Gayana Samaja’s 44th Annual Music Conference from October 28 to November 4 is all set for a celebration of music. Eight days of evening concerts by senior Carnatic and Hindustani musicians and some early evening kutcheris by upcoming talents. The mornings would be dedicated to academic sessions of lec-dems by renowned artistes, and the concluding day ‘sadas’ would see award presentations and honours.

Gayana Samaja’s ‘Artist of the Year’ Award every year is an interesting pick of achievers in the field of fine arts. The Award is considered prestigious as it is conferred by this oldest music institution in the country. Says Dr. M.R.V. Prasad, President, Gayana Samaja, “This year we have selected seven top notch artistes covering seven categories. Their accomplishments are remarkable. What mattered to Gayana Samaja for selecting them was their focused and enormous involvement in their respective fields that has made a tangible difference to society in the propagation of fine arts. For example, harikatha as an art is slowly fading away, so we wanted to highlight somebody well-associated with the art and acknowledge his contributions.”

The award winners are Uma Gopalaswamy (vocal); T.S. Chandrashekar (mridanga); Seetarama Munikoti (harikatha); Shyamala Jaagirdar (sugama sangeeta); A. Subbaramayya (promotion of music); Y.V. Gundu Rao (drama); and Pappu Venugopal Rao (musicologist).

Uma Gopalaswamy has the distinction of being amongst the first batch of students from the Bangalore University to receive a master’s degree in music. Going on to further equip herself in the Carnatic genre with a Ph.D. in Music, she pursued vocal under R.K. Srikantan and D.K. Jayaraman.

A love for Bharatanatyam, music in its related configuration and structure captivated her into often taking up background singing for dance recitals. Mridangist T.S. Chandrashekar, a student of K.N. Krishnamurthy, has accompanied yesteryear greats such as B. Devendrappa and living legends like R.K. Srikantan. His varying styles of accompaniment are an aesthetic mixture of orthodox and contemporary patterns. It is therefore no surprise that he was at ease when he accompanied artistes pursuing different styles of rendition as with MLV, Maharajapuram Santhanam and M. Balamurali Krishna!

Vocalist Seetarama Munikoti could take to harikatha easily as he was a student of Kuroodi Venkannachar pursuing vocal music. His involvement with harikatha increased as he got more and more conversant with the Carnatic genre and gradually studied the Vedas and Sanskrit too. Guided by veterans Bhadragiri Achyutadas and Keshavadas in the divine melodic-story-telling art, he has had several harikatha shows at Sringeri Sharada Peetam and Udupi Sri Krishna Mutt.

From the age of seven, Shyamala Jaagirdar has been learning Hindustani. She branched off into sugama sangeeta and her concerts don’t just adhere to pure classical, but is an interesting potpourri of bhavageethe, vachana gayana, desha-bhakthi songs and devotional bhajans.

In her five decades of performances, she has had the privilege of entertaining national leaders as S. Radhakrishnan, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi.

A. Subbaramayya’s focus has been the propagation of the Carnatic genre since several decades. He is associated with organisations as Tyagaraja Gana Sabha, Avani Sringeri Mutt and the Chintanapalli Parampara Trust to see his interests being taken across.

Theatre personality Y.V. Gundu Rao, a close associate of B.V. Karanth, is a comedy whiz who has acted in more than 200 plays through Ranga Sampada and Kala Gangothri. Chomana Dudi, Sangya Balya and Asphota are some of the hits he was featured in, apart from his outstanding solo shows of Kailasam’s plays. A man of several feathers, Pappu Venugopal Rao, Secretary, Madras Music Academy, is a musicologist, Sanskrit scholar, dance expert and author of many books and an accomplished orator.

He will be speaking on Jayadeva’s ashtapadis.