Music school that turned into a sabha

Music school that turned into a sabha

Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira, a 65-year-old organisation run by a family, is hosting its annual festival from January 5. Metrolife meets the man behind the mission

A modest building in Banashankari stage II houses the Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira. The institution has been working towards promoting Carnatic classical music for 65 years.

Founded by the late G Vedanta Iyengar in 1955, it was a realisation of a lifelong dream. He was aided by his children G V Ranganayakamma,G V Neela and G V Krishna Prasad.

“I grew up around music,” says Krishna Prasad, now 78. “My father was insistent my five sisters and brother learn an instrument along with our studies.”  

The organisation, first set up as a music school in Basavanagudi, became a three-room building in Banashankari in 1980.

The site was given by the Bangalore Development Authority. In 1986, its music hall was inaugurated. Three years later, the family set up an open air amphitheatre. When bigger crowds are expected, the organisation hires halls in other parts of the city.

Krishna Prasad is the only surviving sibling; he has been taking care of the administration with his father since the inception of the organisation. He regards his sisters as “pillars of the
institution.”  “They used to teach music from morning till evening,” he says.

The sisters were well-known musicians, with a mastery over vocal, veena and violin. Krishna Prasad is an accomplished mridangam player.  The music classes have stopped, but the Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira lends its premises for yoga classes and a laughter club. 

“We still have students coming in asking for guidance, and I redirect them to our senior students who conduct classes,” he says.  The organisation now focuses on shows, workshops and lecture demonstrations, all of which are free. 

“I want people to come and enjoy the music and learn more about it. I don’t want them to worry about whether they can afford it or not,” says Krishna Prasad. The audience numbers have seen a steady increase over the years. 

‘Lalitha Kala Taranga’, a quarterly magazine published by the organisation, profiles artistes and explains aspects of Carnatic music.

It has not been easy for the family. Big artistes expect big remuneration, and that is not something the organisation can afford. “We have taken no grants from the government. At one point, we sold our house to fund the activities of the centre,” he says.

He recalls with gratitude the help extended by well-wishers. At 78, Krishna thinks non-stop about the art, and how to promote it. “I’ve already planned an event for February 2021,” he says with delight.

Encouragement with award

Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira believes young artistes need nurturing. It has been presenting young artistes with an award in the name of Ranganayakamma since 2012. The Raga Laya Prabha award includes a cash prize of Rs 25,000. This year, it is being presented to Anjali Sriram (vocal), S V Sahana (veena), Heramba-Hemantha (flute), Apoorva Krishna (violin) and A Radhesh (mridangam).

An award celebrates senior artistes, and is given in the name of Vedantha Iyengar. Presented since 2010, the Sangeetha Vendatha Dhureena title comes with a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a silver medal. This year it is being awarded to the well-known vocalists Malladi Brothers. They are among the many accomplished artistes who got a start by performing for Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira. 

Not the only branch

G Vedanta Iyengar’s grandaughter has taken his legacy all the way to California. She has set up a music school under the same name in her town of Sunnyvale. Krishna is all praise for her as he says that she has done a lot of work to keep Carnatic music alive. Krishna also adds that apart from her, many of his sister’s former students have also started teaching music
and this too keeps his father’s legacy alive.

Festival from Jan 5 to 25

For the 65th year celebrations, Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira has multiple activities lined up. The annual music festival runs for 20 days and features top artistes and young talent. This year, it begins on January 5 and goes on till January 25, from 5.45 pm to 9 pm, at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja, Basavanagudi. A pallavi-singing competition is slated for March 14 and 15.  The last date for submitting entries is January 20. For more information, call 77609 07939.

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