Festival combines fine arts repertoire

Residents of Singapore and visitors to the City State were treated to a feast of music, dance and drama at the recently concluded Festival.

More than 50 artistes from India and Singapore participated in the 17-day event organised by the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIAFS), inspired by the annual music festival held in Chennai every year.

Music lovers, critics, teachers, students and even those with a fleeting interest in music and dance thronged the Esplanade Theatre to participate in the Festival held under the theme, ‘Nature in the Arts’ from March 28 to April 13.

SIAFS organises the annual Festival to promote excellence across the spectrum of Indian Performing Arts.

The performers were young and accomplished with a passion for their respective art forms. As practitioners of the pristine art of Indian classical music and dance, they are deeply-rooted in tradition, while staying in tune with modernity.

Drama & Music

Along with budding students and teachers at SIFAS, this year’s calendar had many artistes of repute.

They included Sushma Somasekharan, a home-grown talent now a Chennai resident. She gave a brilliant presentation entitled ‘A Musician’s Diary: Notes and Notations from the Carnatic Repertoire’ as the first performance on the opening night.

While it is common to see rasikas enjoying Carnatic music performances in Singapore, few can match her story-telling narrative blended with a Carnatic repertoire. Her performance was enhanced by acting and story-telling by V R Devika and a Mridangam treat by Akshay Ananthapadmanabhan.

They enthralled the audience by revisiting the Golden Years of Carnatic music rendering the songs that made many world famous, including Palghat Mani Iyer, MS Subbulakshmi, DK Pattamal, Lalgudi Jayaraman, GN Balasubramanian and Mahalingam.

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan, daughter and disciple of Neyveli Santhanagopalan and one of the most promising artistes in today’s Carnatic world, performed the next day. Guided by her Guru’s words, “When the art speaks for itself, glory will automatically follow,” she rendered her ‘Prastara’ (Musical Notes) with consummate ease and passion.

Natyam highlight

The highlight of the Festival was ‘Pravaha’ (Flow), an original Bharatha Natyam dance production conceived and choreographed by Sheejith Krishna (a renowned dancer and choreographer of the dance sequences in ‘Life of Pi’) and performed by local artistes.

This presentation (On April 11), inspired by the rich lyricism of classical poetry on the iconic Ganga River, Kalidasa’s ‘Meghadutam’ and other traditional and modern stories, celebrated the dance of water through its journey of cloud, rain and river.

Pravaha is a dance of the human spirit in union with Nature.

Other international artistes included Santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma’s son Rahul Sharma, Hindustani vocal (Swaraabhishek) by child prodigy Kaushiki Chakrabarty (daughter of Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty) and a Carnatic flute concert by BV Balasai.

SIFAS launched the Festival in 2003 to showcase celebrity artistes from India, combined with local talent for the enjoyment of the cosmopolitan art community of Singapore.

Founded in 1949, SIFAS is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation and transmission of Indian culture through the Arts.

As well as conducting classes in Indian classical dances Bharatha Natyam, Kuchipudi and Kathak) it provides music lessons in Carnatic Vocal, Hindustani Vocal, Veena and Sitar).

In August 2004, the curriculum was expanded to include a School of Visual Arts.

Dr V Subramaniam is our Singapore correspondent.

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