Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Sunday said there was a palpable desire among Indians around the world to stay rooted to their culture and, in Singapore, there was a thriving Indian classical arts scene, though Indians made up a small minority of the population.
Inaugurating the 93rd Annual Conference and Concerts of the Music Academy in Chennai, Mr. Iswaran, who is also in charge of Trade Relations, said there were increasing numbers of non-Indians learning instruments of the south Indian Carnatic music tradition.
He honoured S. Sowmya, the Sangita Kalanidhi awardee of this year, released the souvenir of the Academy, and the revised syllabus for the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS), prepared by the faculty of the Advanced School of Carnatic Music of the Academy.
Ms. Sowmya, who has been elected president of the conference, also received the M.S. Subbulakshmi Award and a cash prize instituted by The Hindu.
“I believe the Music Academy is in a unique position to propagate Carnatic music and dance traditions to the global Indian diaspora,” he said while recalling the many decades-old partnership between the Music Academy and SIFAS.
Mr. Iswaran, whose parents were Carnatic music enthusiasts, proposed that the Music Academy collaborate with SIFAS on the creation of a digital platform for the appreciation, teaching and learning of Carnatic music.
“You can leverage the Academy’s rich archives, which I understand have already been digitalised for this purpose. One could also envisage digital curriculum and classes, conducted in tandem with personal lessons with gurus and complemented by video-streamed master classes,” he pointed out.
Mr. Iswaran said it would be a timely initiative to bring Carnatic traditions into the digital age in the lead-up to the Academy’s 100th anniversary.
The Music Academy’s president N. Murali said the music festival had evolved over nine decades into something iconic, and as one of the largest classical music and dance festivals anywhere in the world.
“The festival is equally renowned for its quality, aesthetics and classical tradition. The Music Academy, a heritage institution of nine decades, has played a truly pioneering role in founding this great festival,” he said.
Ms. Sowmya recalled the days when she attended concerts and discussions in the Academy, and subsequent interactions with musicians such Sanjay Subramanian and Sriram Kumar, who also attended the concerts with her. “The impact was so much that even after the festival was over, I would take the bus [number] 29C to just pay a visit to the Academy,” she said.
Making a strong case for attending concerts without “agenda and pre-judgment”, Ms. Sowmya said that if some concerts were not up to the expectations on a particular day, circumstances could have played a role.
She also called upon musicians to include a lot of padams, javalis, songs from Thevaram and Divyaprabandam, and ragas like Huseini, Paras, Nayagi and Narayanagowla to explain the sheer variety of Carnatic ragas.
She also mentioned mridhangam maestro Palghat Mani Iyer’s advice to her, “Don’t get carried away by applause.”
Mridhangam maestro Umayalpuram Sivaraman and vocalist Sudha Raghunathan participated.