Pulse south asian music and dance
Autumn 2013 - #122
£8 | $12| €9
INSIDE The Instrument and the Musician Pannalal Ghosh and the Bansuri Young Pulse Apoorva Jayaraman Engaging Audiences Reviews She Ra • Manikam Yogeswaran • Call of Bangalore
Dance meets Science Subathra Subramaniam
Dance and Dementia Bisakha Sarker Pushing Boundaries Svara-Kanti Speaking Frankly Mavin Khoo
sound in print
connecting asian dance and music communities
A Double Bill
FEATURING COMMISSIONED MUSIC BY GABRIEL PROKOFIEV AND MICHAEL NYMAN
‘ENERGY WITH INTELLIGENCE ... THE MARK OF A CLASSIC’ EVENING STANDARD ON CONFIGURATIONS IN 2012
14-15 Nov Exeter Northcott Theatre 27 Nov The Performance Centre, Falmouth 3-4 Dec Queen Elizabeth Hall, London Photo: Chris Nash
Strange Blooms is commissioned by
Pulse Autumn 2013 — Issue 122 ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY +44 (0) 1582 876 038 Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta
2 Editorial 3 News 5 Listings 6
Assistant Editor Gopa Roy
Assistants Jahnavi Harrison, Katie Ryan Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal
Subathra Subramaniam – Dance Spokesperson for Science Bharatanatyam has always been her passion, but Suba Subramaniam also wanted to be a doctor and she trained as a scientist. She talks to Nicholas Minns about the confluence of art and science in her work as a director and choreographer.
Svara-Kanti – In Search of Connections Svara-Kanti means ‘the beauty of musical sounds’. Guitarist and composer Simon Thacker talks to Seetal Gahir about the shapeshifting musical cultures, from Hendrix to Indian classical and folk styles, on which he drew to create the album Rakshasa.
Mavin Khoo – Aesthetics of Bharatanatyam In the first of a four-part series on Pulse’s Art of Critical Writing 2, Mavin Khoo shares his thoughts on responding to bharatanatyam performance and on the development of the form.
In The Frame: Khavita Kaur Simon Richardson captures Khavita Kaur in a watery setting.
The Instrument and the Musician – Pannalal Ghosh and Hindustani Bansuri Continuing our series, Ken Hunt examines how Pannalal Ghosh revolutionised the humble bamboo flute.
Young Pulse Apoorva Jayaraman The first winner of the new Nritya Ratna award (‘The Jewel of Dance’) talks to Sanjeevini Dutta about the place of dance in her life.
Dance in the Community Fleeting Moments Chaturangan Dance, Bisakha Sarker and Akademi provide inspiration and joy through dance for older people and those living with dementia.
connecting asian dance and music communities
Pulse serves the arts sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: www.pulseconnects.com.
Engaging Audiences Sanjeevini Dutta speaks of the inspiration behind the soon-to-launched Pulse Dance Club.
Manch Pravesh Sadhya Sridhar
Reviews Dance Performance She Ra (Kalpana Raghuraman)
Music Performance Manickam Yogeswaran
Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions & Advertising email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Contacts email@example.com Disclaimer Pulse is published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music. Kadam are a part of SADA (South Asian Dance Alliance). No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copyright of the text is shared with its authors. Copyright of the photographs/images reside with contributing photographers/ artists. All other rights reserved. The views/opinions expressed in Pulse are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. While reasonable effort has been made to avoid errors, no liability will be accepted for any that may have inadvertently occurred.
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Contents Page Photo Credits
FC Under My Skin / Photo: Mark Perperall 3 6 12 14 19 23
Aakash Odedra | Photo: Masoom Parmar Under My Skin | Photo: Mark Perperall Khavita Kumar | Photo: Simon Richardson Pannalal Ghosh | Photo: Sa Re Ga Ma Fleeting Moments | Photo: SimonRichardson She Ra | Photo: A Prathap / Times of India
CD Release Call of Bangalore (Jyotsna Srikanth)
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 1
UPFRONT — LETTER FROM THE EDITOR / NEWS
Letter from the Editor
Anupama Bhagwat | Photo: Sandeep Virdee
The Editorial space has been given over this issue to a Letter to the Editor
I look forward to your reply. Best wishes, Sangeeta Datta The above letter refers to a review published online http://www.pulseconnects.com/content/ Gitanjali1000
2 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
Sudha Raghunadhan | Photo: Sandeep Virdee
At the outset I would like to thank you for sending someone to review Gitanjali 100 on 29th June. We hold Pulse in high esteem and value its critical discourse. Following our conversation on Monday (and subsequently having received several calls from Gitanjali audience and Baithak members) I feel I have to write in to say that the quality of this disappointing review does raise questions about a reviewer’s responsibility. Every producer should be prepared for constructive criticism but not for irresponsible, laconic and arrogant writing. The reviewer writes an impressionistic review where the content of the production is not even mentioned. She shows no engagement with/recall of the show, has nothing to say about the script, poetry, music, dance, visuals which included rare artwork and film footage and also the work of a contemporary British based artist who responds to Tagore’s songs. Instead she complains about faulty mikes (which is so not true) and chairs being laid out (in a sold out show). A sixty minute production is dismissed as a “distracted history lesson”. It would be one thing to let this pass but I think the point needs to be pressed. Having reviewed for decades, and indeed having worked for Aditi and the British Asian performing sector in this country, I look at the job seriously. A reviewer needs to be informed, she could have asked for programme notes, read the brochure or spoken to the creative team. Reviews are not whims or flights of fancy, they have far flung implications for the company and artists involved. Sadly when something so dismissive gets published in Pulse (and swiftly consumed on the net) you do realise it completely negates future possibilities for touring in an environment where artists are in any case struggling for work. Your idea to have a future debate about “Rabindranritya” may have generated from this review but this is also a pondering point for the quality of reviewers and critical writing that your magazine advocates. Ironically, all the other reviews in the issue reveal more detail and care on the part of the writers. I read them carefully. Several people have called in to comment on this poorly written piece and I have asked them to write in to you. I have also circulated the review to the Gitanjali team. Would you consider editing the piece, carrying another positive review or letters from readers or the Gitanjali team?
Manjusha Patil | Photo: Shri Kanhere
Darbar Festival 2013 The Darbar Festival at London’s Southbank Centre from Thursday 19 September to Sunday 22 September brings vocal and instrumental music from both Hindustani and Carnatic traditions and, with a focus this year on female performers, the opportunity to hear performances by three distinguished female musicians from India: Anupama Bhagwat, sitar (evening concerts on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22), vocalist Manjusha Kulkarni-Patil (Saturday 21, morning concert) and veena player Jayanthi Kumaresh (Thursday 19, evening). On Saturday at 12:45, Jayanthi will be in conversation with Dharambir Singh, discussing the challenges of performing with the saraswati veena in the Carnatic tradition; and on Sunday, Carnatic vocalist Sudha Ragunathan will be talking to Dharambir about the role of women in Indian classical music. Pulse can also highlight the following, for which there are still tickets available as we go to press: the percussive duel which opens the festival on 19 August, with Bernhard Schimpelsberger on drums and Sukhad Munde on pakhawaj, followed after the interval by Jayanthi Kumaresh; on Sunday 22, a performance of morning ragas by UK-based Vijay Rajput, khayal singer and student of Bhimsen Joshi; and a dhrupad recital in an appropriately intimate setting by one of the few in the world to play the rudra veena, Ustad Baha’ud’din Dagar (Saturday 21, evening). Darbar is also running a course alongside the festival for those keen to improve their appreciation of Indian classical music. It starts from 12 September and is suitable for beginners. Sessions will feature live music. Pulse is pleased that Veejay Sai, the experienced arts writer from India, is expected to be at the festival to cover the performances.
Jham! | Photo: Courtesy Srishti
Jham! Premiere Jham!, the new work by Srishti – Nina Rajarani Dance Creations will receive its premiere on 4 October 2013 at The Old Town Hall, High Street, Hemel Hempstead HP1 3AE, followed by a national tour. Bookings: box office 01442 228091 or online www.oldtownhall.co.uk
New creation in anniversary year Shobana Jeyasingh is renowned both for dance creations of energy and excellence and collaborations with outstanding composers. This autumn the Southbank Centre celebrates her company’s twentyfifth anniversary with a new commission for the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 3 and 4 December. Jeyasingh is creating this new piece, as yet untitled, in a new collaboration with Gabriel Prokofiev, a classically-trained composer who revels in the latest technology. Together they reimagine and re-mix early baroque music with all its exuberance, ornamentation and contrast. The new work appears in a double bill with Configurations, Jeyasingh’s seminal 1988 piece celebrated for its speed and detail. Mathematical rhythmic patterns from classical Indian dance are deployed to create a fresh and contemporary work. Michael Nyman’s original music, which became known as his acclaimed String Quartet No. 2, will be played live on stage for these performances. Earlier in the autumn Jeyasingh presents her powerfully resonant TooMortal as part of Dance Umbrella from 10 to 12 October. Created in 2012 for historic church settings, six female dancers dressed in Ursula Bombshell’s blood-red costumes conjure vivid shifting
NEWS — UPFRONT
images of women and surf an undertow of submerged stories and sentiment. Looking to the future, King’s Cultural Institute has appointed Shobana Jeyasingh Dance as one of three Knowledge Producers. The company will work across several academic departments at King’s College London including film studies, geography and robotics - to find new ways to facilitate knowledge exchange between artists and academics, test new ideas, stimulate partnerships and reach out to new audiences. Projects will be announced in due course.
Spanish word for ‘barren’), back in 2011, she had just given birth to her own child, a fact that made empathising with Yerma, the central figure of Lorca’s ‘tragic poem’, slightly problematic. However, holding her own baby in her arms, she could see why Yerma would yearn for one of her own. Khayyam had grown up with stories around her from her own community, where if a woman was unable to bear a child, she would automatically be considered to be at fault. Eighty years after Yerma was written, Europe
Vancouver Autumn Dancers from Canada, India and the US will be performing this October at Gait to the Spirit, Vancouver’s festival of Indian classical dance. The festival is presented by Mandala Arts under
Sujata Mohapatra | Photo: Courtesy Mandala Arts
the direction of Jai Govinda. Navia Natarajan and Bhavajan Kumar (USA, Canada and India) will present bharatanatyam; Sujata Mohapatra (India) will dance odissi; and Parul Gupta and Nritya Manjaree (Canada), kathak. 18 – 21 October 2013 Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677, Davie Street, Vancouver www.mandalarts.ca
Leela Samson at Liverpool Hope University Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and writer Leela Samson has been appointed Visiting Professor of Dance at Liverpool Hope University as part of a new International Centre for Indian Arts hosted by the university in collaboration with Milapfest.
Lorca’s Yerma re-told When kathak dancer and choreographer Amina Khayyam first started creating Yerma (the
continued to transmit Hindu epics through the drama and music of its performances.
Kalamandalam | Photo: Barbara Vijayakumar
Bhavan Centre 23rd October| £11 from box office 0207 381 3086 Further performances and workshops: www.kathakali.net
Eclectic experiences in Kentish Town Amina Khayyam | Photo: Ayesha Begum
has new Yermas smouldering on the fringes of inner cities. Khayyam comments that “hidden behind the insularity of these communities are women’s issues that still have a long way to go”. So Khayyam approaches the re-telling of Yerma using the passion of kathak. “I use abhinaya – the gestural facial expressions – as the central movement within it, but I subvert it by negating it – so that my Yerma wears a face of death – there is no prettiness, no jewels, no shine. Rural Spain of Yerma is transposed to inner-city Britain: nothing has changed.”
Anusha Subramanyam and Shane Shambhu (Altered Skin) are among those taking part in the first GOlive Dance and Performance Festival, curated by veteran arts journalist Donald Hutera. “For me one of the most enticing things about the festival is the chance it gives a range of gifted people - both recognised and emerging, youthful and mature - to show what they can do up-close and outside of normal dance-based channels.” The festival is spread across twenty-one consecutive days,
Yerma starts its autumn tour at the mac, Birmingham, on 24 October. www.aminakhayyamdance.co.uk
Autumn colours from Kerala The Kala Chethena Kathakali Company is back in the UK this autumn, celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary with performers, singers and drummers from Kerala. The Company was founded in 1987 by kathakali actor Kalamandalam Vijayakumar and kathakali make-up specialist, Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar, who work as a team to establish a greater understanding of kathakali and the ancient culture from which it evolved 500 years ago. The classical dance drama of Kerala originated in the Hindu temples in the 17th century and has
Anusha Subramanyam | Photo: Vipul Sangoi
and comprises performances by over four dozen individuals or companies. Monday 9 – Sunday 29 September The Lion & the Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, NW5 2ED £15/£12/£10 Box Office: 08444 77 1000 www.ticketweb.co.uk
developed to celebrate the opening of Brent’s new Civic Centre. Seven non-professional dancers aged 16 to 30 have worked with artists from English National Ballet and Akademi to create an original dance piece to be performed during the Centre’s opening weekend celebrations. Choreographed by English National Ballet’s Junior Soloist James Streeter, with assistance from Creative Associate Laura Harvey and kathak artist Sujata Banerjee, the performance will explore themes of civic pride, citizenship and ‘the drum’ (inspired by the shape of the new building’s main hall), with live music provided by young musicians from Brent. Sunday 6 October www.ballet.org.uk
Glancing Back Rising wins Aakash Odedra awards and opportunity Aakash Odedra has already been honoured with the title of Dancer of the Year for his performance of Rising at the Festival Bolzano Danza in Brescia, Northern Italy last year. In June he received a Canadian Dora Award for Outstanding Male Performance in the Dance Section at the Toronto awards in June this year. Rising comprises three solos created for Aakash by choreographers Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Russell Maliphant, as well as a solo choreographed by Aakash himself. Each solo draws on Aakash’s training in kathak and bharatanatyam while being contemporary in style. Aakash was also recently one of five young artists – the
Dance fusions to open Brent’s new Civic Centre Contemporary choreographic techniques are fused with classical ballet and kathak in Ballet:Fused, a performance
Rising | Photo: Sandeep Virdee
only dancer – to be selected from more than 800 applicants to be given a bursary of £30,000 AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 3
UPFRONT — NEWS
by Sky Futures Fund and Ideas Tap. He will work with ARS Electronica Futurelab, combining dance and cuttingedge digital and mechanical technology to create a fulllength dance piece based on dyslexia, a condition from which he suffers. “I managed to express myself through gestures and the arts . . . and that pushed me into dance.” The show will feature floor sensors that send out ripples each time his feet hit the ground, and hanging sheets of gauze that project images as he moves behind them. Aakash has been performing Rising at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as part of the British Council Showcase.
Mythical Trajectories Shiva meets Cyclops in I, Cyclops, the ‘gorgeously homo-erotic fantasy’ (Oberon’s Grove) developed by Hari Krishnan and inDANCE during their choreographic residency at The Yard (Martha’s Vineyard). Dancers Paul Charbonneau, Benjamin Landsberg and Hiroshi Miyamoto performed the work in June, to music composed by Niraj Chag, at The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Berkshires, Massachussetts) and at the La Mama Moves! Dance Festival in New York City. Krishnan’s choreography ‘catapults the audience between the mystical Shiva’s third eye and James Marsden’s cool, red shades in Hollywood’s X-Men reboot’ (Jacob’s Pillow). The New York Times described it as ‘compelling and absurd’. Hari Krishnan also performed his solo work The Frog Princess,
July by the Canadians together with dancers from Bhaskar’s Arts Academy of Singapore. www.indance.ca
Register for dance teachers The Dance Training Accreditation Partnership (DTAP) has created a dance register specifically for dance teachers, leaders and artists working across the UK. The register is a searchable database for parents and learners to find dance teachers local to them and is designed to promote high quality dance teaching and learning. DTAP is a major dance industry–led initiative that brings together leading national dance development organisations committed to encouraging participation in dance by people of all ages and abilities.
Prashant Shah’s new work Resonance, and the first-ever national awards competition for
Indian Arts in the heart of Liverpool Liverpool Hope University was host to Milapfest’s two international summer schools, Dance India and Music India. Archana Shastri from Milapfest gives a flavour of the week of intensive classes and performances.
Ranajit Sen Gupta teaching at Music India Photo: Pradeep Karanjikar
Indian classical arts – Sangeet Ratna, the Young Musician of the Year and Nritya Ratna, Young Dancer of the Year. Milapfest’s Music India & Dance India summer schools and Indika festival return in July 2014. www.milapfest.com
Mythology and the musician: Soumik Datta’s Lanka Soumik Datta premièred his new solo piece, commissioned by the Tagore Festival, at Dartington this summer. Lanka is a re-imagining of
Lanka | Photo: Courtesy Artist
the Ramayana, with music that brings classical sarod together with electronica, live looping and visuals. The work draws events from the epic into parallel with Datta’s own experiences as a boy at Harrow School, where he used to console himself in his exile by listening to tapes of his grandmother (who had played sarod) reading episodes of the I, Cyclops | Photo: Miles Brokenshire Ramayana. When his father took away his sarod because his ‘re-presenting bharatanatyam housemaster complained that as a valid contemporary he was not studying enough, dance form in the west’ (Hari ‘it felt like the thing that Krishnan). Dancing in a simple was dearest to me had been two-piece black costume he kidnapped’, as Sita had been won over the New York Times kidnapped by Ravana. Later with his ‘real accomplishment, charm and liveliness’. I, Cyclops Datta discovered electronica at Trinity College and in Lanka was presented in Singapore in 4 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
an animated Hanuman, made out of tape decks, pedals and speakers, appears – an electronica army rescuing Datta. As Hanuman finds Sita, Datta creates his electric acoustic sarod. The music from Lanka will be released as an album later this year.
Prashant Shah teaching at Dance India Photo: Pradeep Karanjikar
Music India is a residential training programme for young musicians of Britain. Primarily focused on the two national orchestras for Indian music, Samyo and Tarang, the retreat offered individual as well as orchestral skills training. This year the faculty included Rakesh Chaurasia, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Pandit Ranajit Sengupta, Gaurav Mazumdar, Anil Srinivasan and Nisha Rajagopal, amongst others. Dance India took place alongside Music India for the first time, bringing students of bharatanatyam, odissi and kathak, from over ten countries, to receive advanced training from Smt. Kumudini Lakhia, Leela Samson, Priyadarsini Govind, Sujata Mohapatra, Prashant Shah, Anjana Anand and Sanjukta Sinha. Each morning started with a yoga warm-up. The week brought lovers and students of music and dance together for joint demonstrations and debates. Each evening, public performances were held as part of the Indika festival. Highlights included flautist Rakesh Chaurasia with pianist Anil Srinivasan; the première of kathak dancer
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LISTINGS — UPFRONT
Music Inner Vision Orchestra: Baluji Shrivastav & Inner Vision Orchestra Turner Sims, Southampton www.turnersims.co.uk
Spoken Word/Music Dayanita Singh and Talvin Singh Purcell Room, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ whatson
Now Film / Posters Exhibition to mid- Satyajit Ray Season October BFI, London whatson.bfi.org.uk 14-21
Theatre Cymbeline: Phizzical Belgrade Theatre, Coventry www.belgrade.co.uk
Dance/Music Ancient Future: Akademi King’s Place, London www.kingsplace.co.uk Dance Santoor/tabla duo: Kaviraj Dhadyalla & Upneet Dhadyalla King’s Place, London www.kingsplace.co.uk
Pooja/Music Ganesh Festival: Baluji Shrivastav & Inner Vision Orchestra Lamplight Centre, Durham 01207 290606
Dance/Music zerOclassikal: zeroculture Cockpit, London www.zeroclassikal.co.uk www.thecockpit.org.uk
Dance Holland-India Dance Festival Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Sutra Dance Theatre, Kapila Venu Korzo Theater, Den Haag, Netherlands www.korzo.nl
Festival Darbar Festival Southbank Centre, London www.darbar.org
Spoken Word SAWCC presents: Nikita Lalawani Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music WOMEX: Tauseef Akhtar and Gwyneth Glyn Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff www.womex.com/realwomex
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Dance Company mac, Birmingham www.macarts.co.uk Dance Daredevas: Khavita Kaur, Showmi Das, Arunima Kumar Arts Depot, Finchley www.artsdepot.co.uk/event
Dance TooMortal: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance St Pancras Church, London www.danceumbrella.co.uk/toomortal
Dance Jugni: Sonia Sabri Company Birmingham Mac: Birmingham www.macarts.co.uk
Music Samyo Too Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com/events
Spoken Word/Dance/Music Birmingham Literature Festival: British Asian Writers: Cities & Towns; Ramayana in Poetry and Dance: Sathnam Sanghera, Qaisra Shahraz, Rosie Dastgir; Daljit Nagra Library of Birmingham, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk
Dance Wild Card: Anand Bhatt Sadlers Wells, London www.sadlerswells.com
Music Inner Vision Orchestra: Baluji Shrivastav & Inner Vison Orchestra Plymouth Festival Theatre, Plymouth 01752 585050 / www.plymouth.ac.uk Music Circle of Sound: Soumik Datta & Bernhard Schimpelsberger Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradfordon-Avon www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk Music Mid-day Mantra: Rishii Chowdhury, Jasdeep Singh Degun, Kaviraj Singh Dhadyalla Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Dance Company Lilian Baylis, London 0844 412 4300
Dance/Music Festival of Light: Hina Dancers, Roshni Dance Academy Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton www.arena.wlv.ac.uk
Music Mid-day Mantra: Global Folk Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Dance Company Ivy Arts Centre, Guildford www.surrey.ac.uk/arts
Dance Dance Teachers’ Forum: ISTD DanceXchange, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham www.istd.org/events
Music Tarang presents Abhilasha Bridgewater Hall, Liverpool www.milapfest.com
Fillm/Music/Panel Discussion Machinists/State of Bengal Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Dance Under My Skin: Sadhana Dance Hat Factory, Luton www.thehatfactory.org
Illustrated Lecture Steve McCurry Untold: Steve McCurry Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Dance Under My Skin: Sadhana Dance The Place, London www.theplace.org.uk
Dance New work and Configurations: Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Northcott Theatre, Exeter www.exeternorthcott.co.uk
Dance Navodit: Akademi Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music Soumik Datta Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Theatre The Domestic Crusaders: Wajahat Ali / Tara Arts Tara Theatre , London www.tara-arts.com Music Inner Vision Orchestra: Baluji Shrivastav & Inner Vision Orchestra Islington Assembly Hall, London www.islington.gov.uk
Dance Fleeting Moments: Chaturanga Arts Bluecoat, Liverpool
Music Sitar recital: Anupama Bhagwat Nishkam Centre, Handsworth www.ncauk.org
Dance Gait to the Spirit: Navia Natarajan, Bhavajan Kumar, Sujata Mohapatra, Parul Gupta, Nritya Manjari Scotiabank Dance Centre, Vancouver, Canada www.mandalarts.ca Music Sitar & Tabla: Gaurav Mazumdar & Kousic Sen Bridgewater Hall, Manchester www.milapfest.com/events
Dance Korzo India Dans Festival: Kanniks Kannikeswaran, Sutra Dance Theatre and Kapila Venu Korzo Theater, Den Haag www.korzo.nl/nl/indiadansfestival
Dance/Music zerOclassikal: zeroculture Cockpit, London www.zeroclassikal.co.uk www.thecockpit.org.uk
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Dance Company Hat Factory, Luton 01582 547474 or 878100
Dance Annual Showcase: Srishti Nina Rajarani Dance School Harrow Arts Centre, Hatch End www.harrowarts.com
Dance Festival of Light Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton www.sampad.org.uk
Dance Shobana Jeyasingh Dance 25th Anniversary: Configurations: Shobana Jeyasingh, Gabriel Prokofiev Queen Elizabeth Hall, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ whatson
Dance Bengal to Bethnal Green: Grand Union Orchestra Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Dance/Music zerOclassikal: zeroculture Cockpit, London www.zeroclassikal.co.uk www.thecockpit.org.uk
Music Mid-day Mantra: Shin Parwana Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk
New Odissi Dance Class in London with Katie Ryan
Thursday evenings 6.30 - 8.00pm Moving Arts Base, Angel Aimed at beginners and intermediate level, adults and children over 10 years, the class focuses on technique: building a strong vocabulary of movements., with which to work towards learning compositions. A thorough warm-up and cool-down will develop the student’s strength, flexibility and posture.
Music Tarang presents Abhilasha Southbank Centre, London www.milapfest.com
Dance Jham!: Srishti Nina Rajarani Dance Creations Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead www.srishti.co.uk
Book Launch Malala Yousafzai Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ whatson
Music Mandolin & tabla: Snehasish Mozumder & Kousic Sen Bridgewater Hall, Manchester www.milapfest.com/events
Dance Jugni: Sonia Sabri Company Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria www.breweryarts.co.uk
Dance/Music zerOclassikal: zeroculture Cockpit, London www.zeroclassikal.co.uk www.thecockpit.org.uk
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Dance Company The Hawth, Crawley 01293 553636
The cost is £48/£36 for a six class course, or £10/£8 drop-in.
Music Mandolin & tabla: Snehasish Mozumder & Kousic Sen Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com/events
For more information on the venue visit www.movingartsbase.eu
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 5
This autumn, Sadhana Dance premières Under My Skin , in which the director choreographer Suba Subramaniam pushes further her vision of creating dance that de-mystifies science. The choreographer tells Nicholas Minns about the dual passions of dance and science that fire her creativity.
“... make work that reflected the way the world works”.
6 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
ike two tributaries that feed into a great river, Subathra Subramaniam’s paths of science and dance feed into the work she has been creating since she started Sadhana Dance in 2009. She has danced since the age of 7 when she was still living in Malaysia and later found her guru — Prakash Yadagudde — in 1988 at the Bhavan Centre after her family had moved to London. Dance in the classical form of bharatanatyam was always her passion but she never considered dance as a career. Subramaniam wanted to be a doctor. While studying medical biochemistry at King’s College, London, she continued to dance with Shri Prakash and it was there she met Mayuri Boonham with whom she was to form Angika Dance in 1997. Following her degree, she spent two years dancing with various companies but the current of science flowed continuously and in the early years of Angika she studied for a PGCE to become a science teacher and taught science in secondary schools for five years. When Angika became successful, however, something had to give and it was the teaching. The company continued until it was folded in 2008 but the work Subramaniam co-created in that decade — deeply rooted in the bharatanatyam form but based on a desire to push its boundaries from within its own aesthetic tradition — honed the formal basis of her dance style. After the break, Subramaniam knew that she still wanted to work within the form, but to make dance that was fundamentally important to her, something that would answer the essential
“... months of research working with surgeon Roger Kneebone... on simulations of surgical operations”.
question: why do I make dance? It was at this point that the two streams of her life fused: she began to make work that reflected the way the world works based on scientific concepts that asked questions to make us think. Sadhana derives from the Sanskrit word for the pursuit of a spiritual goal, combining perfection of execution with study and reflection. Subramaniam’s methodology has evolved accordingly, employing rigorous research over extended periods of time, immersing her dancers in the subject and finding new ways to generate appropriate movement material. Her first work, The Shiver, was born out of her experiences on five expeditions to the Arctic with Cape Farewell, an organisation that parallels Subramaniam’s goals in bringing scientists and artists together to look at the environmental impact of human activity. Her first expedition was in 2003 and she subsequently undertook the role of co-director of educational activities for the organisation. When she later met Lemn Sissay, who had made a radio documentary called The Shiver — and whom she subsequently commissioned to write the text for her piece — she discovered he, too, had been on a Cape Farewell expedition. She spent a year as artist-in-residence at the Environment Institute at University College, London, and a period of time observing the activities of the NGO, WaterAid, in India before creating Elixir, and her latest work, Under My Skin, entailed months of research working with surgeon Roger Kneebone both in the studio and on simulations of surgical operations,
Subathra Subramanyam| | photo: simon richardson
okesperson or Science Subathra Subramaniam
Words by Nicholas Minns PHOTOGRAPHy by Mark Pepperall
and spending two days in the operating theatre observing not only the actions of the surgical team but the relationship of trust between the surgeon, the anaesthetist, the scrub nurse, the assistants and the patient. “I am capturing their movements in dance, not simply describing what happens in an operating theatre… I feel I am starting to find a movement language that engages with subjects like surgery without being too literal and without being so abstract as to distil down the concept to a point where it is unrecognisable. Under My Skin is a way in to the subject, not the subject itself.” She insists she is not trying to teach: “I don’t want dance to be educational; I want to create good work, interesting work, work that people can enjoy aesthetically,” though she insists that “dance has a role to play in the public engagement of science.” To prove the point, Under My Skin was the first dance performance presented at the Cheltenham Science Festival and she presented Elixir in Sofia, Bulgaria, to a sold-out audience who were interested primarily in the science. Subramaniam surrounds herself with a team of collaborators with whom she has built up a relationship of trust over the last three productions: Kathy Hinde and Matthew Olden on music and projections, Kate Rigby on costumes and Aideen Malone on lighting design. She feels fortunate as not only do they all understand her aims, but, as she says, “good art comes from good collaborations.” Another part of her team with whom Subramaniam shares a special relationship is Quentin Cooper, her husband, whose interests
closely correspond to her own. He is best known as the presenter of Radio 4’s former science programme, The Material World, but was at one time a film critic and a reviewer of dance and puppetry for The Stage before he produced Kaleidoscope, the BBC Radio 4 programme for arts and science. He and Subramaniam met at the launch of a Cape Farewell voyage at the Royal Society for the promotion of Arts. Cooper often chairs the post-show talk — called appropriately a Café Scientifique — at Sadhana Dance performances, stimulating discussion of both dance and science with characteristic enthusiasm. Subramaniam is currently working on the early stages of a new piece as part of Choreodrome at The Place. Her research will involve spending an extended period of time working with psychiatrists, neuroscientists, therapists and patients at the Child and Adolescent Unit at the Maudsley Hospital in London. She was recently in the studio at The Place exploring the bharatanatyam form “to see if it has another way into tackling the subject in terms of its abhinaya, or expressive element.” This parallel way of creating dance allows her to channel all her experience into each work. “If you just want to come and see the dance, that’s what I am passionate about: making dance and making dance work. But I am equally passionate about making dance on science-related subjects.” Under My Skin will be touring this autumn and spring of 2014.
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 7
SimonThacker, Japjit Kaur, Sarwar Sabri, Jacqueline Shave - Courtesy svara-kanti
Words by Seetal Gahir
Inconnections search of Svara-Kanti
Young writer Seetal Gahir listened to the album which aims to bring together the musical modes of East and West. She is intrigued and sets out to learn more about how the musician-producer Simon Thacker, pulled off this unique collection.
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“...I came across Girija Devi’s Songs from Varanasi in early high school.... it seemed like an aural portal to another planet”.
ike a shape-shifting demon, Rakshasa is an album with just as much intrigue and dizzying complexity. Its riffs and rhythms weave through fourteen tracks forming a lengthy sequence united by unique textures. The brainchild of guitarist and composer, Simon Thacker, Svara-Kanti creates a world of sound that delves further into the realm of Western and Indian musical collaboration. A thoughtful and driven musician, Simon actively trawls through all kinds of musical cultures, drawing upon what moves him in each and then combining them to create a powerful mode of self-expression. As he says, “Every style, genre or type of music is to some extent, despite the protestations of some purists, an amalgamation of elements from different cultures coming together.” With Svara-Kanti, he aims to further this alchemical process of amalgamation. A total of seventy-three minutes and fourteen tracks, the album itself boasts an overwhelming amount of content. It does happily fall into three main sections: Nigel Osborne’s Elements series, original compositions by Terry Riley, Shirish Korde and Simon himself and finally three ‘re-imaginings’ of traditional Punjabi songs. The fiery and mystical opening Dhumaketu is certainly one of the defining pieces of the ensemble. Twists and turns of lightning guitar phrases build into crescendos that fall into slower, rumbling riffs. Accomplished violinist and leader of the Britten Sinfonia Jacqueline Shave brings in sweeping strings and despite a somewhat hollow sounding tabla solo, the melodic range is certainly filled out by such versatile musicians. One of Simon’s key influences is Jimi Hendrix, who inspired him to first take up guitar. With his uninhibited composition that combined numerous styles, Simon developed Hendrix’s use of backwards recording in the title track Rakshasa, but more on that wild beast later. Among many other worldly influences, Simon was also enraptured by his first glimpse of Indian music. “I first consciously listened to Indian classical music when I came across Girija Devi’s Songs from Varanasi in early high school.” Simon says, “I didn’t totally understand it initially but it was so spectacularly different to what I had heard before it seemed like an aural portal to another planet so immediately I investigated further.” Simon has intuitively absorbed musical nuances from Indian music and these emerge in compositions such as Multani (named after an afternoon raag) and in Svaranjali, the catchiest piece on the album, with its beautiful guitar hook and bluesy groove. Both tracks feature ‘question-answer’ sections or Sawaal-jawabs and tihais or sets of three that are found in Indian classical music. A highlight of the group has to be the angelic voice of Japjit Kaur. “I found (Japjit) through my own research.” Simon explains, “I realised that I was going to be asking her to sing some very different material to anything she had tackled before but I could tell she had such talent that she would take it in her stride.” Japjit’s voice carries Sanskrit lyrics effortlessly across contrasting soundscapes in The Five Elements series by Nigel Osborne and punches through on Shirish Korde’s Anusvara – 6th Prism with dhrupad-inspired melodic movements. An unexpected turn at the end of the album is Svara-Kanti’s versions of Punjabi folk songs. Simon is an admirer of legendary singers Surinder Kaur and Asa Singh
“...we are all going well beyond our respective traditions... in the pursuit of something new.”
Mastana but has been disheartened that modern Punjabi music seems to have left behind their old greats. By tapping into Japjit’s Punjabi heritage, the group has three contrasting classics that add a subtle new sound but still keep close to the originals as if in tribute. This isn’t the first time Simon has combined Indian and Western classical sounds. His earlier project, The Nava Rasa Ensemble, toured in 2009 but Simon wanted to put his own vision forward with a smaller group and allow more interactivity with both classical and folk styles. Svara-Kanti literally means ‘the beauty of musical sounds’ and reflects an ancient idea applied to contemporary context, “In Svara-Kanti we are all going well beyond our respective traditions and comfort zones in the pursuit of something new.” explains Simon, and it is this journey that people love to hear through music. One of those comfort zones for Indian musicians, especially expert tabla player Sarvar Sabri, is being faced with sheet music. As in SwarAmant by Terry Riley, a pioneering contemporary composer highly acquainted with Indian classical music, it is an exceptional challenge for a tabla player to read such precisely notated yet simultaneously abstract rhythms. In the same way, Jacqueline Shave on violin whose practice is based around notated music, found the intuition in Indian classical music fascinating. The virtuosity of the musicians shows that they are able to so skilfully surpass these boundaries creating pieces that are astoundingly tight and together. This may come at a price, however, seeming too fixed at times and perhaps dampening the spark of spontaneity. The title track Rakshasa is the most experimental and ambitious on the album. Simon attempted to depict the demons of the Ramayana in his own ‘dark new raga’ representing the sound world that he delved into. “With the Rakshasas of Hindu mythology being shape-shifters and alchemists who blur reality and alter one’s perceptions, this seemed to sum up, on different levels, what I was trying to achieve with the album as a whole… I feel the album wouldn’t make sense without it.” Ethereal and haunting, Rakshasa features moth-like flutters of tabla, looming crescendos of reversed guitar strings that grow into moments of attack and subversion. Rather than an emblem, the track sounds like more of a culmination of the album’s multiple facets, ending with a curious question mark for future projects. So what next for the dynamic ensemble? SvaraKanti has been successfully touring with the support of Creative Scotland and Gem Arts, surprising audiences and gaining an extensive range of global radio airplay. Simon is as inventive and ambitious as ever for the future, “Our next programmes are under wraps just now but I am developing our work in ever more unprecedented directions. I know I have not even scratched the surface of the possibilities for my work in this direction.” A peculiar kind of demon that shape-shifts to keep you on your toes, the album has such a wide range of styles that it’s sometimes hard to know how to approach and make sense of it. But with ears alert and an open mind, one is sure to enjoy the dazzling display of sounds and myriad of movements that Svara-Kanti’s ‘sound world’ has to offer. Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti released Rakshasa in May 2013 on Slap the Moon Records. It is available to buy on www.simonthacker.com AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 9
The first in a four-part series, Pulse reports from Critical Writing 2, held at the Hat Factory, Luton in August 2013. Mavin Khoo shares his views on how to approach a classical bharatanatyam concert and raises issues around quality and value. He makes a case for long-term investment to support the creative development of the form.
Aesthetics of Bharatanatya Mavin Khoo
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Mavin places himself within the dance world I am an artist working in a solo form, and most of my work is outside India. The context of Indian dance in the West has changed. It is no longer marginalised within a specific cultural community and more often than not, when I perform, it is at international dance festivals. I shared the platform last year for instance in Sydney, with Raphael Bonachela (Spanish-born British choreographer appointed Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company).
singing the Krishna nee Begane Baro [where mother Yashoda is calling child Krishna], repeated three times with the inflections of rhythm and melody change each time and would require the dancer similarly to vary their interpretations accordingly.)
On approaching a Bharatanatyam and storybharatanatyam performance telling The first thing is, do not try to think of anything; respond with your emotion, because ‘critical understanding’ needs to be invested in over a long period of time. If you feel that you don’t ‘get it’, it is possible that the dancer was not very good. The notions of good quality performance transcend genre. In a classical performance you are looking for ‘artistry’, the component of choreography is incidental. A large part of that ‘artistry’ is the ability to translate the text, music and understanding of the context into a cohesive whole. There is a strong tradition of research into texts on which dance items are based. The art form is inter-disciplinary: music, literature, linguistics all come into play. In Chennai where I was a student (under Guru Adyar Lakshman), I was constantly being referred to scholars for different interpretations of the same text. There is nothing ‘easy’ about bharatanatyam. As an audience, am I able to get involved with its complexities? When I do my improvisational performances where I am seated and simply emoting, even in India I have to warn audiences that they have to make an investment. (Mavin illustrates with
One of the misconceptions is that bharatanatyam is only about storytelling. Even though the dancer plays different characters, it is at the metaphorical level that dance works. There can be very little ‘enactment’ of the story from a literal perspective. Subtext is the interpretive framework by which the artist creates and improvises whilst maintaining the rigour and precision of form, content and context.
The universal theme of love More often than not, the theme enacted in bharatanatyam is about ‘love’- not the pink candy floss Barbie-doll stuff but sacred and secular love or, more bluntly, sex and spirituality. The ability to be subliminal but with a physicality that is raw, is the quality a dancer, for instance, Malavika Sarukkai displays. In our present cynical times we may not have the sensitivity to receive such emotions. Indeed, we often limit our ability ourselves from the experiential.
Evolution of bharatanatyam In the fifties, solo bharatanatyam subscribed to the ideals of a voluptuous female form. Its emphasis was on femininity. The dance also emphasised musicality and improvisation (possible through live accompaniment). In thirty years the changes are discernible not only outwardly in the physicality, for instance, of Balasaraswati in contrast with the slim figure of early Malavika Sarukkai, but also in content and interpretation. Ideas of virtuosity have shifted and perhaps even become global…a dancer like Mythili Prakash possesses a certain articulation
that is aesthetically more ‘worldly’. Of course, the innumerable international work that Leela Samson, Alarmel Valli and Malavika Sarukkai did in the 90s to take bharatanatyam into the mainstream international festival circuit helped diminish ideas of aesthetic and cultural specification and relevance.
The place of bharatanatyam in Britain When I came to the UK in 1993/94, there was a movement pressing for innovation within bharatanatyam. The question addressed was: how were we going to negotiate bharatanatyam in the context of Britain, without it becoming an appropriated form? There was an intense need to ‘deconstruct’ bhratanatyam to develop from solo to ensemble forms and inject Western choreographic structures within the classical vocabulary led successfully by Shobana Jeyasingh through the 90s, over two decades. However, today when we have British-born and trained odissi and bharatanatyam dancers, how do we embrace Indian classical dance within the British dance scene? Can we say that this form of dance has no value because it ‘lacks choreographic structures’? Is this not a form of marginalisation? In saying so, are we not marginalising British-born artists in our limited ability to consider innovation within classicism?
Investing in the long-term future of bharatanatyam Lastly all forms of dance are capable of creativity and innovation if they are valued and invested in. Look at how McGregor or Forsythe have shifted ballet because of the investment made in them. But we cannot just blame the funders, the performers have a responsibility too. Mavin Khoo maintains an international career as a solo bharatanatyam performer. He is renowned for his command of the two classical styles of East and West bharatanatyam and ballet, which he has deployed in his choreography. Mavin holds an MA from Middlesex University and enjoys academic discourse. He is currently on the faculty of Dance at the University of Malta.
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 11
IN THE FRAME— SWAMP DANCING
PHOTOGRAPHY BY simon richardson
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havita Kaur, has had a busy summer performing with Opera Holland Park in Le Pecheurs De Perles (Pearl Fishers) by Bizet. The experience of the two rich classical traditions of opera and odissi ‘blazing away in their purest forms’, inspired her deeply. On days-off, Khavita took to the River Ouse, using nature and its elements as an impetus for movement. Photographer Simon Richardson caught these moments as they unfolded spontaneously. You can see Khavita in action, performing odissi repertoire, with an ‘altered perspective’ on some of the items at The Arts Depot on Thursday 24 October 2013, in Daredevas produced by Akademi. AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 13
The Instrument and the Musician
Pannalal Ghosh & Hindustani bansuri WORDS by KEN HUNT
Continuing with the current series, Ken Hunt examines the contribution of one man, Pannalal Ghosh, who was to change the course of musical history for the humble bamboo flute.
CD covers courtesy Saregama
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trange though it may seem, the responsibility for bringing the bansuri, the subcontinent’s bamboo flute, to the world of Hindustani concertising, as we now know it, rests with one musician. He was the sound of both a new flute and Hindustani music changing. He lifted one of the most ancient of the subcontinent’s musical instruments from its folk and light entertainment status to the Hindustani classical stage and firmament. Stranger still, this flautist’s name has receded from people’s lips and memories. His name is Pannalal Ghosh. The irony is sublime. The transverse or sideblown bamboo flute is the instrument with which Lord Krishna made merry and mischief of many kinds. Alongside vina, it is one of the two melody instruments of Hindu-related iconography. That includes Rajputi miniatures and bold and brightlycoloured Kalighat commentaries, stone sculptures, metal effigies, song and dance. Figuratively, it is also the most invisible of Hindustani instruments -
“... His interpretation of the evening rāg Shri is so modern... it comes as a shock to learn that Ghosh was dead by 1960”.
with dancers holding imaginary flutes in portrayals of Krishna! From this distance in time, it is admittedly hard to grasp how much of a breakthrough Pannalal Ghosh made. His interpretation of the evening rāg Shri is so modern-sounding that it comes as a shock to learn that Ghosh was dead by 1960. A shishya or disciple of Allauddin Khan, his playing has stylistic hallmarks that modern-day listeners wouldn’t necessarily think of as pioneering because of exposure to, say, later maestros such as Hariprasad Chaurasia, G.S. Sachdev, Vijay Raghav Rao, Raghunath Seth, Rajendra Prasanna and Ronu Majumdar. That is why this article should have audio accompaniment. Treat The Great Heritage (2011) as its accompanying ‘text’. It begins with a dozen vintage kala tava (‘black griddle’) takeaways, the old records named after the tava used for cooking and flipping chapatti. The second disc captures four microgroove performances in Yaman, Shri, Pilu and a Bhairavi instrumental
“You have to tune it yourself, to play in tune to your ears. ”
thumri, a light classical song form often with Vaishnavite themes or allegorical romantic content. The last volume consists of performances of Darbari and Basant culled from the All India Radio (AIR) archives. In essence it encapsulates his recorded work, bar recordings for films such as Aandhiyan (1952), one he scored with Ali Akbar Khan and Ravi Shankar. Before Pannalal Ghosh, bansuri was not treated as a serious classical instrument in the north of the subcontinent. To go devil’s advocate, that could have had a little to do with Krishna’s public image. He is a prankster forgiven much, the child deity pardoned for butter larceny, the Boy Wonder who subdued the naga or serpent-being Kaliya by dancing on the naga’s heads. His personal instrument is the bansuri, intimately associated with tales of Radha. Playing bansuri, Hindu mythologies tell us, Krishna seduced women and entranced does and songbirds. Venu is the instrument’s Sanskrit name but it
is better known as bansuri. It is found in side- and end-blown (or so-called fipple) variants from north to south and from nightfall to daybreak in uncounted regional, folk, tribal and art music contexts. Other names include bansi, bansri, bānhi, bāshi – where the first syllable denotes bamboo – and murali. Its very ubiquity may have played a role in restricting its acceptance in the Hindustani classical circles, though in the Hindu heartland of the South bansuri proper’s southern relative was well-integrated into devotional and art music. Talking to me in August 1999, Hariprasad Chaurasia, who eventually studied with Allauddin Khan’s daughter Annapurna, observed, “I found it the simplest instrument, not only in India but the whole world. It’s a most traditional instrument created by Lord Krishna. Why I call it the ‘simplest’ is because you can get it anywhere. You go to the forest. You go to the bamboo tree. You cut it and make it yourself.” Had he done that himself? “I have. I thought, ‘I don’t have to bother about ordering an instrument. I can just go and pick up my bamboo. When the bamboo cracks, I don’t have to go to a particular shop to get this.’ You don’t have to add anything. You don’t have to add skin to play, to wait for this or that. There’re no skins or strings. It seemed very simple. To play it was very hard! That I realised afterwards when I started learning. Slowly, slowly it became more and more difficult. Once you’ve tuned the instrument then it will always sound tuneful. But with no strings and skin how do you tune it? You have to tune it yourself, to play in tune to your ears. Afterwards I realised this is the most difficult instrument. It just looks simple.” In 1891 the author and organist of German Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London, Mr F. Weber, saw the publication of his book, A Popular History of Music From The Earliest Times. His coverage was ambitious. It reached back to biblical times and across to ‘Hindostan’ – the variant spelling preceding Hindustan – and beyond to Siam, Java and China. In that second category, much of his information reads like travellers’ tales revisited, speculation leavened with eye-witness writings and correspondence now impossible to cross-check, fed by colonial takes on Hinduism. Weber declares: ‘The Flute is of the greatest antiquity in India. A bamboo cane with some holes at the side may have been the first flute. Crishnoo’s flute is said to have had irresistible charms.’ Music of Hindostan, published by the Clarendon Press of Oxford in 1914 and still in print (an indication of its must-readability for anyone interested in the subcontinent’s musical history), had a distinct advantage. Its author, A.H. Fox Strangways had spent time of a kind that only intercontinental travel by steamship could inform. He broaches bansuri’s strange paradox: ‘In spite of the fame conferred upon it by Krishna’s performance among his Gopis [female cow-herds], the flute seems to fade out of Indian music; at least there are few references to it, and it is seldom to be heard nowadays.’ Things were on the cusp of change. Pannalal Ghosh is at times a somewhat elusive figure. Much information about him is second- or third-hand, though the Indian music critic Mohan Nadkarni’s pen-portrait about him in Music To Thy Ears (2002) draws on meetings, Nadkarni having AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 15
“..., the sadhu gave him the bansuri, foretelling that music was to be his salvation”.
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first met him in October 1949. Ghosh appears to have had little or no time for such fripperies as interviews. (It would be very heaven to uncover a cache of his Bengali or Hindi interviews awaiting translation.) Despite being often only halfglimpsed or shadowy as a man in many accounts, it is the amazingly clear and coherent personality that emerges from his music that matters. Of Bengali bloodlines, Amal Jyoti Ghosh was born on 24 July 1911 in Barisal, an East Bengal port on the Kirtankhola, close to where the river empties into the Bay of Bengal. Back then it was British India: now it is Bangladesh. Pannalal was his nickname and the name by which, it appears, he was known throughout his time as a professional musician. His father Akshay Kumar Ghosh played sitar and taught his son music and sitar while his brother Nikhil played tabla. His flautist grandson Anand Murdeshwar recalls that while swimming an unfinished bamboo flute – “a floating bamboo with holes” – bobbed by the 9-year-old. It became his first flute. Apocryphally, two years later a Hindu sadhu happened by (as in so many good accounts). The holy man was carrying a shankha – the conch associated with Lord Vishnu – and a bansuri. He asked if the lad knew how to play. He could and he did. In recognition, the sadhu gave him the bansuri, foretelling that music was to be his salvation. In 1924 Ghosh married the Barisal-born Parul Biswas. She was 9 and he 13. She would become one of Bengal’s first playback singers. His father died around 1929. “After his father’s demise,” said Murdeshwar of his grandfather and grand-guru, ‘he experimented with several instruments, but finally listened to his heart and chose the divine instrument of Lord Krishna. He devoted himself wholeheartedly, practising for ten to fourteen hours a day.’ He also odd-jobbed, including playing music for cinema audiences, and by the mid-1930s was working with Rai Chand Boral, a music director working at Calcutta’s New Theatres film studio in Tollygunge (hence the Kolkata film industry’s subsequent epithet, Tollywood). He also met Khushi Mohammed Khan who fed his head with instruction in flute. His brotherin-law, Anil Biswas was also working in the humming metropolis. Three years his junior, he was politically engaged as a member of the Indian Independence Movement and on the brink of success as an actor, singer and film composer. All the while Ghosh was studying music and experimenting with flute configurations. One family story concerns him coming into contact with the Santal tribal people. Famed and
“... In 1947 Ustad Allauddin Khan ... finally took him on as a shishya”.
“...he increased the length of his bansuri... to facilitate the rendition of profound serious ragas”.
romanticised in Bengali song for taking the ‘redearth’ trail from the plains to the hills and mahua – or honey tree – forests, the Santals taught him archery and he, a boxer and fitness and martial arts enthusiast, taught them physical culture. “He took a fancy to their long tribal flute and perhaps the idea of the famous big flute germinated here,” suggested his grandson. In 1940 he moved to Bombay, ‘on the advice of his first disciple Haripada Choudhary’ writes David Philipson on the Pannalal Ghosh website, though that handily distanced him from Japanese bombing attacks and brought him closer to new work possibilities. His scoring for the Bombay Talkies’ hit picture Basant (1942) – which debuted future screen goddess Madhubala in her Baby Mumtaz child star guise – did his reputation no harm. (His home was in Malad, the location of Bombay Talkies’ studio.) Ghosh was making a good name for himself but what he felt he lacked was the steadying wisdom of a guru. In 1947 Ustad Allauddin Khan of the Senia or Maihar gharana (school and style of playing), father-guru to Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi and her husband, Ravi Shankar, finally took him on as a shishya, having baulked at accepting him the previous year when approached in Bombay. Under his guidance, Ghosh re-focused his playing and distanced himself from film music. ‘The famous big flute’ with its lung- and breathbusting requirement to shift an impressive column of air was Pannalal Ghosh’s trademark. Mohan Nadkarni writes: “...he increased the length of his bansuri to 48 cm, with a corresponding increase in the bores so as to facilitate the rendition of profound serious ragas like Malhar, Todi, Darbari or Marwa. Next he added an extra playing hole at the lower end of the instrument. The idea here was to extend its tonal range and also make possible the rendition of the finer points such as khatkas and murkis [both forms of musical embellishment], commonly associated with light classical and lighter musical themes.” The proof of that particular milk cake is to be heard in the final two tracks on disc one of The Great Heritage. At around three-and-ahalf minutes in duration, with no room for selfindulgence, Ghosh’s unidentified thumri in Pilu is coiled tension, while the likewise unnamed kajri, a folk form from Uttar Pradesh, especially associated with Varanasi, is distilled-wit eloquence. When Hariprasad Chaurasia, seventeen years his junior, approached the maestro about studying under him, he declined. From Uma Vasudev’s Hariprasad Chaurasia – Romance of the Bamboo Reed (2005), Ghosh was flat out attending music conferences, composing for AIR, and, at the time of his death, conducting AIR’s New Delhibased National Orchestra. He probably had enough pupils to teach, including his son-in-law Devendra Murdeshwar, Anand’s father. At such life-crossroads are destinies made. Hariprasad Chaurasia’s musical life certainly took a different course after that... On 20 April 1960 Pannalal Ghosh died of a heart attack in New Delhi, aged 48. His bansuri is still carrying listeners across time. More information at www.pannalalghosh.com. The Great Heritage (Saregama CDNF 150997-999) is available from, of course, varying outlets. Rhythm House PVT. Ltd. in Mumbai charges RS 500 (around GBP 5.00 or USD 7.50) plus p&p charged at cost.
Dance awardee Apoorva Jayaraman tells Sanjeevini Dutta that she wishes to pursue dance at this juncture in her life, as it’s the activity that gives her the most fulfilment.
with Kalanidhi Maami (the living legend of abhinaya). Considering that Apoorva would be attending a day school and that the only accommodation available was at a hostel for working women, it was an extraordinary step for a schoolgirl. While attending classes with Kalanidhi Narayanan, Apoorva came under the guidance of Priyadarshini Govind, who is her greatest influence in dance. Maami was planning a trip abroad, so asked Apoorva to take lessons in her absence with the senior dancer. On her return, she asked her young pupil whether she had enjoyed classes with Govind. For the next year and a half, Apoorva was alternating between both teachers. However, there is one more teacher whose name needs extolling. Bharatanatyam teacher Ratna Supriya Sridharan used to come to do ‘fun dance’ sessions at Apoorva’s pre-school, telling stories with mudras. That was where Apoorva’s love of dance was born. She would pester the teacher to attend dance class, but was turned away for being ‘too young’. Srimati Sridharan finally relented and aged 5, Apoorva’s formal training began. “I received strong fundamentals from my first teacher. She was firm and you did not negotiate with her.” Apoorva has learnt from the best of teachers and has had time over an extended period to hone her art. She is blessed with a fine brain, a slim build and attractive features. So it now remains to see what she can give back to the dance world and the larger public who do not yet know that they need and love dance. When I ask her what her ambition in dance is, she offers a characteristically muted response. Instead of projecting herself as an international star, she modestly confesses that her goal is to reach a place in her performance where she can efface herself and become the dance. “I want to go to that place”. I am left in stunned silence.
Photo: Pradeep Karanjikar
poorva Jayaraman was awarded the Nritya Ratna (The Jewel of Dance), at DanceIndia, promoted by Milapfest at Capstone Theatre on 31 July 2013. This is a new scheme to talentspot and accelerate the careers of aspiring musicians and dancers. The opportunity to dance in front of such an august audience, studded with the seniormost gurus, (her own teacher Priyadarshini Govind, Kumudini Lakhia, Leela Samson and Sujata Mohapatra, amongst others), and receive feedback has been hugely rewarding. She says: “Additionally knowing that it is a great steppingstone and I am not completely on my own as I venture into this career is reassuring.” I am speaking to Apoorva on skype from her Cambridge flat where she is putting finishing touches to a Ph.D project in astrophysics. She moved to Cambridge on completion of her Masters in Oxford, following a scholarship from the University which brought her to the UK. Her subject is the formation of the Milky Way. When I ask her whether she sees any linkages between the patterns of matter in space and the spatial and rhythmic patterns of dance, she brushes aside such naïve observations. However, she points out that the study of science has made her free-thinking and questioning, a value also passed on to her by her mother, which she deploys in her dance and in everyday life. I pose Apoorva a question that she must have been asked many times before: does she see the possibility of becoming a full -time dancer? Apoorva replies “But at this juncture, I am just going ahead to do that which gives me the greatest sense of fulfilment, and I don’t really contemplate much about the practicalities of doing it full-time.” This kind of clarity is not new for the young dancer. Aged 15, she convinced her parents to send her from the family home in Bangalore to Chennai, where she would have access to classes
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 17
‘Dance has long been recognised as providing a therapeutic benefit, a form of release and a means of expression.’ www.danceanddementia.co.uk
PhotoS: SIMON RICHARDSON
18 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
In February this year, Chaturangan Dance Company, with Bluecoat and Hope University, presented Fleeting Moments at The Bluecoat in Liverpool. This family- and dementia-friendly dance and music performance evolved in consultation and collaboration with people living with dementia and their companions. Dr Richard Coaten, Dance and Movement Therapist who attended the performance gives us his impressions. Some fleeting and inspiring moments were spent in the company of dancers Bisakha Sarker, Anusha Subramanyam, Fenfen Huang, Mary Pearson, musician and singer Chris Davies and Steve Boyland. Bisakha introduced three short sections of Indian, Chinese and contemporary dance, set to live music and vocal improvisation. Bisakha spoke of the importance of the umbrella as a prop used in the dancing, especially in the piece by Fenfen Huang. She suggested that in a metaphorical sense we could think about the umbrella as a form of shelter against whatever ‘weather’ the dementia condition might throw at us, and how we can through movement and dance play with that idea, finding creative and playful alternatives to frame and ‘dance’ the condition differently. Part of Bisakha’s endeavour is to blur the unnecessary distinctions between audience and performer; and no more so than when the audience is already marginalised by having a dementia condition and living in a care home. Residents and their staff were enabled to leave the routines of their care home to enter a public space, a performance space, to witness a high-quality professional multi-cultural and multi-art form and be a part of this ‘dementia-friendly’ event as both audience and participant. As one resident of a care home said to me afterwards: “It’s all so different, it made me hold my attention to it.” For this older person and for me it has indeed done what it said on the poster: ‘Fleeting moments to lift our collective spirits…’ Dr Richard Coaten, Dancer & Dance Movement Psychotherapist. www.dancedementiahub.co.uk
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 19
In search of a late style
20 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
PhotoS: COURTESY THE ARTSIST
PhotoS: COURTESY THE ARTSIST
There will be a performance of Fleeting Moments on 27 September at the Bluecoat, Liverpool at 2pm.
PhotoS: SIMON RICHARDSON
In her visits to the culturally diverse cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, Bisakha was observing how art is being used in the care of older people; how senior artists are dealing with their own ageing; and exploring the concept of ‘late style’, discussed by François Matarasso in Winter Fire: if visual artists have an ‘early style’ and a ‘late style’, then why not dancers? She found it to be an energising journey of self-discovery. Bisakha visited older people and practitioners using art in their care in a variety of settings. She found much excellent work being carried out with music and art, but much less using dance. Bisakha herself seems impelled to communicate through dance. Round-table discussions or lectures became dance sessions as she responded to the question “How do you do it?” Senior staff and directors found themselves dancing with art therapists, “everyone dancing together and having fun.” There are well-established Indian dance artists in Canada who are training students to achieve excellence in performance, but who have not yet taken this excellence into health settings. This may change, however, for she found keen interest in her practice. For Hari Krishnan “it generates abundant light and hope.” The wealth of cultural diversity in Canada is still to be drawn on in the use of art in the care of older people and Bisakha felt a sense of pride in being a member of the community dance sector in the UK. The Fellowship provided Bisakha personally with an extremely rich experience. She was delighted to meet Claudia Moore, whose response to growing older as a dancer was to set up a successful dance festival in Toronto, ‘Older and Reckless’, to be followed by ‘Young and Old, Reckless Together’. Bisakha told me that she was thrilled to have managed the trip physically; to be given back the confidence that she didn’t know she had lost; to find that in the later part of her dancing career (she is in her late sixties), in the words of Canadian poet Robert Bringhurst, ‘there are songs still to be sung’.
PhotoS: SIMON RICHARDSON
Bisakha Sarker talked to Gopa Roy about her month in Canada as a Winston Churchill Trust Travelling Fellow, looking at age and dance.
PhotoS: COURTESY THE ARTSIST
PhotoS: SIMON RICHARDSON
Ageing Artfully: dancing with older adults Akademi’s project Ageing Artfully has been supporting sixty older residents in Camden to help with their physical and mental wellbeing, with the help of chef Manju Malhi and dance artists Avatara Ayuso, Amina Khayyam and Khavita Kaur Rendhawa. Workshop courses combined South Asian movement classes, gardening in local allotments and healthy cooking classes. A series of ‘Bollywalks’ was organised, blending Bollywoodinspired moves with a pinch of storytelling to create fun, playful and enjoyable group experiences. The links between South Asian dance and health and longevity are well-known, and Akademi recently hosted a seminar to discuss South Asian dance and ageing. Mira Kaushik, Artistic Director of Akademi: “It was good to hear from women who have participated [in Akademi’s projects] over the last three years . . . some walking for leisure or swimming for the first time . . . evolved from hidden Bangladeshi women in London to residents of the city who own the space. The concept of moner khushi ‘the pleasure of the heart’, to dance for inner happiness, reverberates strongly.” In September 2013 the first Tea Dance for Dementia will be held in Hampstead Town Hall, inviting dementia patients, their families, carers and service users to a social dance, reconnecting with the pleasures of partnered dance, reawakening memories, to a soundtrack of music from Britain, America and Bollywood. Akademi dancers will be on hand to partner men and women, working with MA Dance Psychotherapy students as well as their own trained artists to support and interact with participants. Christina Christou www.akademi.co.uk
AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 21
Sanjeevini Dutta gives the rationale behind the soon-to-be-launched Pulse Dance Club, an initiative to attract more audiences to dance events.
Photo: VIPUL SANGOI
The Pulse Dance Club
n the past half-year Pulse has been experimenting with new and exciting ways to facilitate exchanges between artists and audiences. Based on the notion that we can create new dance viewers by taking away their fear of ‘not understanding’, Pulse came up with the idea of pioneering Dance Dialogue. In the intimate setting of a wood-panelled drawing room in Leicester’s 700-year-old Guildhall, under the auspices of Let’s Dance Festival, a small circle gathered around dancer Anusha Subramanyam. She was performing her signature piece From the Heart , which challenges notions of normal and abnormal based on her own experiences with therapeutic communities. The performance was prefaced by a gentle lead-in by dance writer and critic Donald Hutera, who urged the audience to become receptors using all their senses. He recalled the words of the iconic dance-maker Pina Bausch, who was obsessed with the question, ‘Where is the beauty?’ 22 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
The dancer in turn responded to the informality by working the space into her performance: a ledge on the back wall that she climbed on, or placing herself on a period high chair. The physical closeness to the artist created an immediate rapport and a palpable intimacy to the performance. The post-show discussion was irrepressible. Whether it was the quality of the performance itself or combined with the ‘permission’ that the audience had been granted, every audience member aged 10 to seniors was eager to share their experience. The best compliment was that a local dance teacher booked the show with the dance writer for her own students. Spurred on by the success of Dance Dialogue, Pulse pilots a new Dance Club this autumn that will work on the lines of the very popular Book Club principle. The idea is simple: a group of the interested or curious gathered by Pulse, watch a performance and get together to discuss it afterwards. Everyone likes to have a say, which is fine, but additionally the club will invite
a professional dance-watcher to facilitate the discussions and add their views. Pulse has selected two performances this autumn: Amina Khayyam’s Yerma, and Shobana Jeyasingh’s double bill Configurations with a new piece, Strange Blooms, to the music of Gabriel Prokofiev. An outing to Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company’s iconic work made for churches in 2012, TooMortal, is offered to the first fifteen who book for a Pulse Dance Club performance. Amina Khayyam comes from a Bengali background and has often made work that reflects the lives of women from her community. Trained in kathak by Sushmita Ghosh, Amina is respected as an artist of fine technique, who combines the extrovert element of her style with inner depth and subtle and nuanced expressions. In Yerma, based on a short story by Lorca, Amina portrays the pain of a childless woman scorned by society. Inverting the tradition of abhinaya, (facial mime), the performer wears a mask. Pulse supports a brave interpretation of
Yerma, which is bound to challenge our preconceptions of kathak. Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company needs no introduction. Shobana Jeyasingh remains the undisputed master of the craft of choreography, a position she has retained for a quarter-century. In the company’s 25th anniversary performance we are offered a double bill of Re-Configurations (the company’s very first piece re-worked in 2012), and a new work Strange Blooms made to the music of Gabriel Prokofiev. Expect speed with flawless technique, complex dance structures that keep you to the edge of your seat, and sheer visual poetry. As a tasty teaser, Pulse offers the first fifteen who book for the Pulse Dance Club an entry to see TooMortal at the historic St Pancras Church in Euston. Pulse Dance Club members gather at a convenient venue at the end of the evening to share experiences facilitated by a dance critic. All views are valid and group members may learn from each other a point missed or see a view from a different angle.
DANCE PERFORMANCE/MUSIC PERFORMANCE— REVIEWS
Dance Performance She Ra 20 July 2013 Kalpana Raghuraman Chinmaya Heritage Centre, Chennai, India Reviewed by Isabel Putinja
PhotoS: COURTESY THE ARTSIST
Sandhya Sridhar Date
4 August 2013 Venue
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai Guru trained by
Srimati Swapnokalpa Dasgupta Date & place of birth
3 May 1995 / Glasgow Current school/college
Godolphin and Latymer School Interests/hobbies
Acting, cooking, visual arts, cricket Person most admired
Sujata Mohapatra Main dance influence
Exposure to various dance styles of the world Performance repertoire
Mangalacharan, Batu, Pallavi, Abhinaya, Moksha Accompanying musicians
Debashish Sarkar (singer), Poushali Mukherjee (mardal), Chandrachur Bhattacharjee (sitar), Jayanth Chatterjee (flute) Peer impression
To her credit, Sandhya, with her precisely calculated movements, judicious use of stage space and youthful flexibility, was able to bring in the ‘flow’ aspect of the dance form to a large extent.
fter an enthusiastic response to her solo work The Spirit of Frida at the Epic Women Conference in December 2012, Dutch dancer-choreographer Kalpana Raghuraman was back in Chennai to present a new work, She Ra, commissioned by Ramli Ibrahim of Malaysian-based Sutra Dance Theatre. The piece was presented as part of Transfigurations, a collection of works ‘engaging the traditional in the modern’ showcased by Forum Art Gallery in association with Media Mix. The name of the work is deliberately playful rather than profound, alluding not to an obscure deity, but to the 1980s cartoon character and actionhero She Ra, the ‘princess of power’. Each of the seven dancers embodies a superhero-god: Arjuna, Durga, Shiva, Hanuman, Kannagi, Ganesha and Devi. The overlaying of the superheroes’ strong and powerful characteristics along with their softer, round-edged qualities was played out through many contrasting layers of intricate choreography accompanied by a complex electronic musical soundscape complementing the energy and rhythm of the choreographic sequences. In the introductory section, the movements are all power, strength and confidence. Positioned in a diagonal, the six female and a sole male dancer sport form-fitting costumes which emphasise the legs: mini-skirts paired with tube tops, kneelength skirts and matching vests, body suits with bell-bottoms. The male dancer wears a long black sleeveless cape-like garment, giving girth when pirouetting. Stiff ponytails and topknots complete the playful look. To the sound of electronic beats, the dancers stamp their feet vigorously, moving forward in powerful tattu mettu footwork (a bharatanatyam motif which often appears in Kalpana’s work), advancing in a diagonal pattern, with the arms also outstretched in strong diagonals. Legs lift and step back in a low backward
lunge, with the lower body now replicating the diagonal lines. The high-energy introduction winds to an end with each dancer using gestures to personify their character and pose as their superhero-god. Shiva takes the pose of Nataraja. Kannagi pulls off her anklet and hurls her breast. Arjuna points his bow and arrow. The music then changes to softer rhythms of piano and chiming sounds. The dancers
She Ra | Photo: A.Prathap / Times of India
bend in a wide chowka, descend to the floor, then suddenly twist and turn their backs, before turning their heads to gaze back at the audience. They take wide steps, turning to a side profile, heel posed on the floor, and shift forward in a half-squat, moving the torso in a sensuous swaying movement; forward and back, another motif which is present throughout the piece. The dancers break off into duos and trios, interspersed with solos, each having the chance to impersonate their superherogod, some in more subtle ways than others, before coming together again in an energetic finale which echoes the musical and choreographic patterns of the introductory sequence. An audience used to watching bharatanatyam will look for elements which are familiar to them and almost expected from a dancer initially trained in this classical form. These are there in small doses: a few soft and subtle mudras, the energetic tattu mettu of the opening sequence, the recurring strong diagonals of
the outstretched arms and legs, and a few glimpses of familiar adavus. But the choreographic language here is rich and varied: an exploration of movement revealing a refreshing originality and creativity which best utilises the dancers’ own physical vocabularies and abilities. Each of the dancers demonstrated a compelling physicality of strength, high energy and agility, without any inequalities coming through. Though most are long-time Sutra veterans, a few are much younger and less experienced, but the best of each dancer’s abilities was brought out brilliantly in the choreography. The dancers were Rathimalar Govindarajoo (well-known to UK audiences as a former member of the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company), Divya Nair, Tan Mei Mei, Harenthiran Pulingam, Geethika Sree, Sivagama Valli Selvarajan and Vetheejay Tamil Selvam. The music contributed to the engaging and dynamic energy of the work by drawing the spectator deeper into the spectacle, the nine-beat cycle blending perfectly with the movement and somehow keeping the gaze riveted on the dancers and the patterns created on stage, ensuring there was never a dull moment.
Music Performance Manickam Yogeswaran 7 June 2013 Museum of Asian Music, London Reviewed by Ken Hunt
anickam Yogeswaran (afterwards Yoga) is probably the most-heard South Indian vocalist on the planet ever. That statement may ring like puff prose or press release regurgitation. After all, we are still living in a time when beyond-superlatives singer M.S. Subbulakshmi (1916-2004) was recently alive. Plus M. Balamurali Krishna is still alive and ripping the insides out of listeners emotionally and intellectually. The contention has nothing to do with South Indian commerciality such as Mollywood – the Malayalam film industry – or Kollywood – the Chennai-based Tamil cinema – either. To be honest, the wider world hasn’t listened to South Indian music much. The Sri AUTUMN 2013 PULSE 23
REVIEWS — CD RELEASE
Lankan singer’s music and career is rippled with cross-cultural transfers. He has sung at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazzopen
Yogeshwaran | Photo: Santosh Sidhu
Stuttgart, Tanz&FolkFest Rudolstadt and Glastonbury. He has sung with the German-based world-beat combo Dissidenten, with the vocal tour-de-force The Shout, for Shobana Jeyasingh in dance contexts and for Jocelyn Pook. But it was a collaboration with Pook that propelled him into the big league. In 1999 he sang on the soundtrack for what would be director Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut. A selection of Kubrick’s films might include Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). You’ve got the drift... Kubrick’s films stick around and that is why Yoga’s voice singing in Eyes Wide Shut makes him likely to be the mostheard Tamil vocalist of all time. His appearance at the Museum of Asian Music found him in intimate surroundings. The venue is intimate, to use that evasion. The core of his performance repertoire drew on creative nourishment from his cultural roots; that is, Tamil devotional songs – no crossover, no deviations from the path. He stuck to that side of his performing repertoire for which fewer listeners know him. He opened with a religious tract, call it a hymn, Thirugnana Sampanthar’s ‘Thodudaiya Seviyan’ in rāgam Gambhira Nattai. Frankly, no heaped subtitles or on-stage exegesis about this or the following pieces’ religious contexts would have worked. They would have been head-spinning. Hinduism may be what some would like to call the mother religion of the 24 PULSE AUTUMN 2013
subcontinent but, when it comes to deities and sects, the variants and permutations on names defeat even the sadhus or sages. Let alone references to Kabir, one of the reforming saint-poets of the bhakti movement or Hindu Reformation whose poetising informed Sikhism. “O devotee,” Yoga sang later, “Sing the names of the Lord/Sing Ram, Govind, Hari...” Without the gift of Tamil, it was down to music. Yoga sang beautifully, like a songster, though the mridangam player’s premature applause before Yoga’s final notes had decayed grew really, really irritating. The final thillana in Mohana Kalyani dealt with Lord Murugan. The Hindu counterpart of Mars the Roman god of war and victory, Lord Murugan has strong Tamil devotional associations. The sparse composition was by the violinist-composer Lalgudi Jayaraman, his death in April 2013 still very much present. The performance just blew me away.
CD Release Call of Bangalore July 2013 Jyotsna Srikanth Riverboat Records/World Music Network Reviewed by Ken Hunt
all of Bangalore begins with an agileminded, musically unafraid opening gambit. With its title slyly alluding to her birthplace, this studio album not only shows off violinist Jyotsna Srikanth’s roots but also her command of melodicism, rhythmicality and pace. Furthermore, with the opening varnam she nails her colours precisely to the mast, revealing that the album’s programming likely as not is going to adopt a South Indian convention and progression deployed in concertising. There is a lot of biography that it is tempting to include about Jyotsna Srikanth. A flit-by will have to suffice. It was the senior violin vidwan (maestro) Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan (19352008) that put her on the violin trail. It is plain that since then she has closely studied the work and career paths of the South’s vidwans of violin. One cert has to be Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, whose classically-inspired
sessions for the film industries south of Bombay subsidised his classical earnings – a bill-paying revenue stream not unknown to Jyotsna Srikanth either. The album’s closing choice could arguably support further violin vidwan talk or conjecture. It is a thillana – a highly rhythmic form comparable to the Hindustani tradition’s tarana song form – frequently presented as the final piece in a Karnatic recital. This one in Mand, a northern rāg, is composed by Lalgudi G. Jayaraman (1930-2013). He was one of the South’s era-defining Violin Trinity completed by M.S. Gopalakrishnan (1931-2013) and T.N. Krishnan (born 1928). Jyotsna Srikanth’s opener is set in the pentatonic rāgam Mohana (or Mohanam) in the eight-beat adi cycle. A varnam, declared D. Seshachari of the Hyderabad Brothers in a 2012 interview in The Hindu, is ‘a storehouse of many typical phrases of a particular raga’, though, more prosaically, he also described it as ‘a throat-clearing device before plunging into a prolonged concert’. This varnam is Srikanth’s arrangement of ‘Ninnu Kori...’ by the composervocalist Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar (1860-1919). Here, as elsewhere, Patri Satish Kumar is on fine form on mridangam, the South’s most versatile double-headed, barrel-shaped hand-drum. Equally adept at ducking and diving rhythmically is N. Amruth on kanjira, the small frame drum. Melody melded to rhythmicality underpins Call of Bangalore. Varnams come in various forms and lengthy or relatively short expositions. Srikanth’s intricate interpretation sticks
close to the composition’s contours at under seven minutes. As phrase leads into phrase, Iyengar’s composition reveals itself to be full of twists and turns. These are ideal for limber fingers or knotting fingers. This varnam’s plot developments are so edge-of-the-seat that they are pretty much guaranteed to
send anybody’s timepiece into a state of suspended animation. ‘Varnam’ flies by in a trice. Parenthetically, the vision she paints is quite different to Vaidyanathan’s wow-factor interpretation. There is a YouTube performance of ‘Ninnu Kori...’ that is a thing of wonderment. From his Mohanam brushstrokes something like a Chinese rāgam emerges – an indication of the willowy strength and sturdiness of Iyengar’s composition. In passing it pretty much nominates and seconds him as the Charlie Parker of Karnatic violin. As Call of Bangalore advances, the revelations keep on coming. There is a steady build-up through her arrangement of the musician-composer, patron of the arts and Maharaja of Travancore, Swati Tirunal’s ‘Gopalaka Pahiman’ (Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma in full) in the morning rāgam Bhowli. Saint Muthuswami Dikshitar’s hymn to Parvati’s avatar, ‘Annapoorne’ (or ‘Annapurna’) in Sama reinforces the development. Then things explode at first in a leisurely fashion with her treatment of Saint Tyagaraja’s ‘Bhova Bharama’ in Bahudari. At almost forty minutes in length it is the album’s longest track. It is also the recital’s centrepiece and undeniable highlight. She changes the mood completely with a second Tyagaraja composition, the slow-tempo ‘Shobane’ in Pantuvarali. Last comes the finale proper: that ‘Thillana’ composed by Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. It sways. It shimmers. It grounds. It brings the ‘show’ to a close wonderfully. Throughout Call of Bangalore Srikanth reveals herself as someone totally conscious of the tradition but not hidebound by the conformities of traditioninspired or -generated music. In that respect, she is reminiscent of A. Kanyakumari whose playing continually goes from strength to strength. Kanyakumari is a violinist whose playing is equally at home as accompanist or soloist. Make no mistake: balancing the two is no little life or artistic achievement. It takes a firm grip on reality – of varying kinds, whether personal, artistic or temperamentally – to get to the point Jyotsna Srikanth has reached with Call of Bangalore. There is a private passion to this recording we ought to count ourselves privileged to eavesdrop upon. This is Jyotsna Srikanth’s giant step forward as a soloist.
Creating and Profiling Diverse Arts Concerts - Performances - Festivals - Workshops
GemArts is a dynamic arts development organisation based in the North East of England. We programme new and exciting culturally diverse arts by producing high quality concerts, live events, festivals, workshops and commissions with regional, national and international artists across all art forms. GemArts Autumn 2013 season brings you spectacular music, dance and theatre from across the UK and Asia, covering classical, folk and contemporary genres.
Nirmalya Dey Sunday 22 September, 7pm Sage Gateshead Beneath the Surface Saturday 28 September, 6pm Pride CafĂŠ Anupama Bhagwat Sunday 29 September, 7pm Sage Gateshead Sonia Sabri Company: Jugni Saturday 12 October, 8pm Dance City Arnab Chakrabarty: Ode to the Sarode Monday 14 October, 7.30pm Durham Town Hall Arun Ghosh Sextet featuring Zoe Rahman. A South Asian Suite. Friday 1 November, 8pm Sage Gateshead Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan Friday 8 November, 8pm Sage Gateshead For more details and how to book visit www.gemarts.org
Contact Us GemArts, Old Town Hall, West St, Gateshead, NE8 1HE | 0191 440 4124 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook /GemArts | Twitter /GemArtsUK
People are talking...
...What will she do?
Book a place for the shows with Pulse by sending an email to email@example.com Select any one or both Yerma and Configurations and you have a chance to get a place at TooMortal promoted by Dance Umbrella. Friday 11 October / 19:30 - free performance TooMortal Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company @ St Pancras Church, Euston Road, London NW1 2BA A beautiful, mesmeric work strikingly set in the historic church of St Pancras. Dancing within the pews, six women dressed in flame red, weave a story between power and quiet reflection. Are they charting a journey from cradle to grave or cast adrift on a wooden sea? Saturday 2 November / 19:30 - tickets £15 Yerma Amina Khyyam Dance Co with zeroculture @ Lilian Bayliss Studio, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4TN A kathak interpretation of the classic play by Federico Garcia Lorca which tells of the pain of a childless woman scorned by society and driven by despair to commit a horrific, irrevocable act. Lorca’s savage yet lyrical play, set in patriarchal and religiously repressive Spain, is transposed to an inner city British community.
Make a date with Pulse Dance Club this Autumn
Pulse pilots a new initiative that extends a hand to audiences. We invite both regular dance goers and the more reluctant to watch a dance show with us and to get together afterwards for a post-performance chat. We are joined by Guardian dance critic Sanjoy Roy to facilitate discussions. Expect to see new perspectives, make new connections and share enthusiasms.
Amina Khayyam’s depth and nuanced expressions have captured audiences widely. Live musical accompaniment (Tarun Jasani, Debasish Mukherjee, Lucy Rehman and James Barralet), gives another entrancing layer to this show. Tuesday 3 December / 19:30 - tickets £25 Strange Blooms/Configurations Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Co @ QEH - Southbank Centre
connecting asian dance and music communities
Shobana Jeyasingh is renowned for dance creations of visceral energy and excellence as well as collaborations with outstanding composers. She presents a double bill that includes a new commission for Queen Elizabeth Hall, Strange Blooms to the score by Gabriel Prokofiev, a classically-trained composer who revels in the latest technology. Together they re-imagine and re-mix early Baroque music with all its exuberance, ornamentation and contrast. Strange Blooms appears in a double bill with Configurations, Jeyasingh’s seminal 1988 piece celebrated for its exhilarating speed and stunning detail. Michael Nyman’s original music, which became known as his acclaimed String Quartet No.2, is played live on stage for these performances. The pilot scheme has limited spaces so don’t delay in registering your interest. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Call Sanjeevini on 07905 268887
designed by kikuchi