Women artistes have always had a fantastic repertoireOctober 15, 2019
Sudha Ragunathan, one of the leading lights among contemporary Carnatic vocalists, performs today (October 5) at the Navarathri Mandapam in Thiruvananthapuram for the first time. The Padma Bhushan recipient, who has comfortably made her mark as a playback singer and on world music platforms, talks about how the universe of Carnatic music has evolved for the better and how each musician finds his/her niche in the creative space. Edited excepts from an interview over phone…
How do you feel about your first-ever recital at the Navarathri Mandapam?
It is an exciting prospect and I thank the Almighty for that. It is a dream come true because we hear about it so much and my grand-guru [GN Balasubramaniam] has sung there. I don’t think my guru [ML Vasanthakumari] has, because at that point of time women were not allowed to sing [in the Mandapam]. And I am glad that they are welcoming women artistes at the Mandapam now. It shows the organiser’s broad perspective and outlook on how we should be celebrating music.
Any special preparations for the concert, since only kritis by Swathi Thirunal are sung at the Mandapam?
Yes. For the last two days, I have been concentrating on learning new kritis since, although I do know Swathi kritis, they are the common ones. However, I do want to create a special repertoire for this concert as each one (singer) is assigned a particular Navarathri kriti for that day. So I have to structure the rest of the concert around that.
All the kritis are special because you sing them with your heart and then it becomes special, any kriti for that matter (laughs). So I have taken some familiar ones and a few not-so-commonly heard ones. This is my first concert there and I need to get my feet on the ground.
Until a few years ago, women artistes were not welcomed at many venues or to accompany leading vocalists?
Well, I am glad that we are tiding over that phase. Discrimination was definitely happening in certain places and there were a lot of, I would call, imbalances in the way accompanying artistes would refuse to play for women. But then, we are slowly overcoming all that. I think the reason why opportunities are opening up is because you can’t deny excellence. Women artistes are grooming themselves well and the music presented is also exhilarating. So there is no reason for any organiser or organisation to not include women artistes to perform during the season or in the concert schedule. It is a welcome change and I think we are also rising to the expectation of what the organisers want us to do. I am sure women artistes always had a fantastic repertoire and charm for the audience in their own way. Every artiste has certain dynamics. Women were always good and I would say they were even better earlier because my guru and the artistes during her time were excellent. But for some reason, some had this funny, I still find it strange, reason for being away from women artistes. However, instead of talking about the past, let us talk about the positive aspects that are happening now.
I am a graduate in computer applications but followed my passion that is singing and today it has been journey of 6-8 years . Am a performer and a public figure having a following of 10k and my own compositions ! Lets learn and grow together !!
Nithyasree Mahadevan, also referred to as S. Nithyashri, is a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. Nithyashree has performed in all major sabhas in India. She has released more than 500 albums. She is best known for her rendition of the A. R. Rahman composition, "Kannodu Kaanbadhellam" - her playback debut song in the Tamil movie Jeans. Nithyasree is a "Top Rank" graded artist of Akashvani, and All India Radio, Chennai. She received the "Best Concert Award" for 6 years from the Madras Music Academy, and won the Kalaimamani award from the Government of Tamil Nadu, who subsequently appointed her as a member in the Expert Committee panel in the "IYAL ISAI NATAKA MANDRAM". During her career, Nithyasree has been bestowed with numerous other titles, and won numerous other awards and prizes.
Padma Subrahmanyam started learning dance under Kausalya, a young teacher at Nrityodaya. Later, she came under the wings of guru Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai. Shehad her 'arangetram' (first performance) in 1956, since then she has given innumerable performances in concerts conducted by her guru, her school in India and toured abroad extensively during the past three decades. Meanwhile she continued her formal college education. She has had a number of gurus especially during her research- Guru Dandayuthapani Pillai and the various Devadasis from whom she learned ' adavus', Gowri Ammal from whom she learnt 'abhinaya' being some of them. Padma has also trained in music under B.V. Lakshman and Salil Chaudhry. Padma has a Bachelor’s degree in Music, Master’s in Ethno Musicology and Ph.D in dance from Annamalai University. As a research scholar she did her thesis on 'Karanas in Indian dance and sculpture' and highlighted the fact that the 108 Karanas (which is the basic units of dance) are actually movements and not just static poses. She has also designed the sculptures of the 108 Karanas of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati in black granite for the Nataraja temple at Satara in Maharashtra. Awards Dr. Padma has received many awards and honors to her credit, including Padma Shri in 1981 and Padma Bhushan in 2003, which are among the highest civilian awards of India. During her dancing career, she has received more than 100 awards, including; Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1983) Padma Bhushan (2003) Padma Shri (1981) Kalaimamani Award from the government of Tamil Nadu Kalidas Samman from the federal government of Madhya Pradesh, Nishagandhi Puraskaram by the Government of Kerala in 2015, Nada Brahmam from Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai, Bharata Sastra Rakshamani from the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Kanchipuram . Nehru Award (1983) from the Soviet Union Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize from Japan, for "her contribution to development and harmony in Asia"
Vidushi Kaushiki Chakraborty is an Indian classical vocalist and the daughter of Ajoy Chakraborty. Groomed at Sangeet Research Academy, she is one of the exponent of Patiala gharana. Her singing repertoire covers Khyals and Thumris, the latter being 'semi-classical' or 'light classical' styles. She has been recipient of many national and international awards such as the 2005 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music in Asia/Pacific category, and has performed at many national and international festivals and conferences. She has held performances with her husband Parthasarathi Desikan in the United States.
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