ZOHRA SEGAL (1912-2014)
Tottenham Court Road, London, June 1969 The legendary dancer Ram Gopal took me one morning to meet Zohra Segal. Having known about her as a member of Uday Shankar’s dance troupe, I was keen to meet her. And who better than Ram Gopal to introduce me to her? I did not know that she had a whacky sense of humour, though Ram Gopal did tell me that she was a marvellous woman and a great dancer. After Ram Gopal introduced me to her as an up-and-coming young dance scholar and critic and someone who knew Mohan Khokar, she smiled and warmly welcomed me. Then looking naughtily at Ram she said: “Arrre, you have brought him now to meet me when I am 57 and ugly. You should have done so when I was young and ugly!” And we all laughed heartily. She invited to come home and meet her daughter Kiran who was studying Bharatanatyam. We planned to do so at leisure.
This is how my first meeting with Zohra Segal came to pass. I had met Ram Gopal at Bombay when I interviewed him for The Times of India. Soon after in 1969, I received a British Council scholarship for a year to observe classical ballet, modern dance, and to meet dance historians, scholars, ballerinas and critics in London. While there I asked Ram Gopal to help me meet Zohra and Simkie, another partner of Uday Shankar, as they kept in touch with one another. I also wanted to visit Dartington Hall, near Devonshire, where Uday Shankar had a residency to see the many photographs of his dance choreographic works. Renowned dance critic Richard Buckle gave me that information.
K.S. NARAYANASWAMY - A musician’s musician
IYER BROTHERS (RAMNATH AND GOPINATH)
“Koduvayur Sivaraman Narayanaswamy can be described as a musician’s musician. He is not a glamorous matinee idol; nor a virtuoso who can do fabulous things with his fingers; nor hit the headlines; nor win loud and continued applause and large public concerts. The pursuit of music, for him, is a continual search for the real meaning of sampradaya.... K.S. Narayanaswamy represents one of those rare musicians today whose quest, whose search is important. It is a reminder to us that success is not the ultimate end of life; that what is important is striving for excellence, the search for musical truths, at whatever level and with whatever success,” wrote Dr. Narayana Menon in Portrait of a Sangita Kalanidhi.
KSN, as he was fondly called, was a multifaceted individual. He was a patient and devoted teacher, a modest gentleman, a respected and accomplished performer, but above all, he was a musician whose strict adherence to the subtleties of Carnatic tradition earned him the admiration and respect of the musical cognoscenti.
NEWS & NOTES
GOVINDARAJA PILLAI’S CENTENARY - Mumbai remembers a Bharatanatyam pioneer
Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir and Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, Mumbai joined hands to celebrate the birth centenary of Guru A.T. Govindaraja Pillai. The doyen had made bold to leave the comfort of his hometown of Ayyampettai in south India for Bombay – a ‘seemai pattinam’ unknown and far away, carrying with him his extensive knowledge of an ancient art and his passion to spread it far and wide.
The function organised on the 100th birthday of the master, 22 June 2014, was well planned and executed. The institution’s dance students ranging from toddlers to teens lined the entrance lobby of Shanmukhananda Sabha to welcome the guests with a smile and traditional namaste. Mangala isai by vidwan Saktivel and party wafted through the auditorium as the dignitaries and well-wishers took their seats.
WINDOW TO THE WORLD
BEETHOVEN’S SYMPHONY NO. 9 - A profound influence on composers
How could a deaf Beethoven compose a colossus like the Ninth? We must first understand that Beethoven’s deafness was a handicap, and not a disability. It was not anything like, say, a pianist losing both his hands, or a ballerina her leg. The handicap surely did cause Beethoven serious compositional problems, but he could still function as a composer. His affliction did cut him off from all external sounds, but he could still hear the inner sounds in his mind’s ear. Even non-musicians are born with this faculty, but musicians of a very high order are endowed with one very special ability which is denied to us; they can read score (written music) and simultaneously hear its music in their head. And as a corollary to this ability, they can also hear and compose music in their head, and simultaneously convert it into a written score. Beethoven, a phenomenally gifted musician, would thus have had no great difficulty in composing music despite his deafness. He, in fact, says as much in a letter he wrote to a friend in 1801, “My affliction causes me the least trouble in composing, the most in association with others.”