Miraj is famous for tanpuras made by its craftsmen, who honed their skills by first becoming trained musicians.
How did it ever strike someone to stick a piece of wood on a dried pumpkin, build this bridge and that and twist some strings on it, to make this wonderfully resonant thing one calls the tanpura? […]
“Musical training is the basic foundation for an expert tanpura maker. There are about 500 craftsmen in Miraj and all are musicians.” […]
As much as Miraj is associated with the tanpura, it is also associated with Ustad Abdul Karim Khan saheb, the founder of the Kirana gharana of Khayal. It was after listening to his record, playing in a shop, that Bhimsen Joshi decided at the age of 11 to run away from home to learn music. Music can become as obsessive as that. […]
All great musicians of the Kairana gharana have sung at this festival such as Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Roshanara Begum, Hirabai Badodekar and Suresh Bhau Mane. “We have a tradition of ending the three-night musical offering with a concert by a Kairana gharana vocalist. This year it was Ganapati Bhat,” said Mirajkar.
Abdul Karim Khan saheb’s music was uncluttered and deeply moving. He could tug at hearts with his plaintive and sharply etched swaras, and the power of his music lay mostly in that. Sheer mastery over swaras, what Bhimsen Joshi once spoke of as ‘swara siddhi.’ Veena Dhanam, who was hard to please, had great regard for his music. He was probably the first Hindustani musician to seriously study the Carnatic system and the first to be invited to sing all over the south. He even recorded a Tyagaraja kriti.
I joined Kalakshetra in 1968 to learn Carnatic music. It was there that I met Rajeswari. It was a great event in my life as I came to realise more and more. Rajeswari, along with her music, is the central figure in my book titled Il raga che porta la pioggia (The raga that brings rain) describing my first stay in India 40 years ago.
As a teacher she was totally different from the elderly gentleman who first taught me to play the veena. He was taciturn, introvert, and did not correct my fingering, so much so that I had to stand behind him to observe how he played. Rajeswari Amma (later, as our friendship grew, there was no need for the ‘Amma’) was extrovert, she immediately caught hold of my fingers to correct their position. She was a remarkable teacher, playing a passage again and again, insisting on my repeating it till I got it right. She saw my deep involvement in Carnatic music, and knowing that I would not be staying very long in India, taught me difficult pieces, like the Viriboni varnam in the wonderful Karaikudi style, with all the gamaka-s possible. I had not learnt the subtleties while learning to sing it in a class for beginners at Kalakshetra a few months earlier.
At first Rajeswari Amma was very severe, paying no compliments on how I played the Veena. I remember once when I managed to play a passage very well and she reacted with a cool “Correct”. In later years, however, she would ask me at times to sing to her students, pieces that the great Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma had taught me – Tyagaraja’s Seetamma mayamma (Vasanta), or Seetapatey (Khamas). In course of time, I became a member of her family. […]
To me Rajeswari was inconceivable without the veena. Hearing her play the listener would be reminded of her great-uncle Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer. Sometimes she sang, matching the veena so perfectly that you were not sure who was singing – the veena or she! […]
The unique Karaikudi tradition has not come to an end, for Rajeswari’s daughter, Sreevidhya, is continuing the tradition. Back in 1969 Rajeswari did not accept the ‘mike’ (as the pick-up was then known). Playing on her veena- she said, “This is the sound of the veena, and not a nasal nonsense.” Like her mother, Sreevidhya too keeps away from a ‘technologised’ veena. And her sons Kapila and Sushruta, still children, are immersed in the veena. Watch out for the Karaikudi Brothers of the 21st century!
Madras is one of the most musical cities in the world, where thousands of concerts of South Indian classical music every year. Most Madras musicians begin their training in the nurturing environment of the home. In this series, several top musicians are seen in family settings as they teach their children and students, discuss their views of Karnatak music and its spiritual dimensions, and demonstrate elements of this unique devotional classical tradition.
Volume 1: T.N. Krishnan (violinist)
VOLUME I follows a day in the life of world-famous violinist T.N. Krishnan, beginning in the private space of his home where he teaches his two remarkable children, Viji, age 14, and Sriram, age 8, both now acclaimed violinists. He then delivers an elegant and charming demonstration of Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi, and guides us through his photo album. After interviews with Viji and Sriram, we enter public space to take a drive through the sights of Madras with TNK’s narration. We then arrive at Shastri Hall, where he performs a public concert, with his daughter Viji and the century’s greatest mrdangam drummer, the legendary Palghat Mani Iyer (1915-1981).
Volume IV: South Indian Classical Music House Concert with M. D. RAMANATHAN (vocalist), T.N. Krishnan (violin) and Umayalpuram Sivaraman (mridangam)
Manjapara Devesa Ramanathan (1923-1984), the disciple of “Tiger” Varadachariar, was a gifted vocalist and composer remembered for his uniquely creative, sensitive, and unpredictable style. “MDR” was awarded the Padma Sri by the Government of India in 1974 and the Sangit Natak Akademi Award in 1975.
VOLUME IVManjapara Devesa Ramanathan appears in rare video footage recorded by Fredric Lieberman and Amy Catlin in 1977. He presents with consummate artistry a one-hour concert of carefully selected gems covering a wide range of materials in Telugu and Sanskrit by the greatest classical Karnatak composers.Completing the trio are the esteemed accompanists Padma Bhushan T. N. Krishnan, violin, and Padma Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman, mridangam.
Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy’s research, writing, teaching, curatorial activities, and multi-media publications often have an applied focus, aimed at community development of minority traditions, especially in diasporic settings. She served as curator and presented the first concert and lecture tour outside India with a group of African-Indian Sidi performers from Gujarat, in September 2002, traveling with them in England and Wales. Her recent publications include Sidi Sufis: African Indian Mystics of Gujarat(Aspara Media 2002: 79-minute CD), the volume co-edited with Indian Ocean historian Edward Alpers, Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians (New Delhi: Rainbow Publications and New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2003) and the DVD, The Sidi Malunga Project (2004). Funding for her research has come from such agencies as NEA, NEH, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, Fulbright, the Indo-US Subcommission, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.
Her most recent publication is the DVD, Music for a Goddess, a continuing applied ethnomusicology project concerning Dalit (formerly known as Untouchable) Devidasis (women musicians dedicated to the Goddess) of the Deccan (India’s central plateau, where the most severe rural poverty reigns in many regions).
Mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran – Photo: courtesy The Hindu
The Hindu, 31 Dec. 2011
Tiruvarur to Texas, Carnatic musicians have transcended global cultures, echoing the seven notes to the West. Trichy Sankaran,to be honoured with the Sangita Kalanidhi today, summarises Carnatic music’s history in America in a chat with critic Veejay Sai
While everyone is aware of how Hindustani music became popular in the West, especially America, with maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s early overseas concert tours, how and when was Carnatic music an active part of the American culture? “It was Tanjore Viswanathan, the brother of Bharatanatyam legend Balasaraswati, who went on a Fulbright fellowship in 1958 to study Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Veena Balachander went in 1962 with Umayalpuram Sivaraman (mridangam) and Vellore Ramabhadran (kanjira, for this tour),” says mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran. Balachander and flautist Ramani along with the aforementioned percussionists ideated a project called ‘Sangeetam Madras’ and extensively toured North America. By 1963, mridangam vidwan Palghat Raghu travelled as a member of Ravi Shankar’s ensemble. By then a slow process of institutional interest seeped in amongst the American academia. “It was ethnomusicologist Robert Brown of Wesleyan University who showed great interest in bringing Carnatic music to America. He was a student of T. Ranganathan, the other brother (and a senior student of my guru Palani Subramnia Pillai) of Balasaraswati They were invited as artistes in residence at Wesleyan University and that was the first ever such occasion for Carnatic musicians to go there,” adds Sankaran, in fond remembrance of his guru-bhai. Brown’s interest in Indian music grew from strength to strength and he would think up newer methods of spreading it to American music lovers. “Bob, as we called Robert, started an experimental project called ‘Curry Concerts’ which he would organise. These were a combination of a sumptuous Indian dinner followed by a concert and gained popularity in no time. He was one of the few ethnomusicologists who believed that the study of the art is important with its performing element. He put an emphasis on the performing artistes as well,” recollects Sankaran.
Brown later invited several other musicians like K.V. Narayanaswamy (KVN) and Palghat Raghu to Wesleyan. KVN, as an artiste in residency at the university, went on a coast-to-coast concert tour along with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan and earned fame at the Hollywood Bowl music festival by 1967. Several vidwans left for American shores to take part in festivals like the Monterey pop festival and Woodstock festival. “Brown went ahead to invite Ramnad Krishnan and Ramnad Raghavan. But Krishnan didn’t stay around for too long as he was very homesick and wanted to return to his family in India. But while in America, he was recorded by a music company with T. Thyagarajan (violin) and T. Ranganathan (mridangam),” says Sankaran, with a chuckle in his voice. “The Western students were also not acquainted with our Indian manners. I had an initial culture shock with students addressing me with a “Hey”, but I slowly got used to it and we taught them Indian manners! Here, we were used to people calling us ‘sir”, “vidwan”, and so on. Ramnad Krishnan was in disbelief when students would walk up to him asking, “Hey Krishna, when is my next lesson man?” and he wasn’t used to being addressed in such a tone!” laughs Sankaran heartily, recollecting how many musicians took the effort to culture Western audiences to guru-shishya traditions. […]
Today, Carnatic musicians rub shoulders with world music greats and collaborate with music practitioners from every other genre. The seductive swaras have showed their triumph once again, reminding how great the power of Indian music is.