Margazhi Festival

In tune with the times

Geetha Raja Photo: V. Ganesan

Geetha Raja Photo: V. Ganesan   | Photo Credit: V_GANESAN

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Geetha Raja is a faithful practitioner of the Brinda bani.

“Niddura nirankarinchi

Mudduga tambura patti,

Suddhamaina manasuche, suswaramutho,

Baddu tappaga, bhajiyinchu...”

(Cast off your sleep, get up early in the morning and do your voice exercise. Take your beautiful tambura and match your sruti. Let your mind be pure, intone the swaras correctly and stick to sampradaya).

Tyagaraja in his piece, ‘Kaddanuvariki,’ talks about the prerequisites of a good singer. Geetha Raja’s mother too must have understood this, for she insisted that her daughter practises akara sadhakam early morning every day. And what started as a routine became a way of life, her sadhana, and today Geetha holds on to that sampradaya with determination and conviction.

Having had sound training under the watchful eyes of guru Bombay S. Ramachandran from the age of seven, Geetha was blessed to come under the guidance of a guru, who would help her discover a melody-filled world.

Marriage opened up a completely new world to Geetha, whose new family introduced her to the inimitable T.Brinda. It was under her that Geetha blossomed and today, she is acknowledged as a fine student of Brindamma, continuing the rich legacy that her guru has left behind.

Talking about her guru’s bani, Geetha says, “It is best brought out through the padams and javalis, for there are no long drawn-out repetitive aalaps or catchy swara cycles.” If Geetha learnt to notate from her earlier guru, she learnt to sing with bhava under Brindamma.

Since Brinda came from a family of vocalists, veena players, flautists and dancers, bhava became an unconscious ingredient while rendering the sahitya. And Geetha imbibed this from her guru even as she learnt some rare kritis of the Trinity besides many padams and javalis.

Not content with just training in vocal music, Geetha also learnt to play the veena with vidwan K.S. Narayanaswamy. Though based in Bombay, she made a conscious decision not to combine the nuances of Hindustani music into her Carnatic rendering. Her shift to Madras saw her get more musical lessons from vidwan Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan.

Thus, armed with so much musical wisdom, Geetha moved from strength to strength, participating in various festivals, both Indian and international (Voices of Women festival in Belgium, the Nehru Centre in London and the Smithsonian Institution’s ‘Inspired by India,’ to mention a few), and collaborated with artists.

She has worked with musicologist Sujatha Vijayaraghavan on padams and javalis, thus weaving dance interpretation into music. Another interesting artistic alliance has been with historian-scholar Dr. Chithra Madhavan. While Chithra highlights the importance of the temples, Geetha goes on a musical journey exploring the stories narrated by the historian through her voice. One such treat awaits Chennai audiences on December 31, at the IIT campus.

This gifted singer is not only a Kalaimamani recipient of the Tamil Nadu Government, but also the asthana vidushi of the Sringeri Mutt.

This December, Geetha will receive another award - The MLV Endowment Award- instituted by the Carnatic Music Association of North America at a function that will be held on December 13, at Narada Gana Sabha.

Befitting for an artist who is soaked in her music…

Hema Iyer Ramani

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 4:47:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/chennai-margazhi-season/in-tune-with-the-times/article6672833.ece

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