Music Academy, Chennai, one of the Premier Institutions for Music and Dance in India, did itself proud by incrementing its credentials. The already existing listening archives were augmented with a video section of classical dance and related lecture demonstration programmes. The ribbon for this event was cut last Friday.

Inaugurating the archives, Prof. C.V. Chandrasekhar, himself a dancer of immense repute, thanked R.T. Chari of the TAG group of Companies, for forming the ‘TAG Digital Listening and Viewing Archives.’ Chari had taken a major decision as he had decided to set this up at the most appropriate place, viz. The Music Academy, where it will be preserved with care but never get misused. Continuing his address, he also talked of another concern of his, where artists tend to become possessive of their gurus, their gharanas and their banis. It is enough if we remain true to ourselves and to art; as teachers we want to give back to the future generation, as we cannot think of taking anything along with us. His crowning statement was: “We take so much from life, but how much do we give back to it”. He made an impassioned plea to one and all to come forward and donate works of art to this Archives and thus foster the concept of sharing.

The audience that had assembled in large numbers were shown glimpses from the live archives. Performances by Chitra Visveswaran, Padma Subrahmanyam and a lecture demonstration by Sudharani Raghupathi were on display. Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao, secretary, The Music Academy, who conducted the proceedings, demonstrated the methods involved in accessing these archived material (certain selected samples were shown) and also simultaneously told how well the data had been organised in a robust manner by the help of a software that was user-friendly. He requested Murali, president, The Music Academy, to honour Karthik, formerly a student of the Academy who became eventually a technical hi-fi man. Karthik had made this Archives come alive by bestowing his technical expertise in executing the task given to him with exemplary alacrity.

Mr. Chari explained to the audience the complexities involved in the conversion processes, especially those belonging to the old era. TAG Group had been the main sponsor in enabling the Music Academy in setting up this archives. “The visual part has been done in record time,” he said, and appreciated the commitment and perseverance shown by the groups involved.

Dream project

N. Murali, who spoke next, thanked R.T. Chari for his continuing generosity. “Chari had just made an announcement that he would maintain the Archives for five more years” said Murali, with a deep sense of gratitude. For Murali it was a memorable day when a totally different dimension is being given to the digital archives and recalled how Chari had been instrumental in setting up “listening archives” a few years ago. Murali further added that at this juncture he could never forget the initial contributions made towards the realisation of this dream-project. These contributions had come from dancer Sudharani Raghupathi and R. Krishnaswami of Narada Gana Sabha. He went on to add that “Archival material has both historical and educational value, since ours is an oral tradition.” He reminded that there was the challenge and a dilemma that technology was now posing to each one of us and repeatedly talked of the copyright issue, as geography and distance have been rendered meaningless in today’s world. He emphatically stated that whatever was available was certainly worth sharing. Hence, this Archives, sooner or later, will have to be made online and at that time, balancing the rights of an artist will have to become a concomitant factor in any exercise. Will the artist get what is due to him? It would also be proper to think of a network of organisations with such huge art-data. The Academy, aims to reach 20,000 hours of music and dance and this critical mass will have to be achieved soon.

For Leela Samson, chairperson, Sangeet Natak Akademi, this was a very momentous occasion where dancers had a reason to rejoice. She pointedly focused on the numerous problems attached to the lending of recordings, when it had to be done at the Government level (Sangeeta Natak Akademi, for instance.) “Even sishyas stake their claim to the works of their Parama Gurus and all this is beyond the sorting power of legal minds.” Another question she raised was whether artists would like their on-stage performances to be preserved or would prefer to archive their in-studio performances. Then she turned her attention to the “many many children” who would never get to the music or dance archives, and enjoy, say a dance recital of Padma Akka. In this our premise should be, “Art is not your prerogative alone, but is the prerogative of all”. There was much to do from the Government side and the present available infrastructure was woefully inadequate to make proper preservation possible. Art has to be taken to the children studying in the basic Corporation Schools and that would become a possibility if we make shorter capsules of these large performances. She also wanted scanned pictures of stalwarts to be lodged into these archives.

The former Chief Election Commissioner and vice-president of the Academy, N. Gopalaswami, proposed a vote of thanks. He said that this function was blessed by the presence of Chandrasekar and Leela Samson. He specifically thanked Sujatha Vijayaraghavan for voluntarily donating to the Academy, all her art-possessions.

The launch was followed by a lively presentation that was based on Annamacharya’s compositions by Anitha Guha and her disciples. As is her wont, this Bharatanatyam exponent, who is always at ease with children, put on stage a thrilling performance. She appeared once to explain the kritis of this prolific composer and paid her pranams to him. The cynosure of the event - each one was a gem in its own right - according to this rasika, was the postures adopted for the song, ‘Muddu Gare Yashodha.’ The stage was a spectacle where a multitude of Krishnas walked hither and thither, but in order, attired in spotless white – angels of virtue! They were able to take away all your attention. Indeed it was a riveting, spellbinding and absorbing experience!