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Individual Issues

Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar
Issue : 243
Published on : December, 2004



3 Sruti Box

9 News & Notes

22 New Production

23 Main Feature

31 Heritage Landmarks In Music

37 Special Feature

59 Tribute

68 Editor's Note

Front Cover: A.M. Chinnaswami Mudaliar
(Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini)

Main Feature
Subbarama Dikshitar

The quaint dedication written in English on the front page of an old Telugu book catches one's attention. The year imprinted on it is 1904. The title of the book—Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini.

Subbarama Dikshitar (1839-1906) has very simply described his work as a book. But it is far from being just that. Its 1700 pages are divided into two volumes. The subject matter is Carnatic music. The language used is, for the most part, Telugu with a few pages in Tamil. The title is in Sanskrit. In fact, both modestly and accurately, the work can be termed an encyclopedia of Carnatic music. For, the contents with their 170 geeta-s of Venkatamakhi, 229 kriti-s of Muthuswami Dikshitar, 10 prabandha-s, 41 chitta tana-s, kriti-s of various composers and over a hundred other pieces like sooladi-s, varnam-s, swarajati-s, daru-s and pada-s, all of them meticulously and descriptively notated with swara signs, gamaka indications and tala symbols, elaborate discussions on the traditions of music, and brief notes that explain characteristics of the raga-s employed in the compositions, firmly establish the tenets of traditional Carnatic music, justifying the title of the book. Besides these, there are 77 biographies of musicians, musicologists, and composers that include the members of his family and the royal patrons of Ettayapuram, as also a brief autobiographical sketch of the writer himself. Indeed, a formidable production by a single man! The work gains further in stature when one realises that, in those times, the process of information collection in itself was an arduous task. For, Indian printing was in its infancy and printed books few and far between. The ordeal of discovering facts was further aggravated by the proverbial Indian tradition of a dismal lack of historical sense. Obstacles notwithstanding, the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini was published in 1904.

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New Production
Earth And Fire

For generations we have been listening to the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, wherein we meet two wronged women—Seeta and Draupadi. Seeta is tolerance, patience and forgiveness personified and Draupadi is full of anger and revenge.

Anandavalli and the Lingalayam Dance Company undertook to present the story of these two great women from the epics at the Sydney Opera House on 25th September in Sydney, Australia. It was first presented at the Seymore Centre, Sydney on the 6th, 8th and 9th of August 2003. Seeta was depicted as Earth and Draupadi as Fire. Anandavalli and her company provided a rich aesthetic theatrical experience.

According to legend, Seeta was the child of the earth found in the furrow of the ploughshare. Draupadi came out of her father's sacrificial fire. Both women were princesses and became the queens of great kings, but ironically did not enjoy the pleasures of royal life. One bore her pain patiently like the good earth, the other burst like a volcano! Anandavalli portrayed and effectively brought out the contrast in these two characters with her beautiful choreography,
costumes and sensitive lighting. With twelve dancers and an orchestra of five musicians, Anandavalli kept her audience spellbound for an hour and a half with a spectacular performance, it was total theatre.

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Special Feature
Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar

The year 1927 is noteworthy for two developments in the history of Carnatic music. The first was the decision to establish a Music Academy in Madras. The second was the beginning of the Anti Nautch movement. The All India Congress Session was held in Madras and as was the usual practice in north India, a music conference was to be held in conjunction with it. This was a tremendous success. A whole host of musicians participated though Bhagavatar did not. On 22 January 1928, a resolution was passed that "an Academy of Music be started at Madras". Events moved swiftly after that and on 18th August 1928, Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer formally inaugurated the Music Academy at the YMCA Buildings, Esplanade. The first conference was held in the Easter week of 1929.

Bhagavatar, according to T.V. Subba Rao [Studies in Indian Music, Asia Publishing House, 1962), "watched the progress of the institution from without" for the first two years of its life. Presumably he meant 1927 and 28, for Bhagavatar attended the first conference in 1929 and became one of the leading lights of the Academy from that year onwards. In the words of Subba Rao, "firmly convinced that its one aim was to promote the very cause that was so dear to him, he became a loyal supporter. It is said his attachment to the Academy was so intense and his loyalty to it so stern that he could never think of participating in the work of other institutions. In the work of the Academy I have had the good fortune to enjoy his confidence as few others have and I can say with authority that his unbounded affection for the Academy remains unsurpassed among the professional musicians."

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By George !

Tyagaraja sanctified Bunder Street by his stay and it is also said that he sang Devagandhari raga extensively during his tenure in Sundaresa Mudaliar's house. Leaving the enchanting strains of that musical memory, if we come back to Flower Bazar police station, we see King George V looking rather forlorn and sad over what is now a parking lot. As a statue, he is quite intact and well preserved, though the hand that holds the orb is often used by political parties for tying banners and flags. Today passers-by hardly spare a glance at this statue, but there was a short period when George added colour to Carnatic music.

King George gave the area its name, for it was called Black Town before he ascended the throne in 1910 and held a Durbar in India in 1911. The area was the residence for us 'Blacks' as compared to them 'Whites'. Black Town was the happening place of that period with every musician worth his or her salt having come there to perform or often take up residence. The Muthialpet Sabha was a popular organiser of concerts. The Madras Jubilee Gayana Samaj was its predecessor, though it favoured learned discussions on music as opposed to mere performances.

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