The first Sabha of Madras

The Hindu, September 21, 2012

One of the earliest attempts to make the British appreciate Carnatic music was initiated by Gayan Samaj.

STEEPED IN HISTORY:Pachaiyappa's hall.

STEEPED IN HISTORY:Pachaiyappa’s hall.
Had the Madras Jubilee Gayan Samaj been around, it would have been 125 this year, though it began at least four years earlier under a different name. That certainly makes it the mother of all Sabhas that have been documented in the 373 years of Chennai.
The Samaj came into existence at a time when the British were taking an active if short-lived interest in Indian music. Books were being written, some of the early works being ‘Hindu Music’ by Captain N.A. Willard, ‘Musical Modes of the Hindus’ by Sir William Jones, ‘Sangeet’ by Francis Gladwin and ‘Oriental Music’ by W.C. Stafford. The absence of any form of documentation and the native methods of notation proved to be a major deterrent. The educated Indians began to seriously work on reducing Indian music to the Western form of notation often referred to as Staff Notation. It was their view that getting their music written in the Western format would encourage the English to appreciate the art form. Among the earliest such attempts were made by the Poona Gayan Samaj, one of the early organised bodies to sponsor music performances. […]
The Samaj also reduced some of its songs to Staff Notation and had the Madras Philharmonic Orchestra render them for Europeans on yet another occasion. In addition, it had Tennyson’s Ode to Queen Victoria translated into Sanskrit, set to music and performed for the benefit of an invited audience. […]
The Samaj came into existence at a time when the British were taking an active if short-lived interest in Indian music

Source: The Hindu : FEATURES / FRIDAY REVIEW : The first Sabha of Madras
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/article3920039.ece
Date Visited: Sat Sep 22 2012 16:11:11 GMT+0200 (CEST)

All craftsmen in Miraj are musicians – the wonderfully resonant Tanpura (Tambura)

tambura_workshop_miraj_thehindu_1907012
A view of the shop where tanpuras are made. Photo by Lakshmi Sreeram – courtesy The Hindu

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.

Source: The Hindu : Arts / Music : Strings of purity by Lakshmi Sreeram, The Hindu, July 19, 2012
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/arts/music/article3657463.ece

“Tambura is my constant companion – a bridge to my past, keeping the memories of my childhood alive.” – Bombay Jayashri >>
Learn more about the tambura >>

Rajeswari Padmanabhan: Vainika, teacher, friend – a tribute in Sruti, A Monthly Magazine on Indian Performing Arts

By Dr. Pia Srinivasan

rajeswari_pia_vina_1969
Pia with her guru in 1969

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!

Read the entire tribute in Sruti, December, 2008 Issue No :291 >>