Every second Saturday, Thanjavur Amma Veedu comes alive with music and dance programmes organised by Sangeeta Gurukulam.
Like an old musical instrument that has been dusted and tuned to render fresh melodies, Thanjavur Amma Veedu's hoary walls now reverberate with notes from musical events called ‘Sangeetha Satsangam', held every second Saturday on its premises.
Organised by Sangeeta Gurukulam, spearheaded by Ajit Namboothiri, there couldn't have been a better choice of a venue – a heritage building that has been built and immortalised in the name of music and dance.
Thanjavur Amma Veedu might be a name familiar to many, but perhaps not many might know about its actual existence or location. Tucked away in the West Fort area of the city and now functioning as Mitraniketan's city centre, this ancient building was said to have been constructed by Maharaja Swati Tirunal for his consort, Sundara Lakshmi, a talented dancer from Thanjavur. With a fairy tale aura about it, it's thrilling to imagine that this very space would have seen Swati kritis being composed, the Thanjavur quartet creating magic melodies, and Sundara Lakshmi dancing to lively rhythm!
The ambition to start a musical gathering was born out of the overwhelming response to a Facebook community called ‘Naadavidyalayam' (an off-shoot of Sangeetha Gurukulam) started by Ajit Namboothiri. Ajit, a trained musician, researcher and musicologist, is a familiar presence on television as producer, anchor and creator of music-based shows such as Sruthilayam, Lasyam and Raga Ratnam on Amrita TV. Yet, he describes himself as “first and foremost a music enthusiast”, which undoubtedly is the moving spirit behind the initiative.
‘Sangeetha Satsangam' revolves around thematically presented musical events, each theme exploring a new facet in the spectrum of music. What is special about the get-togethers is the informal and intimate air. The audience, as envisaged, comes from all walks – from seasoned singers to plain listeners who can't hum a tune – all bound by the love for pure music.
Each evening's programme (entry is free) is divided into five sections – ‘Abhyasanam' (learning), ‘Abhyasam' (practice or sadhana), ‘Anubhavam' (experience of listening), ‘Sahabhojanam' (light refreshments) and ‘Anusandhanam' (follow-up discussions).
Host of themes
Within just over six months of its existence, the satsangam which began with a concert by octogenarian Parassala Ponnammal at Tamil Sangam Hall, has hosted varied thematic presentations by senior gurus. For example, Chertala K.N. Ranganatha Sharma's concert concentrated on melakartha ragas, while Trichy Ganesh turned the spotlight on brilliant compositions of lesser-known vageeyakkaras. The veena concert by Anantapadmanabhan was based on Hindustani ragas used in Carnatic music and Hindustani vocalist Abhradita Banerji demonstrated how Rabindra Sangeeth was an amalgam of pure classical and folk music.
“It is a very special experience and even people who cannot sing will be inspired to do so,” says T.K. Manilal from Chertala, an amateur singer and a regular at the events. Garnering strength from the experience, this regional manager of a surgical company is now all geared up for his arangetam at a local temple. Anil Kumar, an associate professor in the Paediatrics wing at Ayurveda College, had been contemplating on stress-management, the growing love for music among the common man in Kerala, and the possibilities of using pure classical music to better effect for the purpose. “I am a totally committed participant and supporter of this initiative,” he says.
“The rapport between the performer and the audience and the positive interactions with relevant questions make it a very different experience indeed. I truly enjoyed the air of intimacy, which made it a one- of-its-kind performance for me,” says veteran veena artiste Anantapadmanabhan. His son Anand Kaushik, a software engineer and an up-and-coming musician and veena artiste, is also a Sangeetha Satsangam enthusiast.
In April, Naadavidyalayam organised a journey to Thanjavur to visit the Samadhi of saint-composer Tyagaraja at Thiruvaiyaru and to pay homage with a sangeetha aradhana. Kamal, a rasika who is a policeman from Neyyatinkara, made the journey and is all praise for the venture.
Fuelled by enthusiasm of rasikas, Naadavidyalayam moves on to another venture – ‘Kalasamskruthi', a space for Kerala's performing arts, in association with Mitraniketan. It opened with a Nangiarkoothu series on Sree Krishnacharitam by Kalamandalam Sindhu, held every second Sunday.