Song of Surrender

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Shaik Dawood

Birthdays & Anniversaries


Shaik Dawood was born in Sholapur on 16 December 1916. His  prodigious talent in rhythm at the age of three  compelled his  father, Hashim Saheb, to buy  him a  tasha  (kettledrum) to play with. At eight, he started learning the rudiments of tabla from Anna Maharaj. Ameer Qawwal, who owned a qawwali group, took him as a tabla player and simultaneously initiated him into vocal music. Destiny brought Dawood to a  concert  where he was  completely mesmerised by the tabla of Mohammad Khasim, a  highly reputed tabla maestro  from Sholapur, a zamindar and  a  patron of classical and Sufi music. Khasim Saheb’s acceptance of Dawood as a student was a life-changing event for the lad. Over the next decade, Dawood learnt from him traditional classical tabla with its full range of kaidas, relas, chakradhars, gats  and  the art of  accompaniment. He was also taught the rare technique of playing  laggi  using the thumb to render  gamakas  on the dagga.

Khasim’s house was  always  a resting  place  for any  great  musicians journeying between Mumbai and Hyderabad. They performed  at  his house  while he accompanied them  on the tabla. Observing  young Dawood’s  dedication, hard  work and commitment, Mohammad Khasim gradually started  asking  him to accompany the visiting  musicians. Dawood  did full justice to his guru’s faith, sharing the stage with these  icons, impressing everyone with his art of unobtrusive accompaniment and humble demeanour despite the acclaim and appreciation he received. This was to become his hallmark in professional circles later in life. By the early 1930s, Dawood, although in his teens, was already the preferred accompanist for some of the biggest names in Hindustani music like Abdul Karim Khan, Faiyaz Khan, Bhaskarbua Bakhle, Sawai Gandharva and Wajid Khan. With  concerts  becoming frequent in  Hyderabad, Roshan Ali Mooljee, the producer of Deccan Radio, persuaded Dawood to shift his base to Hyderabad and join  him  as a staff artist. This opened a new chapter in Dawood’s life.

To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 368 (pg 30-31)

Adyar K. Lakshman

Birthdays & Anniversaries
16.12.1933 - 19.08.2014

Adyar K. Lakshman, vocalist, nattuvanar, mridangist and erstwhile dancer, is indubitably a sangeetagna, the complete expert in all the aspects of his vocation. Over the years he has received prestigious awards and titles for his popularity and prowess as a natyacharya. Citations for Kalaimamani (Eyal Isai Nataka Manram - 1981), Padma Shri (1989), Sangeet Natak Akademi award (1991), Sangeeta Kala Acharya (Music Academy), Nadhabrahmam (Narada Gana Sabha), adorn the walls of his sitting room. The latest feathers in his well decorated cap are Natya Kalanidhi (ABHAI – 2010) and Natya Kala Sarathy (2011).

 77-year old Adyar Lakshman is one of Bharatanatyam’s foremost nattuvanar-s with a reputation for providing excellent support. As a member of the orchestral team, he has embellished the recitals of many famous dancers like Rukmini Devi, Kamala, Vyjayantimala Bali, Krishnaveni Lakshmanan, C.V. Chandrasekhar, the Dhananjayans, Yamini Krishnamurti, Sudharani Raghupathy, Lakshmi Viswanathan and the Narasimhacharis.

He is a prolific teacher. Over 300 students have performed their arangetram under the banner of his dance school Bharata Choodamani in Chennai, which has branches abroad.

Lakshman is also known as “the NRI guru”, as one of the earliest in his field to travel abroad to teach and conduct workshops. His disciples are spread all over the globe and many of them are famous. Notable among them are Kamadev (France), Anandavalli Satchidananda, Chandrabhanu (Australia), Ramli Ibrahim (Malaysia), Padmini Chari, Sudha Srinivasan (U.S.A.), Radha Anjali (Austria), Mavin Khoo (U.K.), Anita-Pritha Ratnam, Vasanthalakshmi Narasimhachari, Bragha Bessell, Jayanthi Subramaniam, and Roja Kannan (India).

To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 320

Friday, 15 December 2017

C Saraswathi Bai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Saraswati Bai was one of the few women artists Bai And The Music Academy C. who performed at the All India Music Conference held in conjunction with the All India Congress Session of 1927. Her name, spelt as ‘C. Saraswathi Bhai’, appears in the list of artists.

The Music Academy arose from this conference and was established in 1928. Almost from inception, Bai took a keen interest in its affairs and by 1931 had become a member of the Experts Committee. In 1931, when Harikesanallur L. Muthiah Bhagavatar became the President of the Academy’s Annual Conference, Bai gave a detailed talk on the subject of Harikatha which was later published in the Journal of the Music Academy that year. She was to continue presenting papers at the Academy’s Annual Conferences for at least the next ten years. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and K. Ponniah Pillai were to refer admiringly to the lectures she delivered in the years they presided over the annual conferences. A rare photograph in the possession of S. Thyagarajan, Musiri Subramania Iyer’s grand-nephew, shows Bai along with Bangalore Nagarathnammal and Mrs. S. Satyamurthy seated at the R.R. Sabha listening to Musiri Subramania Iyer speaking when he became the President of the Academy’s annual conference in 1939.

To read full story, visit and buy Sruti 263

Sakthivel Muruganantham

Musicians for Classical Dance
By Anjana Anand
Sakthivel Muruganantham is a well-known mridangist who has accompanied leading Bharatanatyam artistes over the past two decades. An artiste who believes that every performer, senior or junior, deserves the full commitment of the accompanying musicians,. Sakthivel has travelled across the globe performing for diverse audiences including the King and Queen of Norway and Prince Charles of England.
He was over the years conferred the titles Laya Sudaroli and Laya Vidhyadhara  by Alarmel Valli, Laya Kala Ratna by Trinity Arts Academy and Natya Sangeetha Kala Bharathi by Bharat Kalachar.

What influenced you to become a full time mridangist?
I grew up in Papanasam and was surrounded by music. My father was a musician but did not take up music as a profession. He was very keen that I become a musician. My brother, Papanasam Sethuraman learnt the khanjira. My father decided to arrange mridangam lessons for me with mridanga vidwan Rajagopalan. Once, my brother and I performed in front of the Tiruvaduturai Aadhinam who suggested I go to Chennai to further my training.  I finished my studies at Papanasam and came to Chennai in 1985. The first musician I met was vidwan Madurai  Somasundaram.  I then started my tutelage under khanjira artist Mayavaram G. Somasundaram. I lived with him and learnt mridangam in the traditional gurukulam style. After some time, Sir sent me to Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam to continue my training. I was with him for three years.  My decision to become a mridangist happened quite naturally once I moved to Chennai. I then joined the Music College and completed a diploma in music.
How did you start playing for dance?
When I first came to Chennai in in 1985, I remember watching a dance festival arranged at R.R Sabha by Vazhuvur Samraj, which kindled in me an interest in playing for dance. Mridanga vidwan M. Balachander was responsible for my entry into the dance field.
I started playing for Bharatanatyam in 1987. The first dancer I played for was Jayalakshmi Arunachalam, wife of Tanjai Arunachalam Pillai. I was introduced to the Vazhvur style of dance through Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam .
How did you adapt to play for Bharatanatyam?
 I learnt the technique from Balachander Sir and I am grateful to him for his mentorship. I learnt many things from the senior dancers that I played for. With Alarmel Valli, each performance was a learning experience, as I had to be attentive to a variety of footwork. When I played for Chitra Visweswaran, I understood the nuances of playing for abhinaya. Each artiste contributed to my learning curve over the years.
Who were some of the early stalwarts you accompanied?
I started with Alarmel Valli. In fact, almost twenty years later, I still perform with her.  Others include and Udupi Lakshminarayanan,  Chitra Visweswaran, Sudharani Raghupathy, the Narasimhacharis and Krishnakmari  Narendran.
You play for dancers from many different banis. What are some of the differences in style from a mridangist’s point of view?
After performing with so many dancers, I have come to appreciate the finer points of each style. For example, I enjoy the fluidity of the Vazhuvur style. At the same time I admire the more structured lines of the Kalakshetra style. Over the years, I have found that each bani has something unique to offer.
It is interesting to see the way jatis are composed in each school. Earlier, it was easy to identify which school the dancer belonged to by just listening to the jatis! A mridangist has only one job and that is to support the dancer. To this day, I follow the advice
M. Balachander gave me regarding playing for dance: The mridangist has to follow the adavus and footwork of the dancer. The first instinct of a trained mridangist is to follow the composition and embellish it with intricate kanakku. When playing for dance, we have to remember that the dancer’s footwork has to lead us. Once we remember this simple principle, the performance becomes a combined effort.
When was your first tour abroad?
In 1990, I travelled with Pithukuli Murugadas to the US. My first dance tour was with Alarmel Valli to Europe in 1993. Since then I have travelled extensively mainly in Europe and the US. Now, I regularly travel to the US for three to four months for performances and arangetrams.
Is playing for dance a fulfilling experience?
Most definitely. I would not choose any other profession. I believe that we must give our full effort regardless of the level of the performer. I give my best whether I play for a senior artiste or for a student. The Bharatanatyam field is constantly changing and I have seen the margam evolve in different ways over the last three decades. There is always something new happening.
Bharatanatyam accompanists are much in demand for recordings. Is it stressful?
It requires a lot of focus and presence of mind to do a recording as most of the work happens in the studio .We have to understand the dancer’s requirements and choreographic vision in those few hours. I miss the earlier style of recording where all the artistes performed together. Although with click tracks and separate channels, recordings are faster and more precise, I still feel the music has a different feel when the artistes are recording together. It also gave us time to meet and interact with each other. That ambience is missing nowadays.

(Mridanga vidwan Sakthivel Muruganantham has referred  to his gurus, mentors and other vidwans and vidushis respectfully with such honorifics and titles as Vidwan, Vidushi, Sri, Smt and so on. These do not appear in published text in line with Sruti's editorial policy. No disrespect is intended towards any person, and Sruti has the utmost respect for the artists it features).