Published in India Currents: "Supporting South Indian Arts"

Back to blogging after a little break!  Here's the latest published in India Currents:
Neyveli Santhanagopalan
Courtesy of SIFA
“It’s about enjoyment.  Carnatic music takes you to a totally different place,” says Geetha Chandrasekaran of the South India Fine Arts association.  Since 1979, the non-profit South India Fine Arts has brought world-class South Indian performers to the Bay Area to fulfill their mission to promote, preserve, and present the various fine arts of Southern India.  Carefully attuned to the December Season in Chennai, South India Fine Arts chooses the most popular artists to bring to the Bay Area each year.  South India Fine Arts emphasizes the classical vocal, instrumental, percussive, and dance traditions of South India, but the organization also regularly holds lectures and collaborative performances that meld Hindustani and Carnatic classical traditions.  This April, South India Fine Arts is holding three special performances demonstrating the breadth of their support for the South Indian fine arts tradition.

First is a Bharathanatyam performance by Priyadarsini Govind.  Renowned for her strong, precise movements and skill in dramatic expression, Govind fell in love with Bharathanatyam at the age of 6.  She undertook her advanced training under Guru Swamimalai K. Rajaratnam, and has been performing since the age of 16.  In describing her dance, she says,  “Dance is such a complete line with visuals, poetry, drama, music… you use your whole body to communicate all of this.”  Her performance is entitled “Pranaamyam:  A Salutation to Poetry and Dance” and will bring to life a one of the four classical dance forms of India, the form that is the jewel of Tamil Nadu, Bharathanatyam.  Through dance Govind will bring together nritta, rhythmic dance movements, nrithya, dance with dramatic aspect, and abhinaya, the art of expression to embody music in visual form.

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan
Courtesy of SIFA
Next is a vocal duet between the father-daughter duo Neyveli Santhanagopalan and Sriranjani Santhanagopalan.  “This is very special, because this is the first time the daughter will be performing with him here,” explains Chandrasekaran.  Neyveli Santhanagopalan is a well-known Carnatic vocalist who rocketed to fame as the anchor of Jaya TV’s “SaRiGaMaPa.”  But before his television popularity Santhanagopalan was well known for his traditional and purist style of rendering ragas, swaras, and musical compositions.  Described as a restrained and cerebral artist, he’s also known for his melodic voice as well as his skill in teaching.  His daughter, Sriranjani, started to perform only during the past year, and this concert will be the first time she has appeared with South India Fine Arts. 

The month of April is rounded out by a final performance by the vocalist P Unnikrishnan.  A popular and prolific Carnatic vocalist, Unnikrishnan has recorded over 600 songs for the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam film industries and released 25 albums.  Although he desperately wanted to become a cricket player, Unnikrishnan found fame with “Ennavalae” and “Uyirum Neeye,” which won him a national award for Best Male Playback Singer in 1994.  Unnikrishnan is known for bridging the divide between classical and film music, but his training in classical Carnatic music remains his musical foundation.  The  facility and flexibility of his voice is a direct result of his training with Sri PS Narayanaswami and Prof. SR Janakiraman.  “I got a lot of encouragement from the local organizations in [Chennai] and that took me to a certain state, but then it was a lot of hard work and my guru’s blessings.”  His performance at the Santa Clara Convention Center will focus on his Carnatic repertoire.  “We generally don’t deviate from the tradition, but we have our own inputs… you get inspired by so many great masters, and you develop your own style, which is very important.”

P Unnikrishnan
Courtesy of SIFA
Even long-time supporters of South Indian arts will find something new at the South India Fine Arts concerts this April, “Every artist tries to sing new ragas, [and performance reveals] the creativity of every artist,” Chandrasekaran comments.  “Students of Carnatic music can watch performers render songs in a particular way,” and even the untutored in South Indian fine arts can walk away with an increased appreciation for the depth and breadth of tradition of the classical fine arts in South India. 

Bharathanatyam: Pranaamyam "A Salutation to Poetry and Dance," 
Smt. Priyadarsini Govind. 
Sunday, April 8, 2012, 3:30 p.m. 
Sri. Neyveli Santhanagopalan & Kum. Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, Vocal duet 
Sunday April 15, 2012 - 3:30 p.m. 
Smt. Charulatha Ramanujam - Violin
Sri. B. Ganapathiraman - Mridangam 

Mexican Heritage Plaza
1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose, CA
$20, free for sponsors

Sri. P. Unnikrishnan, Vocal 
Sunday, April 22, 2012 - 3:30 p.m. 
Sri. Embar Kannan - Violin 
Sri. Anantha R. Krishnan - Mridangam 
 Santa Clara Convention Center
5001 Great America Pkwy., Santa Clara, CA 95054
$20, free for sponsors