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Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art with Distinguished Musicians

April 2021

An Engaging Conversation with Pt. Vikas Kashalkar at Kala Samvada

In the ‘Kala Samvada – Conversation with Art’ session on 08 April 2021, Pt. Dr. Vikas Kashalkar spoke on ‘Evolution of Khayal’. The session was hosted by Sri. Swapnil Chaphekar (Assistant Professor and Head, School of Kalayoga).

Pt. Vikas Kashalkar is an Indian classical vocalist, with training in the Gwalior, Jaipur and Agra gharanas. He has given numerous performances in various cities across India and abroad. He is a committee member of the Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Mumbai.

Pt. Kashalkar started with the forms of songs that prevailed before the Khayal such as Dhrupad, Prabandh, Jaati and Sam Gayan. He elaborated on Prabandh and how over time it transformed to Dhrupad. Pt. Kashalkar spoke about the great poet and musician Amir Khusro whose poetry has similar kavya as found in Khayal. He pointed out the similarities by singing some of Amir Khusro’s compositions. He shared tidbits pertaining to Khayal. Sultan of Jaunpur, Hussain Sharkey who made a musical form that was similar to Khayal was also discussed. The concept of improvisation in singing or the condor concept of alaap can be found in Chutkule (today known as Paheli). Niyamat Khan popularly known as Sadarang who was a Dhrupadiya and a beenkar, got influenced by the Thumri like forms and changed the Kavya of Dhrupad. Bade Mohommad Khan then added the taan to that giving rise to Khayal.

The session ended with a discussion on Mundi Dhrupad. In his inimitable style, Pt. Kashalkar kept the audience engaged throughout the lecture by interspersing the talk with songs and short stories.

Kala Samvada with Harikatha exponent and Carnatic vocalist Smt. Vishakha Hari

The guest artiste at the fourteenth session of ‘Kala Samvada – Conversation on Art’ on 22 April 2021 was the renowned Harikatha exponent and Carnatic vocalist Smt. Vishakha Hari. The topic of the session was ‘Music, Mind and Mantra – The 3 Mysteries’.

As the topic says, she led us to know how all these three mysteries are interconnected and how they influence us. She explained by giving numerous examples of ancient gurus and monks. She also referred to the lyrics from various Carnatic compositions and slokas in different ragas that convey how the mind and music along with the mantras are interconnected and how they can influence us during trying times. She especially referred to Tyagaraja kritis.

She narrated how the ‘ksheera sagara manthana’ is symbolic of our body and how our efforts can evolve spiritually within our body. In the Mahabharata, Krishna gives Arjuna direction when he is distracted and unable to concentrate on the battle at hand.  The horses represent the panchendriyas or the sense organs and the reigns represent the mind. By controlling our mind, we can control our actions. Quoting from the Bhagavad Gita, ‘maamekam sharanam vraja’, she explained how we need to surrender ourselves to a Higher force to achieve our goal.

It was an extraordinary session in which she motivated us to understand our approach in dealing with the day to day struggles of life. The session concluded with a vote of thanks. The session was moderated by Dr. Prabhavathy P. N. (Assistant Professor, School of Kalayoga). 

Reported by: Student Coordinator Sreelakshmi K. Iyer (second-year B.A. Sanskrit)

March 2021

A Divulging Conversation with Connoisseur Charumathi Ramachandran.

The 12th session of the ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ series featured speaker Kalaimamani Charumathi Ramachandran the seniormost disciple of Dr. M. L. Vasanthakumari in conversation with Dr. P. N. Prabhavathy (Assistant Professor, School of Kalayoga). ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ is a series organised by the School of Kalayoga under the OLA (Open Learning for All) initiative of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV). The 12th session by Kalaimamani Charumathi Ramachandran was a lecture-demonstration on ‘Raga Kalyani – The Empress of Ragas’.

Smt.Charumathi Ramachandran is a top grade artiste of All India Radio. She received training from Ramnad Sri. Krishnan and  D. K. Jayaraman. She has learnt Hindustani music in the Agra Gharana and performed jugalbandis with Hindustani artistes. Smt. Charumathi Ramachandran is the only musician to have written, conceived, directed, produced and also sung numerous operas and musicals.

She spoke about the Kalyani raga, a melakarta raga in Carnatic music and also known as Yaman in Hindustani Music. It is most often played at South Indian weddings and is considered a divine raga devata. She explained why the raga has the prefix ‘mecha’. In order to satisfy the KaTaPaYa-di samkhya paddhati this raga became Mechakalyani.

Graha swara (starting note) and Nyasa swaras (resting note where sacharas can be weaved) in this raga were demonstrated. Smt. Charumathi then talked about panchama varja phrases and its impact on various sancharas. She also explained the two schools of thought in the swara Nishadam, one as a plain note and the other with Gamaka. Raga Kalyani with sudha madhyamam as applied in Hindustani were also discussed. Various musical forms from Geetam, Varnams, Kritis, Padams and the approach of various composers from pre-trinity to post trinity were explained with examples. She said there are around 700 compositions set to raga Kalyani and all the styles are equally beautiful. The application of raga Kalyani in Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi and some small Koruva-s demonstrated by her engrossed the listeners.

She went on to speak about the history and the current Carnatic music tradition and how the Trinity of Carnatic music (Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri) have played a role in bringing a noticeable change in the existing Carnatic music tradition.

She conveyed that the inspiration and development of music originates from the vedas, more precisely, the Samaveda. Aspects of music lacking in other vedas can be found in the Samaveda.

Smt. Charumathi said that Kalyani has many janya ragas (derived scales) associated with it, of which Hamir Kalyani, Mohanakalyani, Saranga, Sunadavinodini and Yamuna Kalyani are very popular.

During the Q&A session with Dr. P. N. Prabhavathy, Smt. Charumathi explained about Viloma Chappu introduced by Syama Sastri. It was an enthralling experience listening to such a knowledgeable and talented person.

February 2021

Pandit Keshav Ginde at Kala Samavda

The Kala Samvada session on 25 February 2021 commenced with a prayer by Sri. Swapnil Chaphekar (Assistant Professor and Head, School of Kalayoga), who then went on to introduce the guest speaker Pandit Keshav Ginde and the moderator Pt. Amarendra Dhaneshwar.

In reply to Pt. Amarendra’s questions, one of the many things Pt. Keshav explained is that the Rigveda Veda structured music, while the Samaveda developed music. He added that the flute is the mother of music and went on to share the discovery of the flute – when ants created holes in the bamboo, and the wind blew through it, magical sound was produced. The same was noticed by someone and he started playing with the bamboo.

Pt. Amarendra sang a bandish that included the words Krishna and Murali. Pt. Keshava mentioned that Krishna is said to have played 8-9 octaves as mentioned by many poet saints.

Pt. Keshava then spoke of his invention, the Keshav Venu. The normal flute can only achieve a range of 2 - 2.5 octaves. To overcome this challenge, Pt. Keshava developed the Keshav Venu which can be played in the complete span of 3.5 (+) octaves. This provides the flautist the ability to play an additional 12 - 18 notes.

Pt. Keshava also spoke about Pt. Pannalal Gosh who hails from the sitar family and his efforts in making the Bansuri a solo performing instrument. He ended by reminiscing about his association with CNBG.  The soulful evening ended with a vote of thanks and Shanti Mantra by Sri. Swapnil Chaphekar.


January 2021

A ‘Beat-full’ Conversation with Pt. Abhijit Banerjee


The ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ session on 29 January 2021 commenced with a prayer by Shri Swapnil Chaphekar (Assistant Professor and Head, School of Kalayoga) who then went on to introduce the guest speaker Pandit Abhijeet Banerjee and the interviewer Shri Shashi Vyas. Pt. Banerjee is one of the most sought after Tabla artists in the realm of Indian classical music. He is a student of late Pt. Gyan Prakash Ghosh. Pt. Banerjee has accompanied nearly all the top-ranking stars of Hindustani classical music. As a Tabla soloist, he has left his distinct mark through numerous performances and publications in India and abroad. He has extensively toured across the world and performed in all of the major classical music festivals in India. He is a Professor and Guru at Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth’s School of Kalayoga and the Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukula respectively. Shri Shashi Vyas is a classical music impresario. He is often invited to set the pace for Kala Samvada sessions as moderator.

Speaking about the importance of Gharana nowadays, Pt. Banerjee said that one must learn from one guru for at least some years and copy our Gurus so that Gharana will be visible in the performance. He also spoke about the different specialities of Gharanas, demonstrating some styles.

Pt. Banerjee emphasised that Tabla artists should first learn vocals as it helps to know the importance of Theka and express the bol of Theka. He explained the finer nuances of an accompanying Tabla artist through examples. When accompanying a singer, he said the Tabla artist must listen keenly to understand the style of the main artist. In the case of dancers, the Tabla artist has to watch the feet of the dancers and not their face.

The session was not only interesting for all music lovers but also an insightful session for students of Tabla.


A Lilting Conversation with Veena Artist Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh

The ninth session of the ‘Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art’ series featured Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh, the world-renowned Saraswati Veena artist, in conversation with Smt. Pramodini Rao, Director, Chinmaya Naada Bindu Gurukula. Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art is a series organised by the School of Kalayoga under the OLA (Open Learning for All) initiative of Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV).

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh comes from a lineage of musicians who have been practising Carnatic music for six generations. She started playing the Saraswati Veena at the age of three. Over the years she has performed at prestigious festivals and venues in India and abroad.

Dr. Jayanthi holds a Doctorate for her work on ‘Styles and Playing Techniques of the Saraswati Veena’ and conducts workshops and lecture demonstrations around the world. She has composed and released numerous albums and also collaborated with many artists such as Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, Violin maestro Shri. R. Kumaresh, Hindustani flautist Ronu Majumdar, Carnatic musicians Aruna Sairam and Bombay Jayashree to name a few. Dr. Jayanthi is a recipient of many prestigious awards, the recent one being Bhavan's Sangeet Shikhar Samman Award bestowed by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi.

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh spoke about her musical journey as well as her personal experiences which transformed her into the artist she is today. Being a naughty child who was difficult to discipline, she was sent to her maternal aunt Smt. Padmavati Anantagopalanji's house who accepted her as a disciple and trained her for 22 years. Going by her own experience, Dr. Jayanthi stated that it is important that performing artists learn in the gurukula style because being with the Guru, serving and observing the Guru closely makes a lot of difference in the learning. Living with her Guru, she received both formal and spiritual training which made her into the person and the artist she is today. She also narrated a few memorable incidents with her Guru, one of which was how her Guru always changed the Veena string in her stead before a concert so that Dr. Jayanthi would not hurt her fingers. She expressed immense gratitude, respect and love for her Guru. She strongly believes that besides hard work and devotion to the Saraswati Veena, it is the grace and blessings of her Guru and Almighty that have made her render splendid performances.

Dr. Jayanthi holds a Doctorate for her work on ‘Styles and Playing Techniques of the Saraswati Veena’. She researched the different styles of playing the Veena, namely the Mysore, Andhra, Thanjavur and Kerala. She believes everyone does not need to learn music. However, everyone should have the ability to appreciate it going ton to say learning music can increase one's attention span.

She also mentioned how musical and spiritual training from her Guru and the Chinmaya Vidyalaya she studied in has played a role in her journey to becoming a renowned artist and the person that she is.

It was an elevating experience listening to such a humble and talented person. The session ended with a vibrant Q&A session and a closing prayer by Smt. Pramodini Rao.

Read the reports of the Kala Samvada—Conversations on Art 2020 here.

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