Friday, March 24, 2017


                                            Courtesy of University School of Music

The School of Music presents a concert of Karnatak South Indian classical music and Bharatanatyam classical dance on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus as part of the Masala World Music Series. The concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. March 24, in Sharp Concert Hall of the Catlett Music Center and features two regional artists, Lavanya Raghuraman, of Stillwater, OK and Poovalur Sriji from Denton, TX.


An educational workshop is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 24, and is open to the public with complimentary admission. Both artists are quite articulate about their music and dance and able to connect meaningfully with audiences.


Karnatak Music features vocalist Raghuraman accompanied by Sriji on the mrdangam barrel drum. The duo will play classic compositions from the 18th to 20th century repertoire of karnatak classical music of South India.


Karnatak music features melodic modes called raga and rhythmic cycles called tala. Performance of songs in the genres of kriti and varnam praise the array of Brahminical Hindu deities such as Vishnu, Genesh and Saraswathi. The lyrics of the pieces in the languages of Sanskrit, Telugu, and Tamil are introduced and followed by forms of melodic and rhythmic improvisation. These include alapana, free metered exposition of the raga mode, niraval, expansive improvisation on a line of text, svara kalpana, improvisation on melodic pitch names (sa ri ga ma pa da ni) and finally tani avartanam, drum solo. Some of the pieces will only include a short alapana exposition of the raga, while the third piece will include multiple forms of improvisation.


Bharatanatyam Dance is the world renowned classical dance of South India. Once called nautch or sadir, its control and repertoire shifted in the mid-20th century from the matrilineal hereditary dance families of Devadasis, such as those of the renowned Tanjavur Balasaraswati (1918-1984) family, who performed in palaces and temples, to the middle class Madras Brahmin community led by Rukmani Devi Arundale (1904-1986).


Devi established the Kalakshetra School reviving the dance with the repertoire focused on the deity Nataraj, a more masculine or athletic style with extensive use of jathiswaram (pure dance without emotion), and calling it bharatanatyam (literally India’s dance). Balasaraswati’s descendants continue to perform their family repertoire focused on Krishna, using the erotic sringara rasa or mood, and deep expressions of bhava and abhinaya (expressive storytelling using hand and face gestures). While, many other Devadasis either stopped dancing or became singers or instrumentalists, such as the famous M.S. Subbulakshmi.


Raghuraman, performs the vocal and dance and is the founder-director of Alapana Arts, a music and dance institution based in Oklahoma. She is a leading disciple of the esteemed Dhananjayans and trained in the 'kalakshetra' style of Bharatanatyam. She is granddaughter of Sangita Kalanidhi Dr. S. Ramanathan and trained in karnatak music by her mother, Guru Smt. R. Banumathy. A gifted individual with multi-faceted talents, she is an accomplished bharatanatyam dancer, karnatak music vocalist and violinist rolled into one. A critic writing for The Hindu newspaper describes Lavanya as “a graceful and competent dancer with clear footwork.”  Lavanya’s performances at prestigious cultural venues and festivals in Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, and the USA have received wide acclaim and laudable reviews in The Hindu.  She is the recipient of the title of “Natya Chudar” from Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai, as well as “Natya Visharad” from SIFAS, Singapore. Following her formal Arangetram, Lavanya’s solo performances had their beginnings at The Natyanjali Festival, Chidambaram and she has performed regularly at the Chennai Music and Dance Festival for over a decade. As a choreographer, her thematic productions on unique themes such as “Nagareshu Kaanchi,” “Alchemy of Opposites,” and “Neythal” at Esplanade, Singapore, have been internationally acclaimed and presented to sold-out audiences. Lavanya recently completed a Singapore-India-USA tour of her latest production ‘Retracting the Path – Margam’ which premiered at Kalakshetra, Chennai among other prestigious global venues. Through lecture demonstrations, master classes, workshops and seminars at institutes of higher education including the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore, University of Central Oklahoma, and University of Oklahoma, Lavanya shares her thoughts on karnatak music and bharatanatyam and their propagation in the purest form. She is also a graduate of The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University and is currently based in Stillwater, Oklahoma with her husband, Dr. Balaji Jayaraman.


Sriji, performs on the Mrdangam drum and is a prolific composer, performer, educator, and 'A' top grade artist recognized by All India Radio. He studied South Indian classical karnatak music from his father P.A. Venkataraman. For over four decades Sriji has performed with the leading artist of both South and North Indian classical traditions. Since his move to the United States in the 1980s, he has performed and recorded with artists such as Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Bela Fleck, Mark O’ Connor, John Bergamo, and Glen Velez to name a few. Sriji has received several awards from leading institutions, and the album Tabula Rasa, for which he composed and performed with Bela Fleck, V. M. Bhatt and J.P. Chen, was nominated for a Grammy. He has composed many pieces portraying the South Indian idioms and is the founding member of the world fusion group 'Brahmah'. He also founded and directed the 'SNEW' and the 'South Indian Cross Cultural Ensemble’, the first such world music ensembles in United States. He is currently a faculty member at the University of North Texas, where he conducts “the bridge” ensemble. He has also taught at CalArts and San Diego State University.


Tickets for the Karnatak South Indian classical music and Bharatanatyam classical dance concert may be purchased in advance for best prices by phone at (405) 325-4101, or in person through the OU Fine Arts Box Office, located in the Catlett Music Center, 500 W. Boyd St., Norman.

Courtesy of OU School of Music

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