Swara-Laya woos Sydney with Carnatic greats

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The Sydney Music Festival is an annual feature of Swara-Laya Fine Arts Society, an event that keeps growing in popularity every year thanks to the unrelenting efforts of founders Kanagasabai Jeyendran and his wife Mrs Jeyendran.

Held every year at the Riverside Theatre, Church Street, Parramatta, during the long weekend marking the celebrations to the Queen’s birthday, this time around the programme began at 10 am on 7 June with a performance by Neyveli Santhanagopalan and finished on 9 June at 6 pm with a concert by Carnatic singer TM Krishna.

The line-up of artists at the programme was impressive to say the least. On the opening day, for instance, along with the vocal performance of Santhanagopalan were vocalists Gayathri Vengataraghavan and TV Sankaranarayananan. The highlight of the inaugural concert was Mandolin U Shrinivas’s instrumental music.

The second day began with Shrirajanai Santhanagopalan’s vocal concert, followed by a dance-drama based on a famous Tamil historical novel Sivagamiyin Sabatham, performed by Madurai R Muralidharan and his troupe. The dance drama was based on the ‘magnum opus’ of the late Tamil writer Kalki in 1944, believed by some to be one of the first historical novels in Tamil.

Set in seventh-century south India against the backdrop of various historical events and figures, the novel created widespread interest in Tamil history when it was first published. This mega production was staged for the first time in Sydney and was the highlight of the season at the Sydney Music Festival.

Except for the three major roles in the drama (enacted by Madurai Muralidhran, Kavya Muralidharan and Uma Murali), all the other participants were from Sydney, well trained by local Bharatanatyam dance teacher Suganthy Thayalan, who also played a major role in the programme. Karunaharan Nadarajah and Sribalan excelled in their comedy.

The drama was followed by the vocalist-duo, the Malladi Brothers Malladi Sreeramprasad and Malladi Ravikumar. With their vibrant and powerful voices they could mesmerise the audience for hours.

Definitely a highlight of day two was the two-hour vocal performance by Sudha Raghunathan, a Carnatic music composer and vocalist from South India. Recipient of the Padma Shri for excellence in singing, Sudha was a disciple of the legendary Padma Bhushan, Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. M.L Vasanthakumari. Besides her Carnatic repertoire, Sudha Raghunathan has also explored the world music scene, in particular fusion music, and has performed as a playback singer in Tamil cinema.

The final day performances commenced with a vocal performance by Suchithra Balasubramaniam and continued with Saketharaman’s vocal, followed up with Ronu Majumdar. The highlight of the day though was T M Krishna’s vocal performance.

Being a disciple of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Krishna began giving public performances at the age of 12. He is recognised globally for his music for the heights in creativity, fluency and resonance which can only be the mark of a genius. TM Krishna’s music presents an additional dimension to his music and one could say it is a bonus to rasikas.

Art and music lovers in Sydney are musically educated and Swara-Laya has never disappointed. They have never compromised on quality, punctuality or variety.

The accompanists, ghatam artiste Trichy Murali, mridangists Swaminathan, KV Prasad, and Tanjore K. Murugabhoopathi, violinists RK Shriram Kumar, Sambathkumar, H K Venkatram, and tabla artiste Ajeeth Pathak gave a very supportive performance.

The festival in its totality can be described as an evening with dazzling entertainment, an unforgettable musical experience for Sydney.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Magazine in Sydney)

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