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Updated: July 10, 2014 19:21 IST

Major U.S. grant for Kiranavali

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The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Philadelphia, has selected Carnatic musician, Kiranavali Vidyasankar, to receive a major grant for 2014-15. Kiranavali, who has been living in the greater Philadelphia region since 2006, is a torchbearer of two musical lineages. In addition to the family legacy of Gottuvadyam Narayana Iyengar, transmitted through her father, Chitravina Narasimhan, and elder brother, Chitravina Ravikiran, she has inherited the repertoire and style of the late T. Brinda. Over the years, she has performed for various organisations in India, the U.S., Canada and Europe, while also teaching numerous students in many cities of the U.S.

The Pew Center, established in 2005, provides funding for a wide range of cultural activities through project grants, fellowships and advancement grants. Kiranavali's project was picked by the Pew Center for its 2014 funding cycle, following a stringent process of application and review, and a lot of detailed planning even at the proposal stage. Kiranavali says, “Although I am aware of several grants being awarded in this country for fine arts, I hadn't ventured into the world of grant-writing until now. It has been a great learning experience for the sharp focus and professionalism that it brought to one's thinking. I was very impressed by the transparency in the whole process, and especially the neutral manner in which the Pew staff helped all applicants to put together strong proposals, which were then evaluated by an independent panel.”

The theme

Kiranavali’s newly envisioned two-part project will be presented in 2015 at The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia by Sruti, an organisation based in the Greater Delaware Valley. It will bring forward a pure Carnatic music programme to a heterogeneous American audience, besides a new Carnatic vocal-instrumental ensemble featuring professionals from the United States.

Kiranavali says, “Very few attempts have been made to tap the huge knowledge base, resources, talent and experience of the musicians already living in this country and engage them in any meaningful musical ventures or discussions. It has been on my mind to make this happen. I am elated that through this grant, I will now be able to bring us all together for the first time on the same platform. I am also happy to present to the American audience the eclectic mix of traditional Indian instruments such as the chitravina and mridangam, and western instruments adapted to Carnatic music such as the violin and electronic synthesizer. This basic idea of this project is to explore the evolution of our ancient art form in a new land and the challenges of maintaining its intrinsic integrity, while finding innovative ways to communicate it to an international audience.”

The grant award has come at a time when Carnatic music is witnessing a big boom in the United States, owing to the tireless efforts of passionate musicians, gurus and other individuals and organizations. Kiranavali says, “When I moved here a dozen years ago as a full-time Carnatic musician, there was so much unexplored potential and very few opportunities to match it. One practically had to make one's own path. Over time, the scenario has changed dramatically. Today this country is one of the most vibrant hubs for Indian arts and culture, and I feel it is the perfect time for musicians like me to showcase the best of our traditions and individual artistic vision.”

This is the first year that the Pew Center has decided to award a project grant to an individual musician, and it is a matter of justifiable pride that it is a Carnatic music project that has been recognised for this distinction.

The 2014 Pew grantees include a diverse set of recipients, ranging from organisations such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania at one end and individual artists like Kiranavali at the other end.

Through this grant, Carnatic music will emerge as a strong voice that participates in this process and impacts public life in meaningful ways.

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