Flourishing Indian music

Flourishing Indian music

Indian arts and culture scene is becoming ubiquitous. More than ever before, Indian artistes were featured in well-known platforms and remote corners worldwide. Social media and YouTube became the much-used tools of savvy artistes to promote their upcoming programmes and post excerpts/reviews.

Enjoying classical music became as much about physically attending concerts as listening to it via downloads and apps, and viewing it via webcasts and live streaming. Fusion of the aesthetic kind and confusion figured on performance platforms. Contemporary dance found more takers. Amidst all this, Indian classical music and dance of the ‘pure’, traditional kind reigned.

However, if old traditions have endured till today, it is because faithfulness or adherence to classicism is still the yardstick by which a performer is evaluated in this field. And many senior artistes felt that chaste classicism was alive and flourishing in many young artistes.

Much-revered Carnatic vocalist Nedunuri Krishnamurthy said: “I am happy to note great talent and single-minded dedication to classical traditions in several members of the younger generation.” Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan said that he was “very happy to see the commitment, dedication and musicality of instrumentalists today.”

On Indian soil

Countless critically appreciated performances were staged across India — more than can be mentioned here, and for sheer reason of space, and not because the ones not included were any less. Bharatanatyam diva Alarmel Valli premiered her latest work based on Annamacharya compositions — Is There Some Way I Can Reach You — wowing audiences. Acclaimed Kathak dancer Aditi Mangaldas’s productions like Uncharted Seas, Timeless etc were appreciated. Srjan (dance school) in Bhubaneswar continued to keep alive legendary Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s legacy. Scholar-dancer Kanak Rele released the second edition of her book Mohiniattam - The Lyrical Dance. Kathak danseuse Shovana Narayan presented the ballets Jehan Ara and Kadambari.

Though the vacuum left by stree-vesham icon Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma can never be filled, Andhra Natyam’s Kala Krishna and Kuchipudi dancer Ajay Kumar showed that female impersonation of good quality is still alive. Kuchipudi dancer Veena Murthy Vijay choreographed and presented Yakshagana dance-drama Ganga Gowri Vilasam, composed by Bangalore’s legendary founder Kempegowda.

Carnatic classical vocalist Sudha Raghunathan, who received 2013’s Sangeeta Kalanidhi Award among other honours, continued to draw full house. Other leading female Carnatic vocalists like Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayashri, Nithyasree Mahadevan, S Sowmya, Pantula Rama, Saraswati Vidyardhi and Hindustani classical vocalists like Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande regaled audiences with their powerhouse performances in traditional format. Music colossus M Balamuralikrishna continued to enchant music lovers with his still-powerful vocals.

Musicians who departed

Violin maestros M S Gopalakrishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman departed the world. So did illustrious Carnatic vocalist, musician’s musician Sripada Pinakapani and renowned Carnatic vocalist, teacher, pallavi-master T R Subramaniam. Another respected vocalist Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana left us, while budding talent Ranjani Hebbar died an untimely death.

Hindustani classical flautists like Hariprasad Chaurasia and maestro Ronu Majumdar were prolific performers — in solo concerts and cross-genre collaborations. Charuasia teamed up with Kathak legend Birju Maharaj and vocalist Kaushiki Chakrabarty in an interesting year-end performance. Leading Hindustani classical vocalists like Ajoy Chakraborty and Rashid Khan were crowd-pullers as usual. The Bengaluru International Arts Festival featured 200 artistes from around the world in its nine-day annual festival.

Fusion confusion

We saw more cross-cultural collaborations among artistes of different genres within India, as well as with western genres. Many resulted in highly aesthetic results — like the band Remember Shakti manages. Some efforts resulted in confusion, bordering on cacophony.
Many senior artistes believe this fusion trend is greatly fuelled by the ‘What’s new?’ syndrome. And several artistes always feel the need to come up with something new to gain and retain public attention. While some of this is natural because it inspires innovation in artistes, it also results in jarring experiments.

In India, several dancers, including the leading ones, while staying true to the classical idiom in most performances, also come up with contemporary-dance presentations. Performers like Kathak and contemporary dancer Madhu Natraj are ‘rooted yet modern’. There have been many presentations in this genre.

What started as a trickle has now become a flood. Decades ago, only a handful of Indian performers showcased their art abroad. Today, Indian performing artistes of the classical stream are being featured everywhere — from mainstream venues to small ones, and in big nations to tiny countries. The trend has grown in 2013. At the 8th Monte Carlo Jazz Festival in Monaco, members of Remember Shakti performed at the famous Salle Garnier Opera House. Royal Opera House Muscat, the first of its kind in the Arabian Peninsula, has opened its doors to several top Indian artistes — this year, Zakir Hussain and L Subramaniam were featured in well-attended concerts. Sitarist Rajeev Taranath, tabla player Aditya Kalyanpur, pianist Anil Srinivasan and flute-shehnai artiste Rajendra Prasanna performed at the Sydney Opera House concerts.

On the world stage

The London International Arts Festival produced by Dhruv Arts, UK, and curated by violinist/composer Jyotsna Srikanth, featured dancer Shobana, vocalist P Unnikrishnan, Indian Ocean (band) and groups from Greece, Poland etc. Among this year’s programmes of Indo-American Arts Council, NYC, were CD releases by Chandrika Tandon and Falguni Shah. Their annual Erasing Borders Festival of dance featured Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Odissi, Kathak and Sufi Kathak.

The Sandeep Virdee-curated Darbar Festival in London witnessed sold-out performances by Rudra veena artiste Bahauddin Dagar, sitarist Budhaditya Mukherjee, vocalist Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil etc. In New York, the Drive East Festival of South Asian Art Forms saw Kathak by Shambhavi Dandekar and Odissi by Sonali Mishra.

All India Radio and Doordarshan (DD) continued their consistent support for classical arts. Now, DD has started a dance-reality show Bharat ki Shaan — Rum Jhum, helmed by Odissi stalwart Sonal Mansingh.

Hearteningly, now, several regional channels also offer serious programmes on classical performing arts. Devotional channels like Bhakti, SVBC and Sankara do that more frequently. During the Madras Music Season, many news and entertainment TV channels in Tamil Nadu are offering substantial slots for the same.

This music/dance season in Chennai — India’s largest classical arts fest — is in full swing. Suffice to say this festival showcases and honours genuine talent in a magnitude unmatched elsewhere in India. Go there for a taste of classical India.

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