Sahana Narayanan will take the stage on August 25 to present her Carnatic Vocal Arangetram. For the last 15 years, Sahana has studied under Srimathi Jayashree Varadarajan, Founder and Artistic Director of Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Art. During the course of her training Sahana participated in numerous music school productions around the country often a part of award winning team efforts. Some of her performance highlights include participating in a critically acclaimed SRLKM school concert on Purandara Dasa at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana and singing in a television performance of Narayana Teerta compositions.
Sahana steadfastly maintained her commitment to this art form even after she moved to New York City to pursue undergraduate degree at Columbia where she is a rising senior, majoring in Comparative Literature and minoring in Jazz. As part of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program, she regularly performs at venues in New York. Sahana is also an accomplished western classical violinist and continues to study under Professor Li Lin at The Julliard School. Prior to college, Sahana attended The Harker School, where she fronted the jazz band as the lead singer, won numerous individual prizes for jazz, musical theater, poetry and creative writing, and was awarded a humanities grant to conduct original research on jazz.
Sahana will present a traditional Carnatic vocal concert which will features songs rendered in numerous languages from a variety of composers and will highlight her improvisational skills Sahana’s delightful Carnatic vocal renditions are a result of the rigorous training steeped in tradition from her Guru. At the same time, Sahana possesses a lovely fluid voice and a musical and lyrical sensibility that is informed by her exposure to Sanskrit and her expertise in a wide variety of musical genres. She will be accompanied by Sahana Srinivasan on violin and Amit Ranganathan on Mridangam.
Title of Event: “Carnatic Vocal Debut Concert by Sahana Narayanan”
School: “Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandir School of Fine Arts”
Guru: “Smt. Jayashree Varadarajan”
Date: August 25, 2019
Place: “Heritage Theatre, 1 West Campbell Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008”
My name is Arjun Chandra, and I am a 14 year old teenager entering my sophomore year of high school, at Dougherty Valley High school in San Ramon. I will be performing my debut South Indian classical violin concert on August 4th 2019 at the Lakireddy auditorium, Shiva Vishnu Temple, Livermore. I will perform a variety of Carnatic music songs on the violin that I learned from my Guru Vidushi Smt. G. Bharathi, daughter of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. M. Chandrasekaran. I will be accompanied on Mridangam by Laya Kala Rathna Sri. Ramesh Srinivasan, leading disciple of mridangam maestro Sangita Kalanidhi Vellore G. Ramabhadran, and on ghatam by renowned Ghatam Vidwan Sri. S.V. Ramani.
I did not think that I would be playing my violin debut concert this summer. My parents were primarily planning for my twin brother’s mridangam arangetram. Around the end of April, my Guru suggested that I was ready to have my debut violin concert as well! I was a bit hesitant as I felt that I was not ready. However, I was told that, when senior artists of such caliber express confidence, then, it is important to take such advice seriously. And pretty soon the debut concert started to become a reality, thanks to my Guru and the support from my family.
This concert will also serve a cause, where I will be raising awareness for “Sai Aashraya”, an organization that aims to provide high quality health, education and nutrition services free of cost to the needy across India. More than 1000 children are fed nutritious food every day. Free state-of-the-art medicare camps are conducted on a monthly basis in a South Indian village, and once every two months in the tribal areas of Arunachal Pradesh.
Sai Aashraya has been carrying out Gram Seva (Village Service) where the villages adopted are given holistic care with an aim to make them self sufficient. Five of these villages are in extremely remote areas near the Indo-China border In Arunachal Pradesh and one of them is in Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. Many other projects are conducted on a regular basis, as shared here: https://www.saiaashraya.org/service-projects
They have inspired many people, like me, to help people in need. Inspired by this organization, my friends and I have started making burritos every other week for homeless people on the streets of Oakland. Few families in the Tri-valley area take turns to serve simple breakfast everyday, to people on the streets, with the goal of connecting with them and understanding their needs. I truly believe in their cause. As their website says, “Sympathy for all mankind is a moral obligation and a duty“.
Hope to see you at the concert to enjoy the music, and hope you get inspired by Sai Aashraya sharing.
A fundraiser concert to eradicate curable blindness in India
Sankara Eye Foundation is bringing the Magnificent Musical Extravaganza of the year. Legendary singers Sonu Nigam & Neha Kakkar with Live Symphony Orchestra of 45 Musicians at the beautiful Oracle Arena on June 15th. All this is for a magical cause of brightening this world. Your entertainment will help someone’s dreams come true as they get their eyesight restored.
Established in the Bay Area, SEF is a non-profit organization that has been working for the past twenty years for the cause of eradicating curable blindness in India. Driven by the truly inspirational cause, SEF has currently established 9 community hospitals and soon embarking on three new hospital projects. By far the most unique and remarkable characteristic of SEF is that they provide free eye care for those unable to afford it, those members of the rural poor, and this accounts for 80 percent—which is approximately 200,000 people per year—of the surgeries performed at their hospitals. The tireless efforts by the SEF team since inception, has enabled 1.95 million eyes to receive the gift of vision, utterly free of cost. Also, it has maintained the top rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management for seven years
SEF will focus its fundraising activities for 3 new projects, Focus Mumbai, Focus Hyderabad and Focus Indore. Become a Founding Donor and leave a legacy – get your name on the Wall of Founders. Double the impact of your gift with company matching. Join our cause, volunteer and share in the joy of bringing light to someone’s eyes. Please visit our website at www.giftofvision.org for more details.
This article was provided to India Currents by Sankara Eye Foundation
The San Francisco International Arts Festival (SFIAF) is pleased to announce a day-long, two concert dance program featuring four different Indian classical dance companies embodying a variety of styles and regional influences.
Indicative of India’s east coast is Guru Shradha led by founding director Niharika Mohanty specializing in the Odissi dance form. Representing the north is Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak (artistic director Shambhavi Dandekar). These exemplary companies are joined by two practitioners of the southern form of Bharatanatyam, featuring the much respected Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (artistic director Mythili Kumar) and an upcoming ensemble Samudra Dance Creations founded by well known dancer Jyotsna Vaidee that premiered a full length production on women’s empowerment at the 2018 Festival to critical acclaim.
Festival director, Andrew Wood said of the program, “We are very excited to have such great artists representing some of the rich and varied traditions of India performing in the Festival. Our primary goal in putting the program together was to celebrate the vibrant and innovative next generation of Indian and Indian-American choreographers making classical Indian dance in the United States in the 21st Century. We are especially interested in posing the question about the future direction of the art form as it exists in this country.”
Guru Shradha and Abhinaya Dance Company will perform at 2:00pm and SISK and Samudra Dance Creations will perform at 5:30pm. Single tickets can be purchased for as little as $15 during the Early Bird period in the month of March. After that tickets are $25 in advance or $28 at the door. After March the best deal to see both performances is a $40 two-show pass. Children’s tickets are $15.
There will also be a panel discussion moderated by India Currents journalist Priya Das featuring the artistic directors of all four companies at 4:00pm. Food will be available for purchase.
The details of each company’s performances are as follows:
Guru Shradha (USA)
An Enchanting Odissi Odyssey (45 minutes)
Shared bill with Abhinaya Dance Company
Odissi dance, one of the oldest surviving Indian dance forms, is captivating through its unique grace and poses evoking temple dance sculptures. An Enchanting Odissi Odyssey takes the audience through a spiritual journey showcasing contemporary and traditional choreography revealing a tapestry of its devotional, emotive, intricate dance and haunting music.
Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (USA)
Stories of Justice (2018, San Francisco Premiere) (45 minutes)
Shared bill with Guru Shradha
Stories of Justice will examine the non-violent resistance strategies of Martin Luther King, Jr. to demonstrate that the fight for social justice is ongoing and that past struggles provide lessons that enable us to confront our current problems.
Samudra Dance Creations (USA)
Earth Speaks (World Premiere) (45 minutes)
Shared bill with SISK Dance
Earth Speaks is a dance-music production that explores humankind’s intricate physical, emotional and spiritual relationship to the EARTH (PRITHVI in sanskrit). When that connection, that umbilical cord is disturbed or even severed what happens to our being, our existence? The production incorporates Indian mythology, Greek mythology and contemporary stories to tell the story of Mother Earth in HER voice.
Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak (SISK) (USA)
Horizons… Kathak and beyond! (45 minutes)
Shared bill with Samudra Dance Creations
Horizons…Kathak and Beyond is a beautiful array of choreographic work in Indian Classical Kathak dance style. Horizons features traditional as well as contemporary themes in Classical Kathak. The performers include SISK’s founder, principal dancer and choreographer Shambhavi Dandekar along with her highly trained and accomplished disciples from India and USA.
SFIAF 2019 Calendar Listing
Who: Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose, Guru Shradha, Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak and Samudra Dance Creations / Joytsna Vaidee
What: A Day of Indian Classical Dance
Where: Cowell Theater, Herbst Pavillion, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
When: Saturday May 25, 2:00pm (Guru Shradha followed by Abhinaya)
Saturday May 25, 4:00pm Panel Discussion moderated by Priya Das
Saturday May 25, 5:30pm (Samudra followed by Shambhavi)
Tickets: $15 – $28general admission (Two show passes are $40)
One of India’s foremost classical musicians, Rajeev Taranath is a master of the sarod. His career spanning over four decades, has drawn accolades from critics and audiences throughout the world.
A distinguished disciple of the late legendary maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, he also received guidance from the great sitarists Ravi Shankar and Shrimati Annapurna Devi . Rajeev Taranath is the recipient of many honors including India’s highest government award in the arts, the esteemed Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2000. He has received critical acclaim for his deep introspective style that melds imagination and emotional range combined with technical skill, and a highly disciplined approach to the development of a raga. “Rajeev Taranath’s sarod improvisations mixed the spiritual and the spirited…the raga began with introspective meditation and proceeded into an exuberant rhythmic celebration.” said critic Edward Rothstein of The New York Times A noted linguist, he speaks eight languages fluently. From 1995 to 2005, Taranath served on the music faculty of the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Currently living in Mysore, India, Rajeev Taranath travels worldwide teaching and performing. Given below is an interview with this esteemed musician.
Did you grow up in a musical family?
My father was deeply interested in music. He used to sing and play the tabla. Although he was not a professional musician, I grew up with a lot of music around me. He started teaching me very easy songs. When I was around 3 years old, he made me listen to a lot of classical and vocal records and performances. I soon started singing and gave my first public performance at 10.
So, how did you leave singing for the sarod?
The most vivid moment in music I remember is the first experience of hearing Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, it was electrifying. I was and am a great admirer of Ravi Shankar’s music, so I used to attend every performance of his when he came to Bangalore, the city in which I lived. That particular time, he came with Ali Akbar Khan, who said that he would play the sarod along with him. Before that, I had heard very little of the sarod being played and definitely I had not heard Ali Akbar Khan play. It was a life-changing experience when he played his first movement on the sarod. That was my moment of epiphany, a moment of total grace. As I was listening, my life changed. Music moved to the centre of the universe. I was hooked and never looked back.
Can you explain why it spoke to you so much?
Well, you know, it’s like falling in love. How can you explain it?
So, one performance changed your life?
My life changed direction after that point. After I heard Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for the first time, it was a year and a half or more before I got introduced to him. I was just past 20 when I went to him and he soon accepted me as a disciple.
Please describe the training.
It was daily, sometimes twice a day, but then there would be periods with no lessons for a month or more, because he would be away, performing. By the time I went to him, the demand for his public performances was very high. I started practicing one hour, two hours. Then, for some time, it went on for up to 12 hours a day.
How do you work when you’re practicing music for 12 hours a day?
At that point, I was a beggar. I couldn’t find a job, but there was a benefactor Mr. P.K. Das of Kolkata. This man had nothing to do with music, but he gave me a room, and not very much later, he and his wife insisted I should have my meals with them. I had some sort of job afterward to keep me going, but they took care of me for six more years. That gave me an opportunity for which I am profoundly grateful, to practice many, many hours a day.
You had a very successful career as a vocalist when you were young. You were even described as a child prodigy. I have heard that you were and are profoundly moved when listening to the great vocalist Abdul Karim Khan.Why did you decide to switch to sarod? Many people say that the voice is the ultimate instrument for Indian music.
There is no doubt that vocals are at the center of our music. But Ali Akbar Khan is for me the paradigmatic example of excellence. I would say that in his sarod playing there is a kind of vocalism. He has a flexibility and versatility to his imagination, all of which have vocal sources. It’s not that he actually plays vocal bandishes. There are sarod players that do that, but he is not one of them. Vocalism is for him an abstract, silent, but immediate storehouse for the movements of the raga. It’s the thing that makes a raga more than a scale. I can almost say that given two very good instrumentalists, the person who is the better vocalist—in this special metaphorical sense—is the one whose music will have more “juice.” He might not be the fastest, but that’s because he would have no need to be the fastest.
Has Hindustani music changed over the years? To answer that question, I think it’s helpful to compare music to both language and physics. If you compare the English of Shakespeare’s time to modern English, you can see that it’s essentially the same. There are noticeable differences, but we can still understand Shakespeare. The physics of Shakespeare’s time, however, has been completely replaced by modern science. Throughout the history of Hindustani music, there’s been the same kind of growth and change that you can see in a language. But you don’t have the new completely replacing the old, as is the norm with scientific progress. For example, Ali Akbar Khan made profound changes in the sarod. Before him, the instrument sounded quick and staccato, with lots of trills. Khansahib still uses those trills, but his innovative playing gives the instrument a new profundity and depth. What do you think is the biggest challenge in playing Hindustani music? First, of course, you must practice and study diligently. If you do that, you will become either a competent or an incompetent player, and you will get to know which very soon. But once you have crossed the bar of competence, in about three or four years, what do you do then? You know how to play the raga correctly, but then what? At that point, playing the raga is rather like spreading butter on bread. You’ve got to see how well you can spread it, and how widely you can spread it. You must push at the frontiers of the raga, and yet see that it doesn’t break. If the raga breaks, you are in a kind of melodic anonymity, which ultimately breaks you as a musician. Have you managed to stretch the borders of any of the ragas you play? I try. When I play Patdeep, it’s difficult to make it long. You can feel very comfortable playing Yaman long, because
it’s quite spacious and flexible. So is Bhairavi. But Patdeep is very brittle, and can’t be stretched easily. The rules for Patdeep are very strict, which is why it makes such an immediate effect. Once you’ve heard the identifying phrases, you know exactly what it is. But that’s a double-edged sword, because the audience is immediately “Patdeeped,” and it seems to be near closing time right away. Then you’re left with the challenge of where to go from there. For Patdeep, I try to unfold the scale of the raga a little bit at a time, so you can hear every nuance. You have to hold the raga back, stop it from exploding through you. That enables me to stay inside the raga, and not let the raga go, even when I’m playing for a long period of time. Last month I did a concert in which I played Patdeep for the alap-jor-jhala, and then switched to Madhuvanti for the gat. Madhuvanti has almost the same notes as Patdeep, and many of the same note arrangements. But Madhuvanti has tivra ma (raised fourth) and Patdeep doesn’t. Even though the notes are similar, the mood is very different, and these differences have to be kept. I wanted to create a natural change in mood, while still maintaining a sense of unity in the performance. When you play two ragas together, how do you decide which ragas to combine? There’s a kind of dialectic involved between a technical closeness, and yet the need and challenge to keep the moods different while playing in very similar scales. There are also other factors not as capable of tidy articulation. You might combine a raga that has a certain kind of gravitas with something that is not quite so serious—moods that are contrasting, yet still very close. Can you speak about your approach to developing a raga throughout the many years of riyaz?
There’s a kind of patience that you learn to take with you to the raga. If you’re patient, the raga will speak to you eventually.
Can you discuss the ideas you have regarding teaching Indian classical music?
When it comes to teaching of music, there is a trio – a teacher, a learner and an instrument. The teacher demonstrates how he has put the instrument to use and what he has been able to achieve. The attempt here is a give and take of such experience. This exploration of possibilities, initially in the form of bits and pieces, as alankaras or tabla bols or whatever, later on turns into an exercise in bringing together these little experiences to construct a creative whole. Further on, it is a kind of invitation to the learner to live with the teacher in the common world of music and in this journey together, the learner may even reach beyond. Each one’s style of playing is guided by one’s own possibilities, difficulties and impossibilities.
What is special about your gharana?
Unlike other gharanas which for many years remained closed-door, teaching freely with openness is a major preoccupation with the Maihar. Allauddin Khan, the Paramahamsa-like saint-musician took to vigorous teaching. This can perhaps be traced to the difficulty he encountered in learning and the fact that Allauddin was compelled to choose the sarod in a veena-dominated tradition which confined its veena–teaching to its kin alone. But his ingenuity incorporated the possibilities of veena into the sarod, remodelling it for the purpose. Several nuances of the veena came into sarod-baaj and later years saw the promotion of sitar, sur-bahar and sur-singar.
The Maihar-Senia gharana, which traces its lineage to Tansen in the 16th century, was one of the few schools that taught women music and we find historically the presence of many distinguished women instrumental performers within it from Saraswati, Tansen’s daughter, to Annapurna Devi, the daughter of the legendary Allauddin Khan.
In the context of our guru-sishya parampara and the oral/aural tradition, you once mentioned the ‘mediation of the eye’ in western classical music. Don’t you think a guru’s role is equally vital there in guiding….?
Mediation of the eye is important in Western classical music because of the reliance on the system of notation. The journey is from note to note but nothing as much may happens between the gaps. It is in the movement between notes that one’s culture operates. Mimesis is the basis of our music-teaching. Our music fills up with meends, gamaks, bols and these cannot be written down. We clutch the guru’s imagination, his mind that is so private. A guru gives good active seeds… but can one teach creativity?’ The artist or maestro, as T.S. Eliot says, lives at a conscious point where past and future are gathered. He has all the richness of the past, waiting to pass it on to the future, for his students to gather it all. So I try to teach, but a problem which I have repeatedly faced is this: I can transfer musical information but I don’t know yet, how to transfer the sense of relish. This is important in the kind of music we play and teach because the given is so tenuous.
Can you explain the artist’s process or desire for mastery?
To make better music– there is a desire, which is a life-long process- to create a match – to bring the thought and performance nearer and nearer. Actually it is the desire to translate what is happening in your mind into your fingers – even without that gap. The finger itself becomes imagination. But curiously the more you master, the more your imagination becomes active. Because what strikes you or me is seriously limited by what we can execute in singing or playing. And as that capacity improves, your imagination improves. The more you go toward mastery the more you see, the more you climb, the more you see. So there is no end to that – they feed on each other. Because you see, you want to climb more. Because you climb more you see much more. And so it goes on. And that act itself is a matter of very profound satisfaction – a fullness, which I suppose is why you are really after this exploration of mastery. In music it is more obvious perhaps, but it is there in everything.
In the education of a performing art, there is the finding of greater and greater satisfaction in the possession of the knowledge you are seeking. The same art can be treated as a discipline or can be treated more casually, mechanically as a subject. When music becomes a discipline, that’s your life, when music is a minor subject, it’s very different. If anything becomes a discipline, you seek a fuller kind of satisfaction. Simply being well- trained in something is not enough. Often many are well-trained for a purpose which quite often lies outside the central subject. Their own interests are elsewhere. When something becomes a discipline, that becomes a center of interest. If it isn’t, it shows. And in some artists it becomes obsessive. And when it isn’t obsessive or the central interest you can make out at some stage.
How would you describe mastery in this art form?
If given more time, I will go more and more toward radiant simplicities. Those simplicities are the product of a lifetime. Any durable experience has to arrive into a state of simplicity. Courtship is complex, a durable marriage is simple.
This article was compiled from several interviews by Leslie Schneider and is reprinted with permission from the Canadian South Asian magazine, “AAJ” (Oct 2016).
South India Fine Arts (SIFA), is the premier organization in San Francisco Bay Area dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and presentation of South Indian fine arts. SIFA is proud to present its Spring 2018 Season artists.
We started off the Spring 2018 Seasion in February by celebrating Saint Thyagaraja’s Aradhana. A lot of talented local Bay Area artists and Bay Area Music/Dance Schools presented their tribute by presenting various Kritis of Saint Thyagaraja. Check out our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/carnaticmusicbayarea/ for photos/videos from this program.
We kick off April with a concert by the dynamic duo – Dr. Krishnakumar and Smt. Binni Krishnakumar, followed by amellifluous Flute concert by Shri. Shashank Subramanyam.
In May, we have a blockbuster Vocal concert by one of the giants in Carnatic Music — the great Shri T. V. Sankaranarayan, followed by a scintillating performance by the dynamic duo – Shri Ganesh and Shri Kumaresh on the Violin.
In June, we present a grand Vocal concert by Shri Palghat Ramprasad, the grandson of the legendary Mridangam player Palghat Mani Iyer.
In July, we have a divine Harikatha / Music Discourse by Harikatha exponent, Shri. Dushyanth Sridhar. We have also planned for an enchanting evening with a Vocal concert by Kum. Pragathi Guruprasad, who was the runner-up in the third season of the reality-based singing competition Airtel Super Singer Junior.
SIFA is super excited to present the above line up of artists and hopes that all rasikas would attend and enjoy the above concerts. We also would like to remind that SIFA sponsors get FREE admission to most concerts.
Please signup for Sponsorship here: https://care.way.com/#/public/13492