This concert is part of a commemorative series of concerts and other events running year long in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society.
They are both considered doyens of Indian classical music, vocal giants who started out as child prodigies and have since received a multitude of honours, awards, performance invitations and acclaim from critics, peers and music lovers alike. They are South Indian carnatic vocalist Dr M Balamuralikrishna and North Indian hindustani vocalist Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty, and the two will take centrestage together for their first jugalbandhi concert in Singapore for Kalaa Utsavam 2009.
A Star Jugalbandhi
Amidst the many jugalbandhi concerts in India which feature highly esteemed artists in carnatic-hindustani pairings, one of the most eagerly-awaited is that which brings the respected Dr M Balamuralikrishna and Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty together in confluence.
SThis dynamic musical exchange between the two acclaimed vocalists – one singing in the South Indian carnatic tradition, the other in the North Indian hindustani style - while backed by accompanying musicians, is not their first together. Their previous jugalbandhi concerts received glowing reviews such as this by Carnatic.com:
“… three hours of bliss, mutual respect between the artistes, breathtaking voice control, subdued and subtle competition, the finest aesthetics and all-round magic… The very heavens must have reverberated with the thundering voices of the twain that blessed us with their magic.”
Jugalbandhi - “Oneness” Through Two Styles
Commonly, afficionados of each genre of music – hindustani and carnatic – listen mainly to their preferred genre, and often, comparisons between the two styles focus on their differences. However, while the two maestros will be performing two different styles of Indian classical music, they emphasise that the concert will in fact highlight the qualities that both styles have in common.
Swar Sangam (“musical confluence” in Hindi) will, as its name suggests, give a sense of a confluence of the two styles, focusing on their uniformity of tradition, and their commonality in their messages of peace, harmony and serenity. The artists liken their converging “indivisibility to the waters of the Ganga or Yamuna rivers. It is a unified sound that brings across the oneness” of the Indian Raga system. As Dr M Balamuralikrishna says in a 2006 interview with The Hindu, “both of us believe that we don't sing carnatic or hindustani music. We sing Indian music, together”.
In this concert, Dr M Balamuralikrishna will be accompanied by accomplished musicians Kotandapani Sivaraman (violin) and T. R. Sundaresan (mridangam) while Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty will be accompanied by the equally skilled Samar Saha (table) and Brajeswar Mukherjee (harmonium).
“To be born with music in his heart, to hold a recital at the tender age of only five, to be at once a master in many instruments apart from his unfailing purity of voice, taal and raag: these are indeed preciously rare in one single person unless he is a genius... Dr Balamuralikrishna is one such person.” - Swami Paramahamsa Chinmayananda
“Untold hours and years of devoted discipline and practice...plus a God-given gift of musicianship...
this is what is behind Ajoy Chakrabarty’s voice and musical ability.” - The Hindu
Carnatic Vocals: Dr M. Balamuralikrishna
Vocals: Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty
Tabla: Samar Saha
Harmonium: Brajeswar Mukherjee
Violin: Kotandapani Sivaraman
Mridangam: T. R. Sundaresan
Born to well-known musician parents and named Murali Krishna at birth, Dr M. Balamuralikrishna was given the prefix “Bala” by Musunuri Suryanarayana Murty Bhagavatar, a distinguished Harikatha performer. A child prodigy, Balamuralikrishna started performing vocal concerts from the age of five and soon mastered a variety of instruments including the violin, viola, khanjira, veena and mridangam. At 14 years old, he composed Raganga-Ravali, a detailed work on the 72 melakarta scheme, and, by 16, had mastered all the 72 melakarta ragas and composed kritis in all of them.
Poet, composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and musicologist, Balamuralikrishna has given more than 26,000 performances internationally in countries such as the USA, Canada, UK, Italy, France, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East. He sings in Telugu, his native tongue, as well as in Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Bengali, French and other languages. Besides Carnatic music concerts, he has also performed other Jugalbandhi with other top Hindustani musicians such as Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Kishori Amonkar. He has also appeared as soloist with an award-winning British choir, performing the Gitanjali Suite with words from Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize-winning poetry and music by UK-based Goan composer, Dr. Joel. He has even ventured into jazz fusion, collaborating with top Carnatic percussion teacher, Sri T.H. Subash Chandran, in a concert for Malaysian royalty.
Balamuralikrishna has won the All India Radio's Top Grade for seven different performance areas and is the only musician ever to win national awards in India for classical music, music direction and film playback singing. Recently, he established the MBK Trust to develop art and culture and conduct research into music therapy.
Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty (vocals)
One of India’s finest Hindustani classical vocalists today and the foremost exponent of the Patiala Gharana tradition of vocal music in the lineage of the great Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty is well-versed in classical, light-classical and modern vocal music. As a child, he showed extraordinary promise in vocal music and, at the tender age of three, began taking lessons from his father Ajit Chakrabarty. He then learnt from Pannalal Samanta and Kanai Das Bairagi and later became a student of Padma Bhushan Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh. In 1969, his training took a decisive turn as he became a disciple of Munawar Ali Khan, son of the legendary maestro of the Patiala-Kasur gharana (school), Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
Since then, Ajoy Chakrabarty’s imagination and sensitivity to lyrics, coupled with his uncanny sense of rhythm, has made him the authentic exponent and leading representative of the famous Patiala gaikee (style of singing).
Samar Saha (tabla)
For years now, Samar Saha has been widely known for his dexterous tabla playing and fine musicianship. With his mature sense of accompaniment, he contributes immensely to any raag sangeet performance and is a boon to every vocalist or instrumentalist. Born in Kolkata, he was initially trained by his father, Sudhangshu Bhusan Saha and his elder brother, Tarak Saha. Later, he received extensive talim from Satchidananda Goswami and from Krishna Kumar Ganguly (Natu Babu) of the Benaras gharana. A much sought-after artist, he has played with some of the greatest stalwarts of Hindustani music and has participated in all the prestigious music festivals in India and overseas. He has been a faculty member of ITC Sangeet Research Academy almost since its inception.
Brajeswar Mukherjee (harmonium)
Brajeswar was born to a musical family of Bardhaman, an old township in West Bengal, India. His early grooming was initiated by his parents, Shri Bankim Mukherjee and Smt Shankari Mukherjee, and two other vocal musicians of the locality – Shri Hara Kumar Chatterjee and Shri Asit Roy. Later on, he became a student of ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata in 1996 for a short spell. Finally he dedicated himself to music as a disciple of Ajoy Chakrabarty.
Kotandapani Sivaraman (violin)
A disciple of carnatic violin maestro Sangeetha Kalanidhi T N Krishnan, Sivaraman has accompanied leading performing artists such as Sangeetha Kalanidhi Dr M L Vasanthakumari, T N Seshagopalan, T V Sangkaranarayanan, Mandolin Srinivas, Dr.Balamuralikrishna, Sudha Ragunathan and others in India and abroad. Having obtained the Sangeetha Vidwan title in Violin from Central College of Carnatic Music, Chennai, he has tutored many students in violin in India and abroad, making a name for himself as a teacher, soloist and accompanying artiste. Sivaraman is a violin tutor at SIFAS.
T. R. Sundaresan (mridangam)
Sunderesan had his initial training under his father T.V. Rangarajan and later under maestro Dr. Yella Venkateswara Rao. He has a Diploma in mridangam and is an A Grade artist with All-India-Radio, Chennai. He lectured at Kalakshetra, College of Fine Arts, Chennai for 18 years and has accompanied many music stalwarts in India and around the world. He is the co-author of Eloquent Percussion - A Guide to South Indian Rhythm. He joined the SIFAS Academy as an mridangam tutor in January 2004.
Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society
The Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS), founded in 1949, champions the cause of Indian music and dance in Singapore as both educator and the organiser of performances as well as its annual SIFAS festival of Indian music and dance. With 22 full-time teachers and over 1,500 students, SIFAS is the leading institution in Indian Fine Arts in Singapore.