the Academy drew up the curtain on its 89th Conference and Concerts, late by 10 minutes, the focus was on Sanjay.

And as he made a long but well-written speech, he had most people in the audience all ears.

As he traced his career that had its roots in a  large family which was wholly into Carnatic music and the big break he made on the concert stage, Sanjay made a few key points that deserve mention.

He touched on the 1980s era when a body like YACM ( Youth Association for Carnatic Music) played a key and significant role in providing the stage for dozens of young artistes to make the grade and set the path for a dozen or more to go on be great artistes of today - he is one of them.

He touched on the hard work that an artiste has to put it before he or she can perform a composition. "One has to sing it at least fifty times in our practice rooms."

He touched on how the exposure to nadaswaram has helped him to discover the depth of music - he himself went on to study under vidwan Semponarkoil S R D Vaidyanathan.

And he touched on the special-ness of singing Thamizh songs ( which he does a lot and has done so for many years) which allows the rasika to appreciate the music layered in the language of the mother tongue.

And, Sanjay showered praise on all the accompanists who had performed alongside him. He named them and told us how they had enriched his knowledge.

Sanjay's speech also had dashes of dry humor but evidently, he was soaked in emotion - as his wife and two children ( he mentioned them in his address) watched this milestone event unfold on an aesthetically-designed stage on Tuesday evening - the evening typical of Chennai's December winter, a dash of chill and a fairly large audience.

Monday 14 December 2015

A little girl gets some warm attention on stage

This was a launch event but most guests and rasikas spoke about one little girl. Not the tall artistes on stage.

Akshara was invited to present the prayer song at the launch of the December Fest of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha in Mylapore on Sunday evening.

And she did it classically and with poise, getting the nod even from vocalist Aruna Sairam, who was on stage as a guest.

Akshara got a big round of applause and some warms words from the jeeyar of the Sriperumbudur Mutt who was the chief guest here.

And when the event ended, the girl had lots of hugs and attention.

Akshara is the daughter of USA-based vocalist and guru Kiranavalli Vidyasankar who is the daughter of guru Chitravina Narasimhan, father of artistes Ravikiran and Shashikiran.

For the little girl, this will a day for the clippings scrap-book and make great memories.

Photo shows Akshara with her mother, Kiranavalli.

Recognition of a sabha organizer

The low-profile, hard-working secretary of Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Krishnamurthy has been recognized for his service, twice this 'season'.

Once by Kartik Fine Arts and then by Narada Gana Sabha.

Krishnamurthy has been with the sabha for close to 50 years and as secretary for 25 years. He does all the dog-work for the sabha which used to be a big draw in its home base, Triplicane but now does not have its own auditorium and hosts events at various halls, mostly in the Mylapore region.

Oldtimers of Triplicane still recall the good times provided by the sabha when it was located off the temple tank there.

Triplicane now does not have a full-fledged festival though the NKT community has had short festivals in December for some seasons now.

Donations from gurus, well wishers; for deluge relief

The moment the formal awards event was over on Sunday evening at Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, guru P. S. Narayanaswamy made it public that the cash portion of the award given to him would be donated to a fund that can help victims of the Chennai deluge.

It was also announced that arts promoter V V Sundaram had collected about Rs.15 lakhs from NRIs to be channeled for local fund relief.

For this endeavor, Sundaram was honored by the jeeyar of the Sriperumbudur Mutt who was the main guest.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Remembering a sabha founder . . .

It is good to remember the people who make the season, the arts world tick. And so guests at the inauguration of the festival of Narada Gana Sabha on Saturday evening did not fail to recall the sabha's late secretary, R. Krishnaswamy.

He was a man who was stern and managed with a iron hand, stood by religion, culture and the arts and encouraged new ideas too.

This was the first 'season' when the sabha got up its fest without Krishnaswamy. And the team had done a nice job - the stage was colorful, the show managed well, the campus clean and even the washrooms were fully redesigned and clean.

It was from the rice fields of Alwarpet that Krishnaswamy and his brother built this huge auditorium, brick by brick. And the man opened the doors to artistes, especially dancers who had great ideas or those who needed the stage to excel.

Photo here shows the winners in various music contests held by the sabha who received certificates on this occasion - seen in the front row is Music Academy's N. Murali ( chief guest for the day), sabha head Krishnamurthy and flautist Sikkil Neela.

Friday 11 December 2015

Western neighbourhood of Chennai cool to festivals

The season's first dance fest will open on Saturday evening in Kilpauk, in the western sector of the city. It is hosted by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.

This and a few short-form music tests are the only events in that part of Chennai this season but even these do not seem to attract a decent audience. And it puzzles the organizers because this is a sprawling neighborhood which also lacks steady arts events.

Bhavans has featured more Kuchipudi and Mohiniattam recitals this year hoping that the Telugu and Malayalam speaking communities come by and enjoy the recitals at a local school auditorium.

Kartik Fine Arts which used to host a Thamizh Isai fest for about a week at a local college auditorium has now pulled it off and holds it in Mylapore. Its staff say this is due to logistical shortcomings.

Daily ticket sales at Academy

The season tickets for concerts at Music Academy are sold out.

But those who wish to be at the evening concerts, paid ones, can do so by buying tickets at the counter on campus that opens at 9 a.m.

But one cannot buy tickets very much in advance.

Be warned that sales for big time artistes sell out fast in the morning.

Play on Thyagaraja; good music, average drama

When dramatist T V Varadharajan staged his version of the play on Sri Thygaraja, the famed Carnatic music composer, titled  'Saint Tygaraja' at the launch of Lartik Fine Arts' fest on the night the deluge set in in Chennai, he gave it his own shape to it.

Presenting some anecdotes from the saint composers life with background music that highlighted Thyagaraja's songs - songs which reflected the anecdote that was fleshed out on stage.

The songs and the music have been chosen and directed by Bombay Jayashri and recorded by various artistes - this part of the production was great quality.

But the anecdotal story-telling somehow does not seem to generate drama in it and each scene does not meld into the other. That evening was plagued by power cuts and hiccups had to be pardoned for this was the premiere.

In most scenes Thyagarja, played by T V Varadharajan, former TV news reader and veteran dramatist was often lost in the nook of the puja room - far away from the audience and that nook seemed to be the only space used all the time - though the composer himself must have been in prayer and music rooted to this holy space.

The drama elements were average or even lower. The music was good.

The play was to have had repeat shows that week. The deluge messed up the plans. Now, arts bodies like Bharat Kalachar are hosting the play in Dec. 2015-Jan 2016.

Hopefully, Varadharajan can tighten the play to make it engaging.

Season wams up; overflowing hall in Luz

The season is indeed warming up.

Rasikas who headed to Raga Sudha hall in Luz which seats 250 people said it was packed and many rasikas had to stand outside and listen to the music of vocalist Ramakrishnan Murthy.

At Bhavans in Mylapore, the main auditorium was also packed. Some 750 people sat to listen to violinists, Ganesh and Kumaresh play their brand of music.

It has been a slow start at at least 4 venues but surely, the better artistes are getting in the rasikas.

The roads and streets though dry now after the 4 days of sunshine are dirty and dusty and doctors have warned people of diseases breaking out.

However, in the inner colonies people still suffer with dirt and wet streets and a tattered life to be mended.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Kalakshetra postpones fest

Kalakshetra now says that its arts festival is postponed because of Chenai deluge and new dates will be announced later.

A quick visit to the verdant, sprawling campus in the south side of the city showed us a green and quiet campus with some pumps employed to pump out the floodwater in some areas to low lying spots in campus.

There was sparse movement of people; a certain quietness existed.

The make-shift Rukmini Arangham auditorium, created after the main auditorium built by the founder was closed down for unknown reasons may have been affected in the deluge.

Kalakshetra fest; no word yet on whether it is on

Kalakshetra Foundation still has not officially spoken about its short but well curated fest in December on its campus.

Though the buzz is that the fest is to be postponed.

The campus has not been hugely flooded though draining operations are now on but the make-shift auditorium may not be fully fit to house a huge audience that Kalakshetra attracts.

Schedules reworked, festivals continue

Festival schedules continue to be reworked.

Maximum Media has done so and is continuing its season from Dec.10 onwards, with two theme-based concerts at the Youth Hostel campus in Adyar. This fest is directed by Subashri Thanikachalam.
Donors are invited to contribute here for the flood relief cause.

Jaya TV is continuing its festival at Chettinad Vidyashram campus in R. A. Puram.

But  Chennai Cultural Academy in T. Nagar has decided to call of its season festival.

Sabha canteens warm up . . .

Food is also at the core of the Season. And the canteens at sabhas where festivals have opened, are warming up slowly with some great traditional snacks. Though rasikas will be complaining of the prices.
At MFAC, a small serving of rava pongal cost Rs.50.

This picture is of the special vadas served at the canteen at Vani Mahal, T. Nagar

Three artistes présent their prayer

Sabhas gave their festival launch events a touch of solemnity in the light of the deluge and devastation in the city.

At Vani Mahal in T. Nagar, three artistes created a unique tribute.
Soon after the artistes were decorated with awards, vocalists and sisters, Ranjani and Gayathri and dancer Srinidhi Chidambaram presented an impromptu recital in front of the guests on stage and a half-filled hall.
They chose a kriti that talks about shepherds seeking help from lord Krishna as the rain comes down heavily and the lord holds up the Govardhan hill to provide protection.

While the sisters sang from one side, Srinidhi performed at the other end, with everybody soaking in that act. 

And the chief guest, the jeer of Emperumanar Jeer Mutt, Alawarthirunagari touched on the effort of the trio.

A former judge recalls a MFAC anecdote . . .

Justice K. Chandru was not only a kind of activist-judge when he sat in Madras High Court but also set a path that has a record. 
Today, in his retirement he speaks his mind at public meetings - for he is a popular speaker invitee.

On December 9 evening, as chief guest at Mylapore Fine Arts Club sabha he said that while people debated if the Season must go on or not, he said he supported the first thought because the arts had a way of comforting people.

And then he recalled an anecdote. An incident in the Madurai Bench of the High Court some years ago where a state officer was charged in a case.
The officer's lawyer, as part of his plea said that his client had among things been felicitated by Mylapore Fine Arts for his service and this must be considered by the court.
Said Chandru at the sabha event as people began to guffaw. "Only then did I realise the value being attached to these felicitations…however I couldn't pardon that officer for the crime was serious."

Photo shows the guests and artistes at the sabha's flag hoisting event that is part of the launch tradition here.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Why SKGS fest has been delayed . . .

So why has Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in T Nagar postponed its fest to December 20?
Delays in the major renovation, upgrade and re-positioning the arts place.

Work got delayed because a sponsor for the big ticket plan was not easy to find. Rs.1.5 crore was the target. Shriram Capital then came forward to fund the renewal plan

But rains from October end and programs held through the mid-year affected the major works.

Secretary Y. Prabhu says that when the sabha opens on Dec.20 for the delayed Fest you will have a brand new Bose audio system, cushions on cane chairs and renovated stage, besides other touches.

Hopefully, the delay was worth it.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Guitarist Prasanna presents one of his USA-based sishyas

As the curtains went up at Bhavans in Mylapore on December 8 evening, the audience of about 100 people craned their necks - keen to identify a boy who sat beside the main artiste - guitarist R. Prasanna.

This was Prasanna's first concert of the 'season' ( the USA-based artiste who now lives in New York had skipped the last season). He had landed here, airport-hopping some 14 hours ago.

And now beside him was 12-year-old Raghav, one of his students who is based in Los Angeles. Raghav was jet-lagged but he accompanied his guru on a few songs and smiled lightly when he saw his parents, Ram and Vishnupriya in Row 1 and a fast-asleep sister!

Raghav has been learning Carnatic music for just over a year and since he decided to travel to India this December, Prasanna invited him to be on stage at Bhavans.

Bhavan's head, Ramaswamy felicitated Raghav with a ponnadai and gifted a Tirupati laddoo that had been sent to Ramaswamy by violinist Kanyakumari this 'prodosham' day.

There are more guitarists flying in to play this season. Prasanna's sishyas, all. Five in total.

Quiet start to fest in Luz' verdant corner

In that quiet and verdant corner in Luz of Mylapore sits the Raga Sudha auditorium - the landmark created by late S V Krishnan.

His daughter has carried on her dad's vision and on Monday, Vijayalakshmi quietly launched their own, Naada Inbam's music festival that will stretch across December, interspersed by concerts and events hosted by other arts bodies.

Vijayalakshmi says they never have a formal launch and will not cancel concerts unless the weather turns really bad.

The Fest has a great lineup of artistes but it relies on donations to keep the music flowing - donors get tax exemptions for being large-hearted.

If you want to make a quiet contribution, contact Vijayalakshmi at 044-24992672.

The hall is alongside the well known Nageswara Rao Park, Luz.

Krishna Gana Sabha cancels concerts till Dec.20, launches fest that evening

All leading sabhas confirm the Fests will go on, but be offered a prayer and tribute to the Chennai deluge affected. 

Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha launches its fest on Wednesday evening.

Sri Krishna Gana Sabha has cancelled Dec 11 to 20 concerts and will hold its launch on Dec.20 3 pm.

Narada Gana Sabha's pre-Fest concerts, cancelled this far start today ( Dec.8).

Monday 7 December 2015

Sanjay Subrahmanyam's first Season 2015 concert

The hall was not packed on Monday evening for Sanjay Subrahmanyam's first concert of the Season. But he went about it the way he does - choosing songs that alluded nicely to the effects of the deluge and the prayer for relief and grace.

The concert was at Narada Gana Sabha. For Kartik Fine Arts.

Dancers float relief fund; seek donations

Assn. of Bharatanatyam Artistes ( ABHAI) with its base in Chennai and headed by dance guru Chitra Visweswaran has launched a fund-raising drive and it is catching on well, with donations listed on social media page.

Here is the FB page link -

Artistes create social groups and help in city relief

Artistes were quick to support our get involved in relief work.
Vocalist Rithvik Raja, just back from a long USA tour, joined hands with artistes and alumni at Vidya Mandir school campus to start relief efforts ( venue visual seen above).
They used social media well to reach out for support and co-ordination.
Dailies carried photos of the Carnatica Bros.-led group visiting colonies and granting materials - with support from the likes of P. Unnikrishnan and Aruna Sairam.
Sanjay Subrahmanyam was seen lending a hand at the relief camp set up at P. S. School campus while the Kuchipudi Arts Academy of late guru Vempati Chinna Satyam gave its space for relief work too.
Dancer Swarnamalya and team reached out in areas where they reside.
Dancer Priya Murle joined a team working out big from a Kodambakkam wedding hall, saying."I am not in the frame of mind to dance or ask people to come now and see dance. We must postpone recitals."

She and her group-associates have cancelled their recitals.