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Students Of Aparna Balaji At The Chennai Music Season

Jayalakshmi Shankar

If there is a festival that a music lover should not miss, then it is definitely the Chennai music festival that happens every year in December. The joy of performing as well as the joy of listening to concerts is simply inexplicable. There are many organizations that host concerts during this festival and it is indeed very prestigious to be performing and being part of it. One can just immerse deeply in the ocean of music, especially when there are so many excellent concerts happening all over the city. It's like a buffet with a huge number of delectable items and it's really hard to choose.  

What is especially noteworthy is the influx of several very young and highly talented musicians appearing on the horizon these days, not just from within India but from abroad as well. One such concert performed by students from abroad was from Students of Aparna Balaji, Boston, USA.  Aparna hails from a family of musicians. Being the granddaughter of Aacharya choodamani Shri. O.V.Subramaniam, and the daughter of Sangeetha Choodamani Shri. O.S. Thiagarajan, Aparna has been deeply rooted in carnatic music. She performs regularly and is also teaching regularly. She has established a music school under the name "Abhyaas" in Boston.  

Aparna trained four of her disciples and brought them to India with her, to perform in the Chennai music season, 2011-2012. Her students, Sachitha Ganesa, Suma Anand, Giri Anand and Aneesh Anand gave two thematic concerts at the Chennai music festival. On the 25th of Dec, they performed at the Nungambakkam Cultural Academy. The theme of the first concert was Tamil songs - Aparna had selected all pieces to be Tamil compositions. They started with a bright Sriranjani - Gajavadana Karuna sadana, a famous composition by shri. Papanasam Sivan. The rendition was neat, and had a few crips swaras at the end. This was followed by Aananda Natamaaduvar in Poorvi Kalyani. There was perfect co-ordination among the four singers, the madhyama kalam was rendered with utmost care - it was quite similar to a chariot being driven by four horses. Then came the main piece of the concert, Shankarabharanam. The raga aalapana was distributed among the singers, each one choosing an octave and sancharas that best suited them. While the slow-paced parts were delivered very smoothly, there could have been a little more light thrown on some fast paced phrases. Mahalakshmi Jagan Matha, another very famous composition by Shri. Papanasam Sivan, was rendered with utmost bhava. It had a few soothing nereval at the Charanam ' Paarkadal tharum' , and very beautifully constructed kalpana swaras. It was equally embelished by the violinist Shri. Venkateshwara Rao.  The mridangist - Shri. N.C Bharadhwaj, played zestfully with interesting patterns. The pace was followed and brought out so well that, and made sure that people did not leave during the Thani Avardhanam. Thanrangampadi Panchanadeeshaiyar's " Aarabhimanam' in ragamalika was the next piece, which was rendered interestingly. The four singers took turns in singing the swaras of the song, and it came out beautifully. Again, perfect coordination and understanding was witnessed. The singers weaved the Lalgudi Brindavani thillana with subtle phrases. Their voices blended beautifully. The concert was concluded with a Thiruppugazh in surutti-' Madiyal Viththaganagi' which was displayed in two different nadais. Smt. Aparna Balaji gave a very emotive speech at the end of the concert, recognizing and praising her fellow musicians and their students from the USA.  

The other concert was a short one, on the 26th of Dec, at the Indian Fine Arts, with a theme based on the Trinities of Carnatic music. Vathapiganapathimbhajeham by Muthuswami Deekshitar in Hamsadhwani, Appa Ramabhakthi by Sri Thiagaraja in Panthuvarali and Marivere by Shama Shastrigal in Anadabhairavi were sung with good diction and bhava.  

APARNA BALAJI :  (www.abhyaas.info)
Aparna Balaji  hails from a family of musicians. This legacy is complemented by her dedication and sincerity towards the art.Ever eager and earnest to learn, Aparna's music has been meticulously shaped by her grandfather Sangeetha Booshanam Shri. O.V Subramaniam, father Shri. Sangeetha Choodamani Shri. O.S.Thiagarajan and Shri. Neyveli R.Santhana Gopalan, who found in her a discerning student.A firm believer of giving back to the music community, Aparna has been an active performer for the past twelve years. Concerts,(Aparna Performs in the Chennai music season every December and has won many awards) playback tracks and music albums featuring Aparna bear testimony to this. She was  recognized for her musical talent and her services and was awarded by Lokvani. She was recently interviewed to share her musical journey as a carreer and a service on Jaya TV.

SACHITHA GANESA  is an honors student who is a junior at Shrewsbury High School.  She currently learns Carnatic Vocal under the tutelage of Smt. Aparna Balaji and Veena from Smt. Durga Krishnan.  Sachita performed at the Tridevi Samarpanam, a fund raiser for the Hindu Mission Hospital in Trichy, India.  Besides learning Carnatic music, Sachita is an active participant in Western Music at the district and state level which won the gold medal at the Staten Island Music Festival in New York.  She also holds a black belt in Taekwondo.

SUMA ANAND has been learning Carnatic music for the past six years and hopes to evolve further in this art. She is also a student of the Triveni School of Dance, directed by the illustrious Neena Gulati, for the past six years. She is a junior in Winsor School, Boston. Over the past two years, she has given several music and dance group performances in the Greater Boston area. Her hobbies include writing, singing and reading. She is a regular contributor to Lokvani, the New England online publication. She hopes to be a doctor.

GIRIDHAR ANAND has been learning Carnatic music for the past six years. Giri is a junior at Newton North High School, Massachusetts. His passions include playing tennis and the key-board. He has won several awards in state-wide Math and Science competitions. He plans to
become a Scientist.

ANEESH ANAND has been studying Carnatic music for the past six years. He is a junior at Newton North High School, Massachusetts. His interests include debate and tennis. He has participated in several debate tournaments at the district and state level.

(Jayalakshmi Shankar is based in Chennai. )

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