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Treading a new path

Treading a new path
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After years of performing on concert platforms as a soloist and as well as accompanying famous dancers as a vocalist, Sweta Prasad, a muchrespected...

After years of performing on concert platforms as a soloist and as well as accompanying famous dancers as a vocalist, Sweta Prasad, a much-respected Carnatic musician has decided to begin her own organisation. Last week, she inaugurated her own institution ‘PRAAVINYA’ with a function titled ‘Vak-Geyam’, which showcased her vocal concert.

Sweta took up the compositions of the best-known Carnatic music vaggeyakaras—Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, Thyagaraja, Shyama Shastri, Mutthuswami Dikshitar, Lalgudi Jayaraman, Bhadrachala Ramadasu, Annamacharya and Purandaradasa. She performed snippets from several krithis of each composer and strung them in a garland-like presentation. Of course, the exception was Dikshithar's Chaturdasha Ragamalika, which was performed in its entirety. Sweta's superb vocals and the ease with she negotiated various ragas and compositions and their laya patterns made for an impressive concert.

The ensemble lead was Sweta Prasad, who had created the concept and was the vocalist too. She was accompanied by the following artists – violin by Pappu Gyandev, flute by Uma Venkateshwarlu, mridangam by IV Renuka Prasad, ghatam by Sreedharacharya and dolu by Ramachandrudu. All of them provided competent support.

The concluding part of the event had reputed dancers Ananda Shankar Jayant, and Geeta Chandran as well as well, known musician Seshulatha Vishwanath, giving brief speeches in which, they lauded Sweta's talent and excellent track record both as an independent concert performer and a musician for dancers.

The event was attended by renowned dancers, dance-lovers and connoisseurs of art and widely appreciated.

Indeed, Sweta has built up an excellent reputation over the years. She is an A-grade artiste in Carnatic vocal as well as Light Music categories from All India Radio, Hyderabad. Moreover, she is a ‘Festival of India’ aka FOI empanelled artiste for the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

She was fortunate to be born with an artistic lineage being the granddaughter of the distinguished and popular film and stage actor C Nagabhushanam. She also began her music training at an early age. Her Carnatic music classes began under the widely respected veteran performer and teacher Nethi Sreerama Sarma. After 14 years under his tutelage, she began advanced training under the renowned musician Dr Pantula Rama. Sweta is also married to an artist, IV Renuka Prasad, a noted mridangam player and nattuvanar. In fact, both Sweta and Renuka Prasad are the founding directors of PRAAVINYA which aims to encourage and promote the finest of Carnatic music.

She was a gold medalist at the National competition of Annamacharya kritis, conducted by Annamacharya Bhavana Vahini. Among her other accomplishments – a Vocal Diploma in Distinction from Telugu University, Andhra Pradesh and an MA in Carnatic Music from Padmavathi Mahila University, Tirupathi. She has to her credit several audio cassettes featuring Lalitha Sahasranamam, Laxmi Sahasranamam, Bhama Kalapam, Annamacharya Kritis, Bhagavad Gita shlokas, etc. Several awards and titles have come her way including ‘Gaana Kokila' by Hanumanpet Welfare Association, Hyderabad and 'Ganaamrutha Saagara' by Ganamukundapriya Sabha, Chennai.

Sweta has earned a formidable reputation as a vocalist who accompanies classical dancers.
"I have performed at over 2,000 concerts around the world including more than 200 arangetrams for classical dance," she reveals. She has also composed music for many dance ballets.

Among the classical dancers whom she has accompanied during their performances are Swapna Sundari, actor-dancer Shobana, Shobha Naidu, Jaya Rama Rao and Vanasri, Alekhya Punjala, Ananda Shanker Jayant, Geeta Chandran, Rateesh Babu, Deepika Reddy, Poorva Dhanasree and Alekhya Punjala. Sweta has also been a seasoned artist for the California-based Sri Krupa Dance Company.
What can we expect as the future presentations from PRAAVINYA? According to Sweta: "We will impart holistic and traditionally routed knowledge of both the practical and theoretical aspects of Carnatic music. We will initiate and encourage discussions and interchange of ideas regarding the relationship between music and other allied arts like the dance. Also, in the pipeline are concerts and workshops dealing with varied aspects regarding the practice and theory of the Carnatic music system. PRAAVINYA will initiate and encourage discussions and interchange of ideas regarding the relationship between music and other allied arts like the dance. One unique feature is that the theory of music is not taught separately but interwoven with the practical training to make teaching and learning an interesting and a better process. As the name PRAAVINYA implies the focus will be on qualitative excellence and development of skills rather than on quantitative output."

Often when conversing with vocalists and instrumentalists who accompany dancers, this writer has heard different opinions regarding the respect they receive. What does Sweta have to say about this? Do dance musicians get their due? She replies: "Sometimes the answer is yes and at other times a big no. Some artistes – whether dancers or musicians – do treat their accompanists with respect. However, there are some who do not give accompanists their due and that is sad and unfair. However, I have been fortunate that there are many great artists I worked with who are extremely considerate and treat the dance musicians with a lot of respect."

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