The curtains go up today on the 7 edition of the Yagnaraman Festival

The stage is set. But differently. As curtains go up today on the 7th edition of the Yagnaraman Festival at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, artists of diverse hues will tread the borderline of multiple genres to arrive at the meeting ground of musical styles.

A revered platform for classical arts, the sabha has been expanding its annual itinerary to accommodate varied art forms from across the country and abroad. “We owe it all to our visionary-founder and my father Yagnaraman, who realised early-on the need to bring together regional art forms,” says the current secretary of the sabha, Y. Prabhu. “In 1961 he conducted a five-day Kathakali festival to help rasikas get a peek at the dance form. I remember watching the artists, who had been put up at a kalyana mandapam, getting into their elaborate costumes and applying intricate make-up from morning for an evening performance. Then there were also the doyens of Manipuri and Odissi who were invited regularly to perform. Of course, the king Khans of Hindustani music such as Amir Khan and Vilayat Khan had a huge following too. The Yagnaraman festival is a way to take his vision forward and celebrate an open-minded approach to art.”

Prabhu aims to make this heterogeneous fest a gateway to draw in young listeners and artists. In the recent years, such cultural fiestas in the city have begun to signify freedom, unique sonic juxtapositions and imaginative ways of presentation.

“These cross-over performances are as exciting as they are challenging,” says violinist Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, who will present Pancha Bhootham featuring N. Anantha Narayanan (veena), B. Vijayagopal (flute), P.S. Ramachandran (western string-violin), K. Sashikumar (viola), B.S. Srinivas (cello), G. Ravishankar (keyboard), V. Sai Raghavan (mridangam) and S. G. Pramath Kiran (morsing and creative percussion). Collaborative exercises, says Vijayalakshmi, take you beyond the proven repertoire and skim the surface of the art form. “For instance, through Pancha Bhootham that captures the colours of Nature, I will explore the nuances of the ragas and verses penned by me.”

Such festivals are the way forward, says Kuchipudi artist Shama Krishna who will share the stage with Bharatanatyam dancer Anuradha Vikranth for ‘Nritya Milana.’ “I am always looking forward to opportunities that help me connect with other artists and facilitate an exchange of creative ideas. Experimentation is not a 21 Century phenomenon. Our masters have discovered and rediscovered many facets to add to the grandeur of our ancient art forms.”

Delhi-based Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghuraman, like her uncle O.S. Arun, has a flair for Hindustani, sufi and ghazal. She will present ‘Voices’, a synthesis of dance and music. She says, “Yes, the interactive format is definitely interesting but what is more important is presenting it at a sabha that has been an intrinsic part of the city’s cultural landscape. Imagine the variety it helps you put together — there’s a tarana, there are verses from well-known Hindi poet Jaishankar Prasad’s epic work ‘Kamayani’ and pieces in Persian (Amir Khusrau) and Tamil (Pramila Venkateswaran) besides the jatis and korvais of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam.”

According to folk artist P.S. Muthukrishnan, any language needs interpreters, so does art and when it is done in an intelligent blend, the impact is many times over. He along and his troupe from Pudukottai will present folk theatre infused with an urban flavour. “One needs to re-orient one’s art according to the performance setting. Though the folk elements will be intact in my presentation, it will be conveyed through well-put-together classical compositions.”

The spirit of such festivals is its diversity. Some may take to it instantly, some may not, but they are the talking point of the current cultural scenario.

The Yagnaraman Festival will be held from Friday till July 6, 2014. For details call 28140806 or email krishnaganasabha @gmail.com