When he steps out of an aircraft in Palaly on August 16, Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna will belong to a rare tribe of people who kept their word to the people of Jaffna.
When he came on an exploratory visit to Jaffna last October, Mr. Krishna, the first musician of note from India to tour Jaffna in nearly three decades, told students at the Ramanathan Academy that he would develop on a music festival concept and hold a workshop for students in Jaffna in a more structured manner.
Back in Chennai, he and the Indo-Srilankan Foundation set up ‘Kalai Koodam,’ a cultural movement aimed at the Jaffna student community. “It is a celebration of art like never before, exposing students to the classical art forms and giving them an opportunity to learn from the best and hone their skills,” Mr. Krishna told The Hindu in an e-mail communication.
The festival, Mr. Krishna explained later, was to create a community of students of the performing arts and instil in them a sense of ownership, belonging and pride, breaking all barriers of institutions and styles. It would also provide a platform to students to directly interact and learn from veteran artists, as such opportunities were not generally available to them. He wanted to develop a sense of respect and mutual understanding amongst students towards other art forms, and wanted to be a catalyst in creating a future generation that will contribute to the performing arts, irrespective of their own pursuits.
The Svanubhava Festival Committee, Chennai, was behind the idea, concept and co-ordination for this festival, he said. “Jaffna, being the cultural capital of the Northern Province with years of fine arts seeped into its tradition, this will be the perfect setting for students to unwind and recapture their rich heritage. With help from the Indian High Commission, the Sri Lankan government and the Governor of the Northern Province, this is a unique festival, hoping to revive and create stronger bonds of art and culture between India and Sri Lanka,” he added.
A pilot team from Chennai has already done the spadework in Jaffna. More than 2,000 students are expected to attend the performances on each of the days – August 16, 17 and 18; more than 700 will participate in the morning workshop sessions. “The two main artists who are performing in this 3-day festival of performing art are Alarmel Valli and P. Unnikrishnan,” said Mr. Krishna.
On August 16, Ms. Alarmel Valli will hold a workshop on Bharatanatyam. The next day, Unnikrishnan will pilot a workshop on Carnatic music. The same evening, Alarmel Valli will perform. On August 18, there will be an opportunity for students to interact with the artists. Mr. Krishna and Mr. Unnikrishnan will present separate recitals the same day.
Mr. Krishna said the Northern Province and the Indian High Commission were of great support. A large number of students — not just the 15 public and private schools and colleges from Jaffna but also schools from Vavuniya and Kilinochchi — will attend the festival. “They are bringing almost 20 children from each school. This is apart from the students of Ramanathan Academy,” he said.