Pt VG Jog, Kunnakudi Balamurali Krishna & Vidhya Subramanian

  • Published By: Sruti
  • Issue: 463

CONTENTS               Vol. 30  Issue 4  December 2023

6     News & notes

22   Vishnu Govind Jog

28   Kunnakudi M. Balamurali Krishna

42   Vidhya Subramanian

56   Season titles and awards

58   Heritage v The season 75 years ago 

62   SpotlightvArts management

66   Special featurevVija Vetra

70   Art spacesvSarani – Creating spaces for the arts

73   RememberingvNedunuri Krishnamurthy

76   News & notes (continued) 

85   Snapshorts

86   Centenary tributevK.V. Narayanaswamy

90   Point of viewvA curious musical ‘one-way’ traffic

92   Bookshelf

94   From the Editor

Front Cover:  Vishnu Govind Jog
              Kunnakudi M. Balamurali Krishna (Rajappane Raju)

                       Vidhya Subramanian

No. 463   OCTOBER-DECember 2023 (Quarterly)



A centenary tribute (22 February 1922 - 31 January 2004)

Harmonising Legacies: The versatile Vishnu Govind Jog                    Shailaja Khanna

V.G. Jog’s name is as synonymous with the violin, as is that of Ravi Shankar with the sitar or Shiv Kumar Sharma with the santoor. As a celebrated musician and teacher, he played musical duets (jugalbandis) with many notable artists of his time, including Bismillah Khan, Amjad Ali Khan, Sultan Khan, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, and Rais Khan. He also collaborated with younger musicians like Nishat Khan, who had the honour of playing with the renowned Jog Sahib. Jog simply had no ego. Despite his stature as a soloist, he remained a sensitive accompanist, having accompanied vocal greats such as Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and even much younger, then-unknown vocalists such as Ajoy Chakraborty and Rashid Khan.

Born in Mumbai on 22 February 1922, Jog’s most celebrated guru was the founder of the Maihar gharana, Allaudin Khan. As Allaudin Khan played the violin, he taught quite a few students in Lucknow and his most celebrated disciple was, of course, Jog. It was Allaudin Khan who taught him his much-acclaimed violin techniques. Though he was the court musician in Maihar MP, Allaudin Khan spent a lot of time in Lucknow, playing for All India Radio and also as a part-time lecturer at the Marris College.

Interestingly, Allaudin Khan’s violin, which he gave to Jog, was presented by the latter to the Museum of Instruments in Gwalior, Sarod Ghar.



A musical odyssey:
The inspiring journey of Kunnakudi M. Balamurali Krishna
                        Ramaa Ramesh


Kunnakudi Balamurali Krishna sits at the forefront of Carnatic vocalists today, a position earned the hard way - through grit, passion and an unyielding spirit. Born on 30 June 1985, into a family of teachers, Balamurali started performing at the age of 11 and excelled at both vocals and percussion, winning prizes, scholarships, awards and touring India and abroad. His path to the top seemed a straightforward one until life threw him an unexpected curveball. In 2010, out of nowhere, Balamurali lost his voice and, to some extent, his sense of purpose. Battling medical appointments and uncertain diagnoses for years, he recovered his voice in 2014 and recommenced the journey back to being a performer. In this candid conversation, he opens up about his career and how he fought back from those depths to reclaim his place on stage, his experience of learning from musical legends and his evolving approach to music and sound.

Tell me about your earliest memories of Carnatic music and your roots?

My father, R. Meenakshisundaram is a music teacher. After his wedding, he prayed at Tyagaraja’s sannidhi in Tiruvaiyaru, asking for a son who would grow up to sing. When I was born, I was named after the legend Balamuralikrishna, as Appa is a big fan of his.

I was born and raised in Tambaram, and my first memory of listening to a concert was at the local Rama Navami festival. Around the start of the 1990s, popular artists like  T.N. Seshagopalan, T.V. Sankaranarayanan would perform there. I was about four years old and had just started to learn the mridangam; I apparently used to play an imaginary mridangam on Horlicks boxes, as if accompanying the artists from where I sat in the front row. The amused artists would notice this and enquire about me after the concerts. At home, I used to sit in on Appa’s lessons with his students, from which I absorbed geetams and the popular varnams. I was shy to sing initially, though I never shied away from playing the mridangam which was my first love; rhythm was and remains a passion.



Vidhya Subramanian

Beyond beauty and grace                                 Anjana Anand

Trained in the Vazhuvoor bani under S.K. Rajarathnam and for abhinaya under Kalanidhi Narayanan, Vidhya Subramanian has developed a style of her own where elegance and deep introspection have permeated her artistic journey. Like many young promising dancers who migrated from India at the height of their dancing careers in the 90’s, Vidhya found herself in an environment very different from the whirlwind of culture in Chennai. It was sheer willpower and passion that kept her engaged with her art form, soaking in new cultures and beginning a long inward journey of discovering her artistic self. Today, Vidhya Subramanian has emerged as a consummate artist who has made a name both in India and internationally. Creating powerful solo works and engaging with the traditional form in a deeper way, Vidhya has moved back to Chennai from the  US, convinced that this is where her heart lies.

Vidhya Subramanian holds a Master’s degree in Theatre Arts and continues to participate in theatre and film projects. She speaks to Sruti about the irreplaceable role that her father has played in her artistic journey and the joy that this art form has given her. Her newly founded Sparsha Arts Foundation is her way of paying tribute to her father Subramanian and connecting with artists at a deeper level.

Can you tell us about your father K.S. Subramanian?

My father was a mridangist who was unable to pursue his passion full-time. He was one of eight children, and having lost his father when he was very young, the arts became a luxury. It was always a dream for him to see me involved in the arts. He would take me to all the performances at Krishna Gana Sabha, which was near our home and patiently explain the tala nuances to me. At that age, I would reluctantly tag along. Over time, I expressed an interest in dancing. I had watched many dancers and Padma Subrahmanyam (Paddhu Akka) was someone whom I was in awe of. Her ability to communicate to even that last person in the audience is a memory I cannot forget.



Vija Vētra: A century dedicated to dance                           Anjana Anand

Latvian dancer from the United States, Vija Vētra (born 6 February 1923), celebrated her 100th birthday and was honoured in her home country, Latvia, on 20 June 2023. On her 100th birthday in February, diplomats from the Latvian representation at the UN in New York awarded Vētra a special Diploma of Achievement from the president of Latvia, H.E. Egils Levits.

Born in Riga, Latvia, Vētra is an acclaimed classical and contemporary dancer, choreographer and performer of Latvian traditional dance. Vija Vētra is also an Indian classical dancer and a path-breaking creator of the movement of sacred devotional dance in Latvia. During her artistic journey, Vija Vētra has performed on stages of four continents and countless cities. A patriot of Latvia, she carried the name of her country even when the country was behind the Iron Curtain.

For Vija, dance is her life and single focus. Sacrificing family life, she devoted her life to the pursuit of art. During World War II, she studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts and the Vienna Conservatory Ballet chapter. However, she had to escape as a war refugee to Germany. In 1948, she immigrated to Australia and in 1951, opened a dance studio in Sydney. Destiny had other plans for this young artist. While performing in Australia in the 1950s, Vija Vētra was cast as an Indian princess in a musical for the Sydney opera—this was a turning point in her life and the beginning of a life-long passion.