Three sabhas in the city stand out amongst the crowd. Run exclusively by women, they have managed to conduct programmes during and outside the season and make a mark in the field of Carnatic music.
The oldest among these sabhas — which have all been started by groups of friends — Raga Tharangini, has been conducting monthly programmes for 44 years now. While Sarvani Sangeetha Sabha (SSS) has been catering to the tastes of music aficionados for 28 years, Kala Kruthi has been around for 18 years.
Raga Tharangini’s 80-year-old secretary, Parimala Srinivasan, says they started it after advocate S.V. Krishnaswamy pointed out the need for a sabha managed by women in the city.
“M.S. Subbulakshmi, Papanasam Sivan and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer inaugurated it in 1970. Our founder was Mythili Krishnaswamy but when she left for the U.S., she handed it over to our team. I am old now and don’t have much support from members, most of whom are above 80 years, but I want to run it as long as I can,” she added.
The reins of these sabhas are being gradually handed over to the founders’ daughters and daughters-in-law, who have inherited their love for music.
These organisations have managed to stay afloat thanks to generous sponsors who are prominent industrialists in the city.
S. Vasantha of SSS says, “Our concerts are free. We never make any collections from rasikas; we are not here to sell music,” she said.
SSS, which was started by Jogalamba and Ms. Vasantha, held its first concert at Andhra Balanandam Sangam School in Burkit Road, T. Nagar. It has to its credit many firsts including conducting four-hour concerts for top artistes and 12-hour concerts for budding artistes where the youngsters do not repeat songs.
In their own way, these organisations have been contributing towards the growth of Carnatic music. According to Kala Kruthi president Shanti Raghavan, the sabha which is the music wing of the 60-year-old Kasturbha Nilayam of the Women’s Indian Association, was started after Egmore’s Jagannatha Bhaktha Sabha was closed.
Sabha secretary Rajamma Venugopal said artistes were very cooperative and did not mind being invited over the phone to perform. The sabha conducts its concerts at Sankaralayam in Chetpet, which used to be the house of Lakshmi Ramanathan, also the founder-president of Kasturbha Nilayam.