On a song and dance

On a song and dance

Carnatic music and Bharatnatyam exponent Bhavana Pradyumna tells Shobhana Sachidanand that she thrives and breathes on music and dance which have become her life

Carnatic musicianBhavana Pradyumna

Synergy should ideally be Bhavana Pradyumna’s middle name. Adept at Carnatic music and Bharatnatyam, she makes for a perfect medley of talent.

“Born and married into a family of musicians, music, dance and Indian culture have always been a part of me,” says Bhavana, 32. She was introduced to music by her mother Padmamalini Raghunandan, who was also her first guru. “I have a Master’s in Carnatic music from Madras University and was awarded the state Sangeetha Natak Academy scholarship at the age of 13. I was a part of the Guinness World Record for the largest choir (Lakshagala Sankeertanam of Annamacharya),” she says.

Her insistence on learning both the arts simultaneously got her parents to enrol her for the same. “At one stage, I told my mother that I would sing only if she sent me to a dance class. With time, and with life choices, music has now become a part of my life... In fact, it’s my life,” she says.

Bhavana began her tryst with concerts at the age of 12. She was a part of many AIR productions, and also rendered individual performances. After completing her Master’s, she went on to become the director of South Indian Music at Emory University, Atlanta, USA. She is currently the founder president of Europe’s Carnatic Conservatory of Paris (Conservatoire Carnatique de Paris, #CCParis), based out of Paris.

Breaking barriers

When she moved to the US, she was happy to be in the land of immigrants with many well-settled Indians. “US was very welcoming, and it was very easy to start my journey. Contrastingly, France is an extremely closed society with its own rich culture and heritage. Language was a great barrier, too. When we moved to France four years ago, the cultural section of France was following only the mode of emails and fliers to communicate. With no references, and zero network, I started paving my own path by taking Carnatic music to everyone, through every possible avenue. I started a Facebook page on local events related to Indian culture. We revived Thyagaraja Aradhana celebrations in Europe,” she says.

She has given performances across Europe and Africa, where few speak English. She feels that music transcends languages. Her students, too, belong to various nationalities like Hispanic, French, Sri Lankan, Australian, Taiwanese, and Spanish. “I really appreciate the time they spend to focus on perfecting pronunciation, gamakams (ornamentation of note) and laya (rhythm),” she adds.

Music to ears

On International Yoga Day this year, she collaborated with violin maestro Mysore Manjunath for a ‘Yoga Anthem’. “Depending on the singer, mood, and the way it is presented, every raga is colourful and expressive. Moon has been one of our celebrated gods, and an inspiration for poets. I was a part of La Lune Festival (The Moon) at Grand Palais, Paris to mark 50 years of man landing on the moon,” Bhavana says.

“My next project through the Carnatic Conservatory of Paris is Sanaatana, a collaboration with Kiran Vyas’s centre, Tapovan. It has been conceived as an international platform for artistes touring Europe who can tie up with us for performances. The programme will be completely presented in Sanskrit and French,” she says. Bhavana also collaborated with Renjith Vijna, who was recently awarded the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuvapuraskar, to sing for a Bharatanatyam performance. “As a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, it accentuated the beauty of the vocal support. This opened up more opportunities to collaborate with artistes like Mavin Khoo, Katia Legeret, Vidhya Subramaniam and Mahina Khanum,” Bhavana says. Bhavana is a strong believer in using her knowledge of the arts to enrich the mind and body. Her holistic approach seems to have paid off well.