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Individual Issues

Kesarbai Kerkar
Issue : 241
Published on : October, 2004



3 Sruti Box

9 News & Notes

12 Random Notes

15 Heritage Landmarks In Music

19 Special Feature

35 Main Feature

45 The Book Shelf

49 A Series For Youngsters

52 Editor's Note

Front Cover: Kesarbai Kerkar & Krishnaveni Lakshmanan

Special Feature
Krishnaveni Lakshmanan

Rukmini Devi and I noticed a girl watching, day after day, from the window, the dance classes we were teaching in the Mirror Cottage in the Theosophical Society where Kalakshetra was then situated. The child did this invariably on her way back home from The Besant Theosophical High School. Rukmini Devi— Athai— called the child inside and asked her: "Would you like to dance?" The child's joy knew no bounds and she readily tried to repeat the dance she had been viewing. Athai immediately arranged for her, Krishnaveni, to join Kalakshetra as a part-time student. She was the daughter of K. Ananthanarayanan, the History teacher in the Besant School. I may mention here that, though she learnt from N.S. Jayalakshmi and myself and other teachers at Kalakshetra, her class teacher throughout Krishnaveni's Diploma course was Chinna Sarada (Hoffman). Years earlier, Sarada had also become a student of Kalakshetra, watching from the window the classes same cottage! Sarada Hoffman contributed to Kalakshetra by evolving, under Athai's guidance, the style of Bharatanatyam of perfection and grace which became the hallmark of the institution. Athai and I were taking in the same cottage! Sarada Hoffman contributed to Kalakshetra by evolving, under Athai's guidance, the style of Bharatanatyam of perfection and grace which became the hallmark of the institution.

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Main Feature
Kesarbai Kerkar

"When we went to hear Kesarbai, we went to learn something". This was the sitar maestro, Ustad Vilayat Khan's observation about Kesarbai. In a male-dominated era, no female vocalist, either before her or after, has obliged her male colleagues to acknowledge her as an "Ustad". Kesarbai (1890-1977) was the only contemporary of Ustad Faiyyaz Khan (1886-1950) to command a concert fee on par with his. But, there was a difference. Kesarbai cultivated a small, but fanatical, following largely of connoisseurs. Faiyyaz Khan, on the other hand, accumulated a huge, and equally committed, following cutting across levels of aesthetic cultivation.

The arduous journey to the top

Kesarbai was born in Keri, a small village in Goa. She showed an aptitude for singing in early childhood. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Kolhapur, where she was placed under the tutelage of the Kirana doyen, Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan. This training ended in ten months when her family moved back to Goa. Three years went by without any training, before she started learning from Ramakrishna Vaze, the Gwalior trained maestro, who visited Goa periodically. The intermittent grooming under Vaze Buwa ended after eight or ten years, when her family moved to Bombay.

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Music In Old Madras

Music, and in particular Carnatic music, and Madras go back a long way together in history. The city, a creation of the British in 1639, does not have many records in terms of music for the first 100 years or so of its existence. But when the British began rebuilding the city after the French left it in 1749, the thriving Black Twon that came up outside Fort St. George, began attracting musicians.

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A Series For Youngsters
Sargam Attends A Conference

"Crunch..." Sargam bit hard into a potato chip.

"Shhh " a fat mami glared at Sargam.

"Sargam glared back, contorted her lips and moved to another seat.

Sargam was in Madurai where Amma had come to participate in a music conference. Since it was her summer holidays, Sargam had happily boarded the train along with her mother. But now, she realized that she was getting bored. Speaker after speaker was talking continuously. "Uff...." When would Amma's turn to speak come? When would this whole thing get over? She wondered what Thunder was doing. As she thought of him, an incident flashed across her mind. After one of the "story sessions", in which Amma had mentioned the fateful battle of Talikota of 1565, she, Sargam had picked up a sword made of cardboard and had chased Thunder in a mock battle of Talikota. That idiot of a dog had got so scared that he had run as fast as his four feet could carry him. Sargam let out a small laugh and was shaken out of her reverie.

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