Published October 16th, 2014 by

The festival will feature concerts by popular musicians from India.

There will be concerts by “Carnatic icon” Smt. Aruna Sairam and “Acharya Shresta” Vidwan Neyveli Shri.Santhanagopalan on October 17, 2014.

October 18, 2014, will have concerts by Living Legend Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna and duo Mrs.Binni Krishnakumar & Vidwan Trivandrum K Krishnakumar accompanied by Smt. Padmashankar (Violin), Vidwan. J Vaidyanathan ( Mridangam), Sri.Karthick (Ghatam)

There will be a Special appearance by “Carnatica Brothers” Vidwan K.N.Shashikiran and Shri.P.Ganesh

Venue: Emirates Theatre, Dubai, UAE.

Call to book tickets:  Bur Dubai – 050 3252 115, Qusais – 055 7359 788,
Sharjah – 050 342 9757



Published October 3rd, 2014 by

Kiranavali Vidyasankar, well-known and respected musician, guru and writer, belongs to a family of great musicians — including her legendary grandfather Gotuvadyam Narayana Iyengar, father Chitravina Narasimhan and brothers Chitravina Ravikiran and K.N. Shashikiran.

CarnaticWorld is grateful to Kiranavali for permitting us to reproduce this article, originally published on her website

 Guru–Shishya Parampara

 Gurur Brahma gurur Vishnur Gurur Devo Maheshwarah

Gurus sakshat param brahma tasmai Sri gurave namah

As an Indian, this is probably one of the most oft-repeated chants of our childhood and youth. It is not so much a reflection of our religious values as it is that of the cultural values of our ancient civilization. For Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara in this context signify the creation of good in us, its preservation, and the destruction of the evil tendencies respectively. The enablers of these are the gurus, and thus they have always been accorded a status on par with the Gods or even higher as is said in the other well-known Samskrit statement, Mata Pita Guru Daivam (meaning, Mother, Father, Guru and God, in that order of importance).

We are the civilization that gave the world the unique and amazing concept ofgurukula, which has enabled us to preserve the best of our religion, culture, philosophy, spirituality, science and arts for hundreds of centuries. Gurus of various subjects have housed disciples for as long as it took, and imparted their knowledge with great care and passion, astutely gauging the ability of each disciple to absorb and preserve the imparted knowledge. Disciples were treated like the guru’s own children. In exchange, the disciples adopted the guru’s household as their own and pitched in the household by performing various chores. By being in the presence of the guru, a disciple not only had the opportunity to learn the nuances of the subject but also see how a guru often exemplified the knowledge he taught or put it to use in the real world. The flow of knowledge was not restricted by time, place or any other considerations. The guru also had the freedom to impose the necessary discipline it required of a student to learn the given subject, while at the same time build a lasting and meaningful bond with him. After all, the bond that is created in the process of sharing knowledge goes way deeper than that engendered by any other relationship. A guru not merely touches the disciple at the intellectual, emotional, cultural, and spiritual levels, but often gives a part of his very core. The selflessness of this act is probably why the guru sthana (position) acquires this level of sanctity.

We love to lament that Indians did not document anything properly, but have we considered that this is applicable only to our more recent history and achievements, and is not true of ancient India? Equally significant is that what Indians in general have considered worth documenting is quite different from say, what the Western world might. For example, Indians have almost never documented the lives of individuals, except perhaps in the cases of the characters in our great epics! Thanks to the uninterrupted and sincere exchange of knowledge between gurus and shishyas, we have however managed to preserve many subjects in their truest forms. For example, we have preserved the Veda-s and other musical chants through the strongest possible oral traditions with not a single syllable out of place, things that need written documentation through manuscripts, and visual arts through their own appropriate methods. How did gurus manage to instill such disciplined learning habits among disciples for several hundred generations but also a zeal to preserve these bodies of knowledge intact, and take them further with their own thought and creativity? These are some of the truly marvelous and remarkable things about the guru-shishya parampara, and worth pondering over even in our times.

Despite many changes in society, the gurukula tradition managed to exist in performing arts until quite recently in a very visible manner. Thanks to part-time, institutionalized and other modern means of learning, this system of learning has almost ceased to exist in the last few decades. In the rare instance that it makes its appearance, it compels documentation as a novel experience!

How does the disappearance of this great system of learning affect our arts today? For starters, are we losing out on the knowledge base? Can a lifetime of hard acquired knowledge, intuition and experience be transmitted in a part-time learning system? Can any one student (I prefer this term for part-time learners in the modern setting) hope to learn a sizeable chunk of this knowledge with accuracy and depth? Can a guru pass on only the subject matter or also the deeply embedded values and wisdom therein? Can a guru teach a student to relish the subject and experience the beauty of its myriad dimensions? Can a guru show by example how to deal with the various challenges that one has to necessarily face in the pursuit of anything for a lifetime? Will a guru be able to establish a meaningful bond with the student such that he carries that precious part of the guru and thereby the golden link to the past with him always? Does the exchange of knowledge for money change the dynamics of the relationship from a sacred and close one to a business dealing in subtle and not-so-subtle ways? Will all this lead to the eventual erosion of the biggest pride of our civilization – our artistic and cultural heritage – within the next few decades?

As we grapple with the fast changing world, our own constantly changing lifestyles and the sudden downpour of modern technology in our midst, the ground realities become clearer – that our knowledge and heritage have to be preserved and transmitted with the clever and sensible use of modern technology. While technology can never replace a holistic and beautifully personalized system of learning like the gurukula, it can provide quick tools that prevent the complete loss of knowledge and wisdom that man-kind has acquired over millions of years.

In the transmission of artistic knowledge, we have a slew of aids today such as recording devices, printed and digital material, CDs, DVDs, web-based programs such as Skype and Facetime that enable classes, and so on. These have come to stay no matter how much one may protest or ignore them! While gurus and students must constantly remind themselves that these are merely aids and not substitutes for face-to-face learning with full attention, responsibility and reverence, it is also time to remember that without these, the scattered diaspora of Indians within India and the rest of the world will have no other way of reconnecting with the best of their roots, or successfully spreading our culture and bringing more people into the fold. How much farther will gurus and students go to make use of technology and recapture the spirit and completeness of the older method of education? Only time will tell!

Published October 3rd, 2014 by

Young musicians on Vijayadashami

As a tribute to all the great gurus in Carnatic music, we at CarnaticWorld did mini-interviews with up-and-coming musicians, for the occasion of Vijayadashami. We asked these young musicians the following three questions:

  1. What does Vijayadashami mean to you?
  2. Can you share your experiences on any special compositions you have learnt from your guru on this auspicious occasion?
  3. Tell us about your guru and his/her greatness.


JB Sruthisagar


Actually my first class with my guru, Dr. Sunder was on Vijayadashami (1999). The song I learnt was Kapali in mohanam ragam. It is still one of my favourite compositions, and mainly because of my guru’s padantharam. Vijayadashami for me is a special occasion; it’s like a day for all my gurus.

My mother has shown me the way in Gurubhakthi. My parents are my first gurus. So generally we start early morning in my house, with my parents teaching my sister Keerthana and me a new song; we then do a full-day round to get the blessings of all my gurus.

I have a lot of respect and admiration for my guru Kalaimamani Dr. Sunder. The way he channelises his time for music classes with us and then goes to his clinic for practice reminds us how time is very important. He is an ardent and strict follower of padanthara. He has a very good repertoire. So my sister and I are both always eager to learn new compositions — which may be a krithi, bhajan, abhang, varnam, padam, javali etc. My namaskarams to my Guru.

When asked about his composition in ragam Kedaram on his guru, he replies: Yes, it was composed the night before Vijayadashami. My sister and I thought of something special for him. So we thought of a song in praise of him. We started to compose in ragam kedaram (influence of MDR). In the charanam it says ‘Maniye maamaniye kalaimaamaniye, paamaalai sooti magizhnthiduvome’. That was the year he received the Kalaimamani award. So it was a nice experience to sing it in front of him the next day”.


Rajna Swaminathan

Rajna press photo - Jaimie

Vijayadashami is a chance to reflect on the fact that knowledge is a divine blessing and that we must be eternal students in life. It also entails the sense of starting a new year of practising one’s art, which leads to remembering past lessons and planning toward future goals.

My guru, Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman sir, sometimes teaches a korvai (probably spontaneously created) when my father and I call him on Vijayadashami. Then, my father (who also studied from Sivaraman sir) and I practise it together and discover how beautifully the aesthetic elements are arranged and what possible variations could be made on it.

To study directly with Sivaraman sir was a great blessing in my life, and I am lucky to have spent so much time with him, learning not only practical lessons pertinent to the art of mrudangam but also his philosophy on spirituality, the future of the art, and the artistic profession. Sivaraman sir is remarkably open-minded and visionary — he encourages me to explore my own unique path in the art form, whether collaborating with jazz musicians or accompanying dancers, particularly as I am pursuing mrudangam professionally in the US. He has always been a great resource for advice — whether about music or life in general.


Ashwath Narayanan


Vijayadashami to me is the beginning of a new musical year. Like a financial year or an academic year, if there was a musical year, it would be from Vijayadashami to Vijayadashami for me. It is a day I always look forward to because I get to learn rare compositions from my guru Smt Padma Narayanaswamy. My guru makes it a point to teach compositions that are not available easily through recordings/notations, thus making it very special and interesting for all of her students.

My guru has a belief that if we miss one Vijayadashami, we will continue to miss it for 3 consecutive years.

In 2009, I joined SASTRA University at Thanjavur to pursue by B. Tech. I could not go to Chennai that year during Dusshera as I had my mid-semester exams. Proving my guru’s belief right, during the four years of my engineering course I was never able to make to Chennai for Vijayadashami, due to unavoidable reasons. But thanks to her patience and interest in my career, she taught me on the phone for four years!

My guru, apart from being the wife of the legendary Palghat K.V. Narayanaswamy and sharing many stages with him, has also learnt from stalwarts like Musuri Subramania Iyer for many years. She is a musician par excellence; her repertoire is quite unbelievable and till date she remembers all compositions that she learnt by heart. She keeps coming up with innovative ideas — in terms of making korvais, thinking of better places to sing neraval/swaram for a kriti, etc.

Her teaching methodologies are a mix of ideas from the Musuri bani and the KVN Bani. Irrespective of the kriti and the caliber of the student, she makes no compromises whatsoever. She pays a lot of attention to voice culture, pitch perfection and pronunciation.

She considers herself to be a very responsible torchbearer of the KVN lineage and has taken it up as her life’s mission to teach whatever she has learnt over the years to as many students as possible and help them make it big in the music field.

Amrutha Venkatesh


As a kid Navarathri to me meant colourful dolls, blingy jewellery , beautifully stitched silk paavaadais, getting the thaambulam ready and giving it to my teachers who came home, starting to learn a new song every Vijayadashami and be fascinated by the way  the numerous kolu-visiting ladies would dip their fingers in sandalwood paste, turmeric paste and kumkum in different orders leading to all the colours getting mixed up, singing songs for every visitor (and the dolls, of course!) and the very special ritual of arranging the instruments and books (then it was one book for each subject, now one book for each or most of the composers!) in front of Saraswathi. I would wait for the pooja to get over so that I could take my tanpura and start practising!

Over the years the Navarathri festival has become so dear to me. As a child I would listen to the Navarathri Mandapam concert broadcasts of many legends on All India Radio and had never imagined that I would get to enter the place. When Rama Varma Sir first invited me to perform there it was such a pleasant surprise. For the past 7 years, most of my Navarathri is spent listening to concerts at this divine venue at Thiruvananthapuram and singing there too. This year Devi willing, my Veena concert is scheduled to take place there on the 30th of September.

I have had the fortune of learning from three wonderful Gurus. Each song they have taught me has a very special significance.

I started learning music from Sri M.T. Selvanarayana at the age of three and a half. He has learnt from Sri Chintalapalli Ramachandra Rao and Dr R.K. Srikantan. Selvanarayana Sir reveled in singing ragas like Harikambhoji, Shankarabharanam, Dhanyasi, Athana and Kannada. He had a vast repertoire of very rare songs.

When I was around ten years old I started learning simultaneously from Smt Charumathi Ramachandran, a torchbearer of the MLV–GNB tradition. She is probably one of the most intelligent musicians ever. She could sing the most complicated gamakas in the most difficult ragas with utmost ease. Any muktayam or pallavi or complicated tala would sound so easy when Charumathi aunty taught it.
For the past six years I have been learning from Prince Rama Varma. He is a disciple of Vechoor Sri Hariharasubramania Iyer, Sri K.S. Narayanaswamy , Veena Venkataraman  and Dr M. Balamuralikrishna. Rama Varma Sir has a very distinct style of presentation, a beautiful amalgamation of all these styles or ‘vazhis’ and his own bani. The way he communicates his musical insights and ideas are a treat to observe and learn from.

Utmost sincerity, dedication, open-mindedness, sharing their knowledge without holding back anything, patience, generosity affection — all these virtues describe each of my three Gurus.

I am thankful to have such wonderful gurus. Every class and interaction with them is a celebration of music.