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Showing posts from 2014

Ten Malayalee’s and an elephant

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A successful Malayalee, in my opinion, has either an inflated ego or is highly opinionated, and at times exhibits both characteristics. Can you imagine a situation where ten of them, well known to you, seasoned politicians, bureaucrats and people of high standing got together and accomplished something at the international scene? To hear this interesting account, I have to first take you back to the decade of the 1940’s. What on earth brought them all together? Now that is fine, but what is an elephant doing in their midst? An even more interesting aside….
1945 – The world was finally rejoicing as the terrible world war was over and the axis powers had been decimated by the allies. Life was slowly starting to limp back to normalcy but the people of Japan had an even steeper hill to climb. Douglas Mc Arthur, the allied supreme commander in Japan, otherwise known as Gaijin Shogun was on his ‘clean up and purge the old leadership’ mode. The Japanese bureaucracy was sullenly taking new o…

Sopana Sangeetham

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The music tradition of Kerala – A performance for the gods
We talked about the movement of Carnatic music stalwarts and capitals, its development in Tanjore, and the part played by the Tanjavur quartet. We also looked at the contributions of the famous Shadkala Govinda Marar from Kerala. Now let us change tack and focus on a music form which was in vogue in Kerala, one that was slightly different from the Carnatic music that we covered so far. In the process we will also very briefly touch upon the language prevalent in Kerala in the medieval times, namely Manipravalam and get to know the marar community.
There is nobody who has done better research on this subject than Leela Omcherry and her daughter Deepti Omcherry. The history of music in Kerala is explained by them in such detail and anybody who is keen on the subject is advised to refer their works or listen to their lucid interviews. This article will only serve to be an introduction and is based very much on the fine and painst…

Ammani Ammal’s story

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Dasiyattam and the first professional performances by an Indian dance troupe in Europe - 1838
1838 was a year of many events, some routine but some of greater importance. For example it was the year when the world’s first photograph of a person was taken by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre of the Boulevard de temple. It was of a person in a top hat, getting his shoe shined at the corner. It was also the year when The Times of India, the world's largest circulated English language daily newspaper was founded as The Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce. The Morse code had been invented, Queen Victoria’s coronation took place, proteins were discovered and the Duke University was established here in N Carolina. On the colonial end, the French were negotiating with India on new slaves for Mauritius after a British ban on slavery. The British were not too happy either, for they had lost the first Afghan War. The French presence in India was miniscule, with just Pondicherry near Madras and M…

The Tanjavur Quartet

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When music and dance ruled
Some months ago, we traced the route taken by exponents of Carnatic music in the Vijayanagara kingdom to Tanjore, where the Maratha Nayaks patronized them. That there were a number of music and dance forms in vogue already, is pretty clear, but with time new systems became the norm. The new forms flourished but with pressure from the British rulers and missionaries, some of the old practices were getting forced out. One of the older forms that underwent change was what was termed Dasiattam and four brothers known as the Tanjai nalavar got involved (together with some others) in its revival and restructuring into what we know as today’s Bharatnatyam. However for certain reasons they were forced to move to other regions. Let’s go to the Tanjore of those periods and retrace the steps of the famous Quartet to Travancore and their stay there.
The history of Devadasis is very often misunderstood and confused with anglicized definitions of courtesans (A courtesan …