Treasure house of books, rich archive of rare photographs, repository of precious documentaries and recorded music — Sampradaya is all these and much more.

Started three decades ago on a modest scale with the intention of documenting interviews and concerts, the organisation, under the baton of Geetha Rajagopal, has been silently doing yeoman service to Carnatic music. Behind the silence are active minds relentlessly working to make Sampradaya not only relevant but vibrant. What Savithri Rajan, vainika, Ludwig Pesch and Michael Nixon envisaged is being realised, slowly but surely.

After a two-year hibernation, the organisation has woken up, determined to play its role. “It was a one-stop listening point, and location in Mylapore made it accessible. But the rent was exorbitant. This was when Leela Samson, Kalakshetra Director, stepped in to solve the problem. She got the sanction to house Sampradaya in Kalakshetra, in what used to be the office of Rukmini Devi Arundale,” acknowledges T.M. Krishna, who has taken over as president of the organisation.

The setting is idyllic. But is it not far away from the city? “Yes, but the concept of a music lover travelling to listen to records of his favourite doesn’t make sense in this hi-tech age when people are hard pressed for time,” answers Krishna.

“The first step is to digitise all the records we have, so that they reach music lovers across the globe. What’s the point in having so much and not give it?” says Krishna. Sri Shanmukhananda Sabha of Mumbai is helping Sampradaya with the uphill task. The plan is to digitise books too with content capsules.

Worth the effort

“Tough, yes, but it is worth it,” says Geetha Rajagopal, director, whose ambition is to streamline Sampradaya as a mammoth reference point. “There is enough material for a student to work on a doctorate. Some of the books here are rare, even a century old and out of print.” And she passes a few photographs of stalwarts and the workshops they conducted.

“MLV’s interview is something special,” Geetha mentions. “Her all round knowledge, humility and sense of humour are unbelievable. Mani Krishnaswamy was a riot. Spent three days with us, tirelessly coming up with anecdotes and observations. Semmangudi didn’t like his flow interrupted. ‘Don’t ask questions. I’ll do the talking.’ You know there is a letter GNB wrote to Sattur Subramaniam, affectionate and caring... and there is Veena Dhanammal.”

Among the photographs are those of Tamil plays, one of them being “Pavalakodi.” People drop in at regular intervals with their collections — tapes and spools along with the machine. “There are enough such models to make a museum,” laughs Geetha. “There was this gentleman who came with the taped speeches of Hitler and Mussolini.”

“There is a lot that can be done with young people,” chimes in Aruna Ranganathan, treasurer. “Schools can ask students to do projects using the resource here. After all, Carnatic music is not all singing or stage performance. It is part of our culture and heritage and what can be more appropriate than initiating children into the tradition?”

As such Sampradaya is helping Kalakshetra with the syllabus.

“With the passing away of a senior musician, a whole era ends. Only a few are left. Without losing time we should record their views and impressions for posterity,” says Krishna, and Geetha echoes his sentiment. In keeping with this, the committee has planned ‘Samvadha’ (dialogue) featuring a stalwart in conversation with another musician. The curtain goes up this evening with R.K. Srikantan taking centre stage. In conversation with him will be N. Ravikiran, at the Music Academy, 6.30 p.m. N. Murali, president, the Music Academy, and Leela Samson will inaugurate the series. To be featured next are T.K. Murthy-Palghat Rajamani and Kalpagam Swaminathan-S. Sowmya.

What about the workshops for which Sampradaya was well-known? “Yes. That will be revived too. Also we plan to organise lecture-demonstrations in music and dance and an exclusive folk arts festival,” says the team. All these will require funds for which the organisation has approached individuals and corporate houses. “We have a goal and are working towards that. The art of the past and the present should be preserved for the future. Dearth of funds is not going to deter us. Our commitment will find us patrons,” says the team in one voice, exuding confidence.

The core group

The governing body of Sampradãya:

T.M. Krishna - President

B. Suresh Kumar-Secretary

Aruna Ranganathan-Treasurer

M.A. Bhageerathy-Committee Member

V. Tyagarajan-Committee Member

Padma Vishwanathan-Committee Member

Geetha Rajagopal-Executive Director (Ex - Officio Member)


Music and musingsApril 30, 2010

Preserving for posterityAugust 28, 2009