Citadels of Culture
Hyderabad known for its rich heritage, history and its multitude of connoisseurs, is a strange and difficult place to promote art, especially...
Hyderabad known for its rich heritage, history and its multitude of connoisseurs, is a strange and difficult place to promote art, especially classical arts, say those in the know. While a national-level festival does attract some audience, more so when set in a quaint ambience such as the Chowmahalla Palace, the performers are usually stars and maestros, sought-after anywhere, any time. But, the city remains inhospitable towards the younger lot, the less pedigreed and the wannabes, much as they need a platform to showcase their talent. It is in this city of vibrant volatility that a few enthusiastic individuals and organisations braving the odds persist with their efforts and continue to organise classical music concerts regularly. The Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu saw a unique event last month - a grand tribute to one of the most illustrious sons of the same soil. A matchless devotee of the Kamakshi deity. And one of the renowned Trinity of Carnatic Music. Syama Sastry. The event has become landmark for more than one reason. It was the first time that Syama Sastry had an Aradhanotsavam all for himself. It was the first time that such a tribute was paid in the direct presence of the deity Kamakshi with the participation of more than 150 musicians. And it was organised not by some old Carnatic ganasabha from Chennai which does these things as a routine programme, but a group of young music enthusiasts from Hyderabad, Nada Bharati, who are working to preserve, promote and present Carnatic classical music in its various forms and media. Hyderabad with its cosmopolitan nature and innumerable cross-cultural influences is an attractive melting point. That the city is a difficult place to anchor a classical concert, pin down an audience and let an art form grow in a sustainable manner is the opinion borne out of some bitter experiences of cultural event organisers. Several organisations like South Indian Cultural Association, Kalasagaram and SPIC-MACAY persist with their efforts, braving out half empty halls, unsold tickets, and reluctance of top grade singers to come and perform, and continue to organise concerts periodically. Though some concerts organised as part of a national-level festival, such as the ITC concerts do attract some audience, more so when set in a quaint ambience such as the Chowmahalla Palace, the performers are usually stars and maestros, sought after anywhere any time. But, the city remains inhospitable towards the younger lot, the less pedigreed and the wannabes, much as they need a platform to showcase their talent. Nada Bharati Nada Bharati was established as a Trust in 1999 and subsequently evolved into an organisation to reckon with, especially for upcoming musicians who seek a platform and an audience to demonstrate their prowess. "I was by then involved in an organisation working for the cause. It was run by a veteran musician but I was not completely convinced about the efficacy of that forum. And decided to launch another association," Paravastur Srinivas Gopalan, founder of Nada Bharati, explains. Supported by artiste Radha Padmanabhan, he started organising concerts every month. The plan was to have two festivals a year. Nada Bharati chose to take up its cause and approached this with a strategy. One of the most important strategies was to take music to people, instead of struggling to bring audiences to concerts. 'Music At The Doorstep' was an initiative that Nada Bharati launched as one of its first efforts. They have identified 12 different venues across the city, with 12 concerts in a month, including chamber music concerts. "The performers are new talent, upcoming professionals, both vocalists and instrumentalists and the audience though small is very appreciative and encouraging," says Srinivas Gopalan. Nada Bharati also organises thematic programmes such as specials on composers, Ragam Tanam Pallavi concerts, Trinity special concerts and tributes that families can pay to their departed elders through music concerts etc. Another innovative programme is Nada Archana which involves musicians travelling to various holy places and temples and performing in the presence of the deity even as regular Pujas are underway. Nada Acrhana organised in Birmingham had 18 compositions sung by the local musicians and in the presence of 500 people. The idea is to let music get absorbed into the warp and weft of the social fabric. The aim is to involve various classes of people into serious appreciation, study and promotion of classical Carnatic music. Nada Bharati organised 'Listening Sessions' as part of this endeavour, playing full concerts that they have in store from a collection of about 6,000 concerts by every great musician who has ever performed. They have also constituted Sangeet Bharati awards, felicitating Carnatic maestros such as Sripada Pinakapani, Nookala China Satyanarayana et al. Nada Bharati also organised special concerts for relief, such as at the time of Gujarat earthquake and mobilised funds. The organisation operates as a small trust with no commercial motives, contributing to expenses from its own pocket. Sangeeta Ksheerasagaram The 78-year-old Oruganti Ananda Mohan is the founder of Sangeeta Ksheera Sagaram, an organisation dedicated to promote music. He has been single-handedly organising monthly music concerts at the Thyagaraya Gana Sabha Mini hall where several talented young musicians and children gain a platform to showcase their musical prowess. Ananda Mohan was the founder Secretary of Thyagaraya Gana Sabha. "A few other like-minded friends and I were pained that a big cultural organisation was not promoting local talent. Each of us contributed Rs 20 and started the Sabha with a corpus fund of Rs 400. My Guru Uppalapati Ankaiahgaru gave the first concert alongside Akella Mallikarjuna Sarma on violin, Varanasi Subba Rama Sastri on Kanjira and Atluri Venkateswara Sarma at Labour Welfare Centre auditorium near RTC X roads on June 4, 1966," shares Ananda Mohan. He learnt music from his Guru in his early 20s and later the job at AG's office prevented him from taking active interest in music. However, he was well known for his light music and Hindustani music concerts he performed for his office. He also gave programmes on light and folk music in addition to dramas on All India Radio. After retirement, when he came back to Hyderabad, he along with his Guru Uppalapati's sons instituted Sangeeta Ksheerasagaram in his memory with the felicitation of seven scholars symbolising the saptaswaras at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram on September 3, 2002. Since then, every year the organisation celebrates Guru Uppalapati's birth anniversary for three days in addition to at least one programme every month including the Aradhanotsavalu of the trinity (Thyagaraya, Deekshitar and Syama Sastri) With over 20 programs every year, the organisation not only promotes young talent but has several veterans like Kanyakumari, Bangalore Sankar, Syam Sunder from Vizag and Rama Mani performing for Ananda Mohan without expecting monetary benefits. "I do not allow people to speak during the concerts. The programmes are for ardent listeners and there is no place for others. Unfortunately, the main hall of Thyagaraya Gana Sabha is taken over by film songs that has more listeners and our programmes have limited audience, however as they say � 'Gangi Govu Paalu Garitadainanu Chalu' � We have our own set audience who come from far to just enjoy music." Sangeeta Ksheerasagaram has also released Audio CD of rare collection of Kashinatha Keertanalu by Guru Uppalapati in addition to another CD of 40 keertanas sung by Sangita Sahitya Vidwan, HS Gururaja Chari. Vattipalli Krishnamurthy had written 600 kritis out of which Guru Uppalapati gave tune to 40 of them. Ananda Mohan could not afford to print the same, hence he made a handwritten manuscript and photocopied the same and made a limited edition of the book that was launched by Neti Srirama Sarma. Incidentally after the death of Uppalapati Siva Prasad Rao (second son to his Guru) passed away, the family gradually distanced itself from the organisation. Today Ananda Mohan is alone and he runs the programs with the interest of Rs 2,200 he gets on his deposits, but he does not mind. "I do not go for any memberships or sponsors. I do it completely on my own, though it may not be a major contribution," he shares. Kalasagaram 'Kalasagaram' is in its 46th year of existence. The unique aspect of the organisation is that even today it gives two original 'Tambura' as prizes in its annual competition for Carnatic classical music which is held in October every year. One is a 'Kalasagaram Tambura prize' sponsored by Malathi Padmanabha Rao and Lalitha Balakrishnan. The other is the Prof. Sheshachar Memorial Tambura prize sponsored by Sri BR Raghunathan. V Rajgopal, Secretary, Kalasagaram, shares, "We organise a youth festival of music in February and a Youth festival of Dance every March other than the monthly concerts and annual festival. All our programmes are held at the Keys Girls High School premises in Secunderabad. Recently, we have started organising the 'Annamayya Day' to propagate the songs of Saint Annamacharya with the support of an endowment created by renowned Carnatic vocalist Sri Nedunuri Krishnamurthy." Vignana Samithi 'Vignan Samithi' has been in existence for 37 years and the activities are spearheaded by Suri Venkateshwarulu. Vignan Samithi is known for organising a seven-day Saint Thyagaraya Aradhana festival every year in January/February. During this festival all amateur artistes are given an opportunity to perform a Thyagaraya Kriti in the time slot between 2 pm and 5 pm on all days. All the programs are organised at the Pannalal Pittie Hall in Khairatabad. The organisation also holds Carnatic music competitions annually for juniors up to the age of 15 years and seniors up to the age of 25 years. The highlight of the festival is an Akhanda Sangeeta Sabha, 12 hours of non-stop performances from 9 am to 9 pm. SICA South Indian Cultural Association (SICA) is one of the oldest cultural organisations and is in its 54th year of working. According to Dr K V Ramana, Joint Secretary "The organisation has been regularly conducting competitions for Carnatic music in the Sub junior, junior and senior category. There is a 'Shanta Memorial Concert' for young talented musicians. An annual youth festival for Carnatic music happens with the support of an endowment from Balakrishna Iyer. A light, classical music program is arranged every year in December. Other than the annual festival, SICA also organises Vinjamuri Memorial concerts, Nrityotsav and Telugu dramas.