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Dandapani Desigar - A Centenary tribute
Issue : 288
Published on : September, 2008

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Special Feature : Dandapani Desigar - From temple song to the summits of music - A Centenary tribute

NEWS & NOTES

Festival in memory of Yagnaraman - MANNA SRINIVASAN

An impressive function was got up at the Nalli Gana Vihar in Chennai on 30th June, heralding yet another annual event at the Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, which already has a continuously active schedule.

Organised to pay tribute to the sustained and significant services rendered by the late R. Yagnaraman, the occasion was used to express appreciation, confer honours for the accomplishments and contributions of some eminent artists, and to recognise some outstanding young talents. The awards were instituted this year by the Sabha in memory of Yagnaraman, its General Secretary from 1956-2007. Click here to read more ...

MAIN FEATURE

The odyssey of Odissi
Globalisation sets trends - LEELA VENKATARAMAN

Was it only the other day, in the 1940s, that we heard the saying in Orissa "Salaba bae, nirlaja gae, atialajuka nachaku jae" (the one who is modest plays instruments, the one without shame sings and the utterly shameless goes in for dance)! Now barely seventy years later, close on the heels of an international festival of Odissi held in Washington by an Indian do-gooder and enthusiast Pratap Das, comes yet another international event titled “Stirring Odissi” the brainchild of Malaysian dancer Ramli Ibrahim, mounted at Kuala Lumpur. While the juxtaposing of dancers hailing from Malaysia, India, United States, Switzerland, U.K., U.S.A., and Japan made for a varied range of Odissi expressions — traditional, innovative, contemporary and even post modern, it was interesting to see what globalisation was doing to the dance.

Cross pollination

Even as Odissi is creating space for itself in different parts of the world, Orissa continues to be possessive about the "Ame Odiya" (We are Oriya) aspect of the dance. Liberties taken with "tradition" (though the dance itself is a reconstruction of the fifties) are frowned upon. This has not prevented dancers from outside Orissa trying out new work. While the dance/painting connection has retreated into the backwaters of the mind for many, this aspect was particularly brought out in the exhibition of paintings and photography, all inspired in different parts of the world, by the lyricism of Odissi. For example Loo foh Sang's Malaysian figures and faces in bodily attitudes typical of Odissi in works like Mirror of Gesture, Tales of dancers, and Odissi, Bandha by Jeganathan Ramachandran of Malaysia, Jatin Das's sensuous Alasya Kanya, Abhisarika and Tarijham, and A.V. Ilango's very strong lines were all Odissi based. Chennai based photographer Kartik Venkatraman's Raudra, Horses of Soorya and, the arresting figurative work of Bayu Utomo Radjikin, Chu Li's unforgettable camera images, Malaysian Eric Peris’s unforgettable digital prints "Prana", Iqbal Singh Saqqu's wonderful photographs of Sutra artists in works like Ragesree born of Kama, and several others showed the kind of inspiration painting and photography have drawn from Odissi. By far the boldest statement on the global Odissi situation lay in the paintings of Orissa's Dinanath Pathy. In his Vintage Odissi, an Odissi dancer is pictured performing on the bonnet of a vintage car. In Rethinking Odissi in the USA Destiny Lab, there are dancers in typical tahia-adorned hairdo, clad in tight shorts. Daughter of a Mahari is suffused with the same note of irony. Here classical dance seems an anachronism. Curated by Orissa's Dinanath Pathy and Sivarajah Natarajan of Malaysia, the exhibition at Galerie Petronas, with its sheer size and spread, illustrated the cross-pollination between artistic streams. Click here to read more ...

SPECIAL FEATURE

A CENTENARY TRIBUTE
Dandapani Desigar
From temple song to the summits of music -VAMANAN

A humble temple singer and teacher of religious hymns to children, he went on to become a celluloid hero, charismatic classical performer and university music professor. He not only set high standards of teaching but also carved a niche for himself in musical innovation and composition. Here is a tale of continuing re-invention by a man of poor resources who did not go beyond the pyol school in his village but eventually became an icon of the Tamil isai movement. He did well by himself too, securing the best of bargains in a status and wealth conscious society.

M.M. Dandapani Desigar (1908-1973). Thirty-five years after his passing, his ringing voice and evocative Tamil song continue to inspire artists and activists in the cause of ethnic Tamil music in his birth centenary year. In a milieu where language and culture have become focal points of identity and politics, the resonant example of Dandapani Desigar is a continuing source of inspiration. Some mainstream musicians too recognise his musical worth and value his Tamil oeuvre.

He was known as Desigar for short. The word refers to the community that rendered the Tamil hymnal offerings in Tamil Nadu temples from the times of the imperial Cholas, who made endowments for the cause. Temple singers were called Oduvar-s (renderers from the canon of Tamil devotional hymns known as the Tirumurai). Their ranks were mainly filled by the Desigars, but also by members of the Saiva Vellala community schooled in the traditional style of singing. Each big Siva temple has a handful of Oduvar-s who recite from a part of the Tirumurai known as the Tevaram (the first seven books of the canon) at the various periods of worship. Click here to read more ...

MAIN FEATURE

Kamala at seventy five
Blooming in an alien land

Famed in India as "Kumari Kamala" during her prime as a dancer, the acclaimed Bharatanatyam exponent has dedicated about seven decades of her life to its propagation. Endowed with a rare and uncommon prowess at the art, her name has become synonymous with the dance form. She began performing classical dances in many Indian films in several languages, including Hindi, since the late 1930s at the age of five, till about the mid-1960s. One of her best known films includes, Naam Iruvar in Tamil, based on the patriotic songs of Tamil poet Subramania Bharati. Kamala has given thousands of stage performances in India, and was the country's unofficial cultural envoy to many different countries. At the Indian government's behest, she performed before many visiting foreign dignitaries to India, including President Dwight Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth. Kamala Narayan received the central Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1968 and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1970. The elderly artist who turned 75 on 14th June this year, has been living in the New York metropolitan area since 1980 and runs a dance school, Sri Bharata Kamalalaya.

On the occasion of the 28th anniversary of Kamala's dance school in New York, UMA DANDAPANI gives us a glimpse into Kamala's life in the United States.

Kamala Narayan seemed to morph from deities chiselled in graceful stances inside a temple sanctum. Images in black and white from decades ago, of the young and lithe dancer captured in statuesque poses, became vivid and real, as she choreographed for a recent show by the students of her school, at the Yonkers Public Library auditorium in Westchester County, New York. Her school, Sri Bharata Kamalalaya, is based in Long Island, New York, where she has lived since 1980, but the septuagenarian with an unflagging passion for the art, commutes weekly to Westchester County and New Jersey, to conduct dance lessons for her young students. Click here to read more ...

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