Possessing one of the most famous voices in India, K.J. Yesudas has the rare combination of glamour and classicism and continues to retain his widespread popularity with millions of fans across regional and communal divides. His voice is described by many as magical; he takes a song beyond its lyrics and tune. At 81, Yesudas remains a towering personality with his long flowing beard, spotless white mundu and jibba. A household name in Kerala, they adore him as ‘Ganagandharvan’ and ‘Dasettan’. Kattassery Joseph Yesudas was born on 10 January 1940 in a Catholic Christian family to Augustine Joseph, a well-known singer and stage actor, and Elizabeth, a devout homemaker, in Fort Kochi, Kerala. He was the eldest of five children—four sons and one daughter. The Joseph family was above religious disparities and believed in a superior power. Thus, Yesudas inherited this devotion and music, which set him on his path in life and his career.
Lata Pada, founder and artistic director of Sampradaya Dance Creations is a persona of grace and elegance. Behind the unassuming demeanour, is an artist who has overcome painful personal loss and risen up to the challenges of making a mark in uncharted territories. This 73-year-old woman of grit is an acclaimed choreographer, performer, teacher and academician who is constantly reinventing herself to promote high standards of excellence in Canada. A disciple of famous gurus K. Kalyanasundaram Pillai and Kalanidhi Narayanan, she holds a Masters in Fine Arts from York University and serves on the Arts and Entertainment Committee of the Mississauga Living Arts Centre. She is also a founding member of the South Asian Advisory Committee at the Royal Ontario Museum. Many accolades have come her way, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman from the President of India (2011) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), to name a few.
Seventy-three years old, born on 13 July 1947, Astad Deboo slipped away from life quietly on 19 December 2020, leaving behind a varied legacy of creative productions, built up through sheer hard work in a painstaking career. The unostentatious artist while braving a-not-very-congenial ambience for contemporary dance in India, never stooped to drawing aggressive attention to himself. Ploughing a lone furrow through five decades of work with the body, Astad lived in a world of his own creativity, his non-conformist approach following no established dance norms, traditional or contemporary, defying categorisation. Born to a Parsi family at Navasari in Gujarat, with no history of anybody taking to dance, Astad was inexplicably drawn to the art form. His dance journey began as a boy of six with Kathak lessons from K. Mohanty, and later Prahlad Das in Jamshedpur, where the family settled for some years when his father was employed in Tata Steel, after an initial stint in Kolkata.
“Among the months I am Margaseersham (Margazhi)”, announced Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. But Andal appears to have appropriated the month as hers, as the whole scene was agog with Tiruppavai. Andal came in myriad forms in music, dance and discourse in solo and group presentations. YouTube buzzed with song and dance too numerous to keep track of. There was even a choral singing by film and TV stars like Suhasini Maniratnam, Anu Hasan, Revathi and others with abhinaya by Shobana. Paramacharya’s vision of spreading Andal’s Tiruppavai through the length and breadth of the country has become a reality through the virtual platform necessitated by the pandemic.
6 News & notes
10 Birthday calendar
12 K.J. Yesudas
20 The Indian diaspora v Lata Pada
27 Astad Deboo
33 Music season (part 1)
v Margazhi and Andal
v Going digital @musicacademymadras
v The tradition continues unabated during the pandemic
42 Multi-talent v Nisha and Vasundhra Rajagopalan
46 Tribute v S.P. Balasubrahmanyam
48 S. Rajam’s paintings v Saptaswara devata: Ni
50 From the Editor
Front Cover: K.J. Yesudas, Lata Pada and Astad Deboo