NEWS & NOTES
Play of numbers in dance - LEELA VENKATARAMAN The central Sangeet Natak Akademi’s annual Festival of Choreography, in its latest manifestation revolved round the theme of ‘Sankhya’ or numbers. It was staged at Rabindra Bharati in Hyderabad from 21st to 25th July. The Department of Culture, Government of Hyderabad played host along with Shankarananda Kalakshetra. Numbers are invested with mystic powers by almost all cultures and religions. Indian thought with its measurement of space and time in music and dance, rhythm and sculpture and its associations in mythology, mysticism and numerology has looked upon numbers as more than just arid arithmetic. With very senior dancers being featured in the festival, we hoped for choreographic treatment which played with numbers in original ways, instead of indulging in the customary Navarasa or Dasavatara. What one finally got was a mixture of both innovative and hackneyed fare.
Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan - Pop star among violinists Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan was flamboyant — as a man and as a musician. He was a versatile artist who dipped into various genres of music. He was a master of the violin and could make it speak and sing, in chauka kala or at breakneck speed. He could play sound sampradaya music but he chose to be “popular with the masses”, to reach out to the man on the street and therefore crafted his music accordingly. From the classical he would slide into folk tunes and film songs, or twang on a string for effect. He had amazing command over the Tamil language and was often invited to speak, fond as he was of both pun and ‘pann’. He was probably the only musician to have a regular fan club! He believed in the therapeutic effect of music and launched the Raga Research Centre. He was a good teacher, held many important posts and wielded a lot of power. Kunnakudi was born on 2nd March 1935 and passed away on 8th September 2008 in Chennai. This is an obituary tribute to a "popular" violin vidwan. Kunnakudi visited Sruti many years ago and spent hours narrating his experiences. We reproduce excerpts from a special advertisement feature we published in November 1996.
Abdul Lateef Khan Honest-to-goodness orthodox musicality - Deepak S. Raja Abdul Lateef Khan (1924/1925-2003) was amongst the leading exponents of the sarangi, an ancient and totally Indian instrument, now threatened with extinction. He represented the fifth generation in a distinguished lineage of sarangi players, which enjoyed royal patronage at Gwalior (Central Provinces), a major centre of Hindustani music in pre-Independence India. In a career spanning almost five decades, Abdul Lateef accompanied some of the most outstanding vocalists of the twentieth century, and established himself as a mature soloist, though with few opportunities to be heard. His trials and tribulations represent the depressing history of the instrument itself (see interview below). Abdul Lateef battled successfully against the odds, thanks to the security of a tenure with the All India Radio, which he served until retirement in 1985. His musicianship and stature have been recognised with several honours and awards, the most prestigious being the Fellowship of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the apex body of the performing arts establishment in India.