Soorya Festival at Malaysia- Report

The Soorya Festival of Indian Music and Dance featuring the dance recital by the Dhananjayans was held at 2 locations in Malaysia on the 6th and 7th of November, 2009. I attended the festival on the 7th held at MAS (Malaysian Airlines) auditorium at Kelana Jaya. The proceeds from the tickets for the show went into helping the Malaysian association for the Blind. The tickets were reasonably priced starting at a reasonable rate of RM 30 (approx USD 10). I am thankful to the organizers and sponsors and the artistes who I believe didnt charge for the peformance for making it so.  Some Indian dance performance tickets were priced as high as RM150 , so presumably aiming at helping the charities didn’t target the middle-class Indians.

The program held on 7th, the festival included the following events- a Carnatic Music concert, felicitation of the local artistes and a dance recital. The event started at 7.30pm and was due to finish at around 10.45pm. It was very pleasant since the speeches by the dignitaries consisted of just 2 sentences or less .

The function began with a prayer song by Preeta Prasad, a Malaysian Carnatic vocalist. She sang the Vinayaga sthuthi “Mudhakaratha Modhakam” which she would easily have done better justice to, had she sung 1/2 kattai less. She was probably involved in a lot of the organizational activities and was breathless. She handled the tambura for the music and dance concert as well.

The Carnatic Music concert by the couple, Trivandrum Krishnakumar and Binny Krishnakumar followed. Binny krishnakumar was introduced as the ” Chandramukhi ra-ra” playback singer. Both of them are currently disciples of Dr.M. Balamuralikrishna. They were accompanied by Malaysian violinist Sri. Achyuthan Sashidharan Nair and Mridangist Sri.  Sivabalan Shanmuga Sundaram .

The couple had interestingly planned their short concert by including songs with a variety of thalams. The concert featured the following songs:-

  1. Rakshamam Sharanagatham- Nattai- Adi, a  composition of Meenakshisuthan, tuned by Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar. A fiery presentation, though I felt there was a slight hurry for the sharanagathi.
  2. This was followed by a pleasing “Gopalaka Pahimam Anisam” in  ragam Bhoopalam and set to Misra chapu.
  3. An alapana in Hamsanandhi complete with the application of swarabedham technique showing shades of Hindolam followed . The kriti chosen was Paavana guru (Thalam: Rupakam, Composer: Lalitha Dasa). The violinist did not help much with the neraval here, I was almost at the edge of my seat a couple of times with this uneasy feeling that he was going to touch the absent pa sometime :). Somehow choosing Hamsanandhi after Bhoopalam wasnt too easy on my ears, but I aint any expert, though. During the thaniavardhanam, the  mridangist wasnt showing enough of sruthi and then a mridangam can sound like the melam at times!
  4. The next song was “Muruganai ninaikadha neramillai” in ragam Bageshri and Adi talam, quite a rare piece.
  5. They concluded their recital with a BMK thillana in Ragamalika .

A quick award ceremony to felicitate local artistes followed. The “Kalaseva Award” was given to Bharathanatyam artistes Guru (Smt) Vatsala Sivadas, Guru (Smt) Meena Venugopal (Dis of the Dhananjayans) and Sri. Shankar Kandasamy of TFA who is now quite famous in the Madras dance recital circuit too. I remember reading a review of his performance last year by Ms. Nrithya Pillai at Carnatic Darbar . The ceremony was real quick with no bugging speech concerts from the VIPs. God bless the organizers!

The dance concert started immediately after the awardees cleared the stage. The Dhananjayanas were accompanied by their disciples Dhivya Shiva, Gopukiran, Veena Sashidharan and Lavanya Raghuram (Alapana Arts , Singapore). They were efficiently accompanied by Sri. N. Sashidharan (vocal),  Kalaiarasan Ramanathan(violin) and K. P. Ramesh Babu (mridangam).

The recital presented the evergreen choreographies of the Dhanajayans as per the request of the organizers. The recital began with an Anjali performed by the three girls with Sri. Gopukiran handling the Nattuvangam.

The next item presented excerpts from VPD’s  Raamanaatkam. While introducing the item, VPD said that they had choreographed this way back in 1974 as “Ekaharya Lasyangam Ramayana” meaning that the characterization depended on the body language of the dancers rather than the costume itself. He also pointed out that back then they presented it in simple practice costumes. He said that this choreography of theirs has been staged  for over 500  times. The 3 main characters who appeared in this potryal were Kaikeyi (Dhivya). Mantara/Kooni ( Smt. Shantha Dhananjayan) and King Dasaratha (Sri.VPD). Gopukiran handled the nattuvangam for this piece too. The portrayal went down very well with the audience. The Dhanajayans were able to reach across the audience with their clear, simple and elegant choreography.

En palli Kondeeraiya, a padam that narrates briefly the story of Rama and Krishna was performed at a brisk pace by Veena, Lavanya and Gopukiran. Smt. Shantha took over the nattuvangam at this point and I couldn’t help turning my attention to her at times to watch the quiet confidence and efficiency she brought with her nattuvangam. I was carried back in time  to when I learnt this padam (as a fifth grader) from Smt. Indira Rajan at the home of a co-student, Ms. Alamelu at one those streets tugged behind Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in T- Nagar, Chennai.

After the above mentioned item, VPD appeared on stage and said that it was 10.20pm already and that Nandanaar Charaithram would take a minimum of 20 mins and if it was OK for him to proceed, since he was earlier asked to finish at 10.30pm. The audience were all for it.VPD instructed the vocalist to do away with repetitions and Smt. Shantha, Sri.VPD and Sri. Sashidharan were all taking cues from each other so effectively. That’s the perk of having a regular vocalist, who understands dance and with whom you have an understanding.  Thus began Nandanaar Charitharm with Sri.VPD as Nandanaar and Gopukiran was the  master and later Shiva. The three girls joined in at the end.

The Thillana, Aliveni Padam and Shiva natanam mentioned in the brochure were not performed (But en palli kondeeraiya wasnt mentioned in the brochure either)

The audience gave the artistes a standing ovation and Sri. N. Sashidharan picked a camera from his pocket and clicked a picture of the audience from the stage. Without much ado, the artistes were felicitated and then everyone left for home.

Sri. VPD would have been happy since the  couple Carnatic Musicians stayed back to watch the show. What irked me was that there was a lot of to and fro movement in the front few (VIP and Premier seating) rows. The sound and light management wasn’t totally professional. The squeaking microphones at the beginning of the dance show could have very well been avoided. The show seems to have been sold out. The theatre was filled to its maximum capacity. I was also curious about the Malay security guard who came in for the dance recital and stood throughout near the door with his eyes fixed on the stage!

5 responses to “Soorya Festival at Malaysia- Report

  1. hi!!
    i was there for show as well. it was a great show.
    i should say, your article is as detailed as me being there. pricisely what i observed through out the show as well.

    Hi Meera,
    Thanks for the comment.

  2. Dear Sangeetha,

    I am an avid listener and pursuant of Carnatic music and I must say I agree with alot of what you had said. I am Chinese by ethnicity and probably do not enjoy the ‘automatic nuances’ I seem to feel with my co Indian music lovers. However, this is my two cents worth.

    I would like to touch the part about the local musicians i.e Mr. Sashidaran and Mr. Sivabalan on violin and mridangam respectively. Though i have not met them personally, I have to say that I felt that they did an excellant job in accompanying the couple. Yes, I too felt that there were occasions where the panjamam was going to be present during Pavana Guru, but the violinist was clever with his finger technique. And Yes, sruthi wise there might have been a problem for the mridangam. I would take that back to the fact that over in KL repair services are limited and doing the best with what you have is what should be commended.

    Keeping it short and sweet was very welcomed due to the pressing time structure, which I found out later at my chat with Krishnakumar and his wife. I also followed them to Singapore for the show and again the couple felt that the accompaniment rendered in KL was good and soild.

    I have been to India yearly for the past 8 years to follow music festivals. I think in every country that practises and maintains Carnatic music, the local musicians should be lauded apporpriately. being critical is one thing. Being supportive is another.

    best Regards,


    Hi Glen,

    Nice to see your comment. I am very glad to meet a fellow carnatic music rasika.
    “I think in every country that practises and maintains Carnatic music, the local musicians should be lauded apporpriately”- I agree 100% with your thought.

    I am not an expert but I beleive, classical dancing or music, requires strict adherence to their grammar. You have also agreed with me in your statement-“Yes, I too felt that there were occasions where the panjamam was going to be present during Pavana Guru”. Panjamam is absent in “Hamsanandi” and that feeling should have been avoided at all costs. A professional accompanist cannot in my view take this slighlty. For an artiste irrespective of geographical considerations, his/her whole life should be a learning process. Learning should not end when one begins to perform. On the contrary performances themselves are learning resources. Inputs from rasikas can and should be helpful for all artistes .

    I do realize that there are certain limitations of artistes practising outside India. Exposure and oppurtunity being the predominant factors. But that shouldnt and doesnt stop the scope for improvement. Why should musicians outside India settle down for what is short of attaining perfection? They do have the passion and I am sure they should and will do so.

    I am surprised Astro does not telecast Jaya TV’s” Margazhi Mahotsavam” which can be a useful tool to all students of Carnatic Music here. The other day I watched another program aimed at teaching ragas to carnatic music students in Astro vanavil. This is something even the media in India dosent really work on. Very appreciable…
    They were teaching Bhoopalam and Thodi, but there were a lot of errors that even a novice like me could notice.
    For eg.. They were playing film songs to help identify these ragas..
    They played “Senthazham Poovil” for Bhoopalam and ” en mana vanil” for thodi.. they are far far from it.

    It must also be said that this is the an recount of just this one day’s performance. And any artist has his/her good and bad days. If you did notice I have also expressed my concern about the (Indian) musicians planning a Hamsanandi after Bhoopalam. So it is not that I suffer from a bias. I have earlier written a report for 3 other Malaysian dance performances and if I remember right, I expressed being really happy to have witnessed 2 of them.

    I whole heartedly support interest in (Indian) Arts (for all) and also a strife for excellence in the same.


  3. Dear Sangeetha,

    Thank you for your feedback. To sum up as agreed, I would just like to wish both the local musicians a good forward journey into the world of Carnatic Music and keep the Malaysian flag high. As you pointed out in your post, we (both you and me) are supporting the young local musicians whilst helping them to grow through creative and constructive critisms. Good work. Thank you.

    Dear Glen,
    Thank You too!

  4. My Respect and Salutation to Fellow Rasikas;

    I read these articles and posting by coincidence and indeed very happy to see such fruitful discussions taking place.
    First of all, as the violinist for that night’s concert, I would like to thank you for your presence and feedbacks. I would like to apologies for the error (panjamam) that was felt or almost felt during the rendition in raagam Hamsanandhi. Please accept my deepest apology for that as to my knowledge, I did not touch that note. From my point of view, you might have felt that i was going to touch the panjamam, was because i was giving a madyamam prayogam from Deivadham and was hanging on that note for long (the Madhyamam).
    I will take this as a positive feedback from a Rasika and will look into it in my next concert.
    Having said that, I totally agree with the owner of the blog for a valued statement which says “A professional accompanist cannot in my view take this slighlty. For an artiste irrespective of geographical considerations, his/her whole life should be a learning process.”
    Being to a certain level of traditionalist myself, I never compromise with the methods and the contents of a kutcheri being conducted / rendered.
    Thank you for your valuable feedbacks and we will definitely work on it.

    Best Regards;
    Achyuthan Sashidaran Nair

    Dear Sri A.S. Nair,
    I am so glad to see your response. I am in all appreciation for your attitude. Your passion for the art, penchant for learning and taking feedbacks positively and using them constructively are fantastic assests.
    Our best wishes and support are with you in your musical journey.

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