139th Day Of Lockdown

Maharashtra51533235171017757 Tamil Nadu2969012386384927 Andhra Pradesh2278601387122036 Karnataka178087939083198 Delhi1454271305874111 Uttar Pradesh122609726502069 West Bengal95554671202059 Bihar7972051315429 Telangana7949555999627 Gujarat71064542382652 Assam5883842326145 Rajasthan5249738235789 Odisha4592731785321 Haryana4163534781483 Madhya Pradesh3902529020996 Kerala3433121832109 Jammu and Kashmir2489717003472 Punjab2390315319586 Jharkhand185168998177 Chhatisgarh12148880996 Uttarakhand96326134125 Goa871259575 Tripura6161417641 Puducherry5382320187 Manipur3752204411 Himachal Pradesh3371218114 Nagaland27819048 Arunachal Pradesh215514823 Chandigarh151590425 Meghalaya10624906 Sikkim8664971 Mizoram6082980
Entertainment Music 06 Dec 2018 Aruna Sairam: Taking ...

Aruna Sairam: Taking Carnatic music beyond borders

Published Dec 6, 2018, 12:57 am IST
Updated Dec 6, 2018, 12:58 am IST
In the spectrum of things, she is a vocalist, composer, collaborator and a person who believes she must also do for the larger good.
Aruna Sairam
 Aruna Sairam

Getting the Sangita Kalanidhi conferred by the Music Academy this year, Padmashri Aruna Sairam has added another feather to the proverbial cap. Getting awards is not the big thing here.  What she does and that too constantly, is her search and pursuit of excellence and the adherence to her passion that is classical Carnatic music. And in that, is her own growth and the stature  she commands.  Nothing seems to hold her back as she goes from strength to strength and her popularity  only growing.

Her formidable voice and musical knowledge apart, she makes a lovely visual on stage with her glittering saris and accessories – which by the way adds to her allure. And so on December 15, the inaugural day of the Music Academy Annual Conference with Indra Nooyi, chairman, Pepsico as the chief guest, she is all set to dominate the coming music season. And on January 1, at the Sadas she will be conferred the award by Governor Banwarilal Purohit.


In the spectrum of things, she is a vocalist, composer, collaborator and a person who believes she must also do for the larger good.  She has taken  Carnatic music beyond  borders and has  performed across countries - from small forums to really big ones like  the Rashtrapati Bhavan,  Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Carnegie Hall to name a few.  What is more, her   concerts draw a cross section of people, who love her kind of music and the way it sounds. She plays many roles and not the least of them is that of a mentor herself by involving youngsters through Nadayogam Trust, which she founded and also to others around the world.


Hers is the kind of music that has at its very roots  tremendous bhakti and  classicism.  The foundation to this began very early in life in Mumbai ,where she began learning first from her mother Rajalakshmi Sethuraman, who belonged to the Veena Dhanammal school  known for its strict adherence to tradition and form. Then she went on to learn from  T. Brinda, another great who laid the foundation of her excellence. Aruna, being open to different influences, was also mentored at various points by M. Balamuralikrishna, K.V. Narayanasw-amy and S. Ramachandran.


While her proficiency in classical Carnatic music is a given, what actually gave her individualistic identity when she burst upon the concert platform at a time much younger vocalists were ruling, was the way she sang abhangs.

They became so popular that audiences started swelling at every concert to the extent that abhangs became synonymous with her. Because of her versatility, she collaborated with western artistes, especially using the abhangs as a unifying musical sound – case in point, Dominique Vellard.  

The foundation for this step could, perhaps, have been laid from her early years in Mumbai where her family was steeped in music and eminent musicians. Her father Sethuraman, a music connoisseur hosted many musicians and dancers in their  home. As a child, Aruna demonstrated  extraordinary aptitude for music. It won her first gold medal at the age of eight at the Shanmukhananda Sabha competition in Mumbai . At  14, she gave her  her first full-length solo concert at the Rama Navami festival, Bhajana Samaj again Mumbai . She turned 21, and won the Best Young Musician Award at the annual conference held at Music Academy, Chennai year ago. She has not looked back since.


When you watch her on stage she plunges you  into another world where everything else stops and there is only music. It is  the power of her voice and the strength with which she powers on without seeming to flag.  And that is something hard for many others to create -- that sense of being on  a rollercoaster of melodies and passion. Her concerts are invariably full house--  try getting a ticket to her cutcherries during the season? Most probably would be sold out!

Whether is a tillanna, a padam or a varnam or a seemingly simple devotional bhajan, she is riveting when she takes centre stage.   Aruna has also conceptualized and performed themed concerts such as Aruna - Thousand Names of Divine Mother', a concert and recording project first produced in Germany. The recording was done in the crypt of a Benedictine monastery in Germany with co-artists Christian Bollmann and Michael Reimann.


‘Sources' - are a series of collaborations by Aruna and Dominique Vellard, a master of Gregorian and medieval song.  Aruna and Dominique went on to join forces with the Moroccan Sufi vocalist Noureddine Tahiri folding in music of the later Arab-Andalusian tradition as evident in the album Trialogue.Matrubhumi – is a journey through India from the Himalayas  to Kanyakumari. This concert was performed with Shankar Mahadevan. Strains of Heaven was with Mandolin U Srinivas, exploring dialogues between the voice and the string. Aikya - is a concert in 14 Indian languages celebrated  India's unity in diversity. The Wisdom of Vitthala and Rang Ahangwere  dedicated to abhangs.


Le Bebe Bleu a French production (The Blue Baby) depicting the story of Lord Krishna directed by French Theatre Director Dominique Pompougnac. The most important segment of audience for this production was the children of France. Collaboration with Dance - Aruna composed music and sang for the production Yantra and Bhinna-Pravaha of dance choreographer Chandralekha. She has also  performed Sammohanam - a confluence of music and dance with  Malavika Sarukkai. It's a journey of achievements and fulfilment and the milestones are truly momentous.


(The writer is a seasoned music and dance critic who has written on fine arts for more than three decades)