Sikkil and Karraikudi Mani Iyer in Melbourne

Trinity Festival, Melbourne 24-25 May 2014:

The annual two-day Mummoorthigal and Tyagaraja Festival organised by the Ravichandhiras of the Academy of Indian music Aust Inc and Sruti Laya Kendra, India, was held at the Kel Watson theatre on 24 and 25 May 2014. This is the 167th Anniversary of Saint Tyagaraja. This event pays tribute to his contributions, as well as that of his illustrious contemporaneous composers Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Shyama Shastri.

Sikkil and Karraikudi Melb Trinity

The gala event began with a traditional puja at the alter, followed by the congregational singing of the Pancharatna kritis- the five immortal ‘gems’ composed by Thyagaraja. For the music connoisseurs of Melbourne, this is a much awaited event in their classical music calendar: There are few that can equal the grandeur and the splendour of the top vocalists, instrumentalists and percussionists, rendering these great compositions together. It is a truly uplifting experience. This year, they were joined on the stage by visiting artistes Sikkil Gurucharan, Saaswathi Prabhu (vocalists), Mrudangam maestro Karaikudi Mani, violinists Sriram Kumar and A G A Ganasundaram and Bangalore Amrith on the kanjira. Maestro Karaikudi Mani has performed with many international artistes including Jazz musician Prof Paul Grabowsky OA, of the Australian Art Orchestra. A series of his compositions were adapted by the Australian Art Orchestra into jazz and released as album “Into the Fire” in 2000 .

This was followed by the Talented Young Musicians Ensemble concerts – an initiative of Sri Ravichandhira to encourage and promote young, emerging artistes of Melbourne by giving them a platform and an opportunity to perform before top Carnatic musicians and dancers from India, as well as a discerning audience.

Thyagaraja Trinity

Four youth groups performed interesting items, one of which was directed by Sikkil Gurucharan himself assisted by the Veena Iyer brothers, Ramnath and Gopinath. The TYME segment consisted of more than 35 vocal, percussion, instrumental youths. This was followed by a competent and lilting bharatanatyam presentation by a number of students nominated by Melbourne’s reputed Bharathanatyam schools under the coaching and able guidance of Smt Shanthy Rajendran, which aptly included, among the items, Thyagaraja’s Sri Ganapatini in raga Saurashtram. These were followed by individual concerts by the cream of Melbourne’s Carnatic music community, all familiar and established artistes and teachers.

The evening of the first day featured a full-fledged vocal concert by Sikkil Gurucharan supported on the violin by Sriram Kumar and on the mrudangam was Karaikudi Mani, and Kanjira by Bangalore Amrith. The percussion interlude by Guru Mani and Amrit was a stunning masterpiece.

The second day began with a TYME ensemble. TYME instrumental segment was under the able guidance of A G A Gnansundaram which reflected the true Lalgudi padantharam. TYME percussion was overseen by Balasri Rasiah, which gave insight into distinctive styles of structures composed by the stalwarts. After some individual vocal and instrumental concerts by the cream of Melbourne Carnatic musicians, AGA Ganasundaram presented a violin solo. Nrithachoodamani Rajeswari Sainath, a well known bharatanatyam artiste, who is no stranger to Australia, having performed here on many occasions – TEDx in Sydney being one of them, and was hailed for her ‘imaginative splendour that goes beyond technique’- gave a brilliant performance, consisting of a full repertoire: beginning with a Mallari, a varnam in valaj composed by the legendary music critic, the late Subbudu. In it, a marathon item, Rajeswari Sainath not only displayed her mastery over the natya, but also the nritta by weaving intricate patterns with her footwork – the jatis having been composed by her uncle Karaikudi Mani himself- and adavus which would have been a challenge to dancers even much younger.

This was followed by a concert of pleasing and tasteful selection of music by Saaswathi Prabhu, a disciple of the legendary Lalgudi Jayaraman. Young Sai Nivaeithan who recently obtained B high grade in All India Radio made all of us proud by his effortless delivery of Nadham mixed with dexterity on his mridangam.

The festival director Ravi M Ravichandhira OAM, said the event has now become an integral part of Melbourne’s cultural calendar and was recognised by leaders in government, Australia Council, Dept of Foreign Affairs and the wider arts community, as evinced by the presence of both Liberal and Labor Members this year. It has grown in the last 25 years to become perhaps the second largest conference and festival of its kind outside India.

The festival’s overseas guest of honour was Prabhu Yagyaraman, the Secretary of one of the most respected Sabhas/ musical societies in Chennai, the Krishna Gana Sabha. He had high praise for the way in which the Festival was being conducted, and has grown over the last 28 years.

Chitra Sudarshan of Melbourne


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