Musical Star Sithara

"Most memorable incident was when I sang in front of Yesudas Sir. One of my unfulfilled dreams is to sing at least one song with Das Sir" 

play back singer Sithara Krishnakumar
Sithara Krishnakumar now popularly known as playback singer Sithara is on a musical expedition involving various styles including Hindustani classical, Carnatic and Gazals.  She was noted for making a niche for herself by rendering songs in different styles which made us wonder whether all these songs in her kitty came from the same source. She has now rendered in all four South Indian languages and is glad to have been part of many good compositions by great composers in a short span of time. Currently she is exulted as her latest song ‘Enundodee’  for the Malayalam movie  Cellulloid  is doing the rounds and her popularity is increasing in the Gazal circuit too. 

Sithara born in Kozhikode, Kerala to Dr. K.M Krishnakumar  &  Saly Krishnakumar, was introduced to the world of music at an early age of four. She did her schooling in St.Pauls High School and Calicut University Campus School. She did her graduation in English Literature from Farook College, and went on to pursue her Master’s Degree from Calicut University, Kerala. She was trained in Carnatic Music by Sri Ramanattukara Sathish and Pala CK Ramachandran. Sithara also received extensive education in Hindustani Classical music from Ustad Fiyaz Khan and Sri Vijayasenan. She is also a classical dancer trained by Kalamandalam Vinodini. She was the winner of several musical talent shows like Asianet Saptha Swarangal (2004), Kairali TV Gandharva Sangeetham (Seniors) and Jeevan TV Voice 2004. She was accoladed with the Kalathilakam title in Calicut University Arts Festival for two consecutive years(2005 and 2006). Sithara has been recognized with several musical awards and nominations including Baburaj Memorial Award for the Best Female Singer in 2002, SwaralayaKairali Yesudas Award in 2004 and Mohammed Rafi Memorial Award in 2011. She is married to Dr.M Sajish (Clinical Cardiologist) and is currently residing at Aluva, Kerala. 

Excerpts from an Interview with Sithara by the Thiraseela team.

You maintained a balance between dance & singer for quite some time. You were even trained under Kalamandalam Vinodhini in dancing for a long time. Which particular juncture made you realize that you are primarily a singer?

Dance performance by Sithara Krishnakumar
My personal interest is to pursue both dancing & music career. When I started taking part in singing competitions there was an avalanche of TV shows & reality issues. Owing to the popular events & opportunities that is coming my way I am more into playback singing & musical performances.  I was trained in Kuchuppidi & Mohiniyattam and used to perform both art forms in many stages including Guruvaryoor & Nishagandhi.  Even now I am continuing with my dancing career, though for the last one year I have not made any public dance appearance. I ensure to spend time with my dance teacher to always keep my dancing skills alive. Currently since I am trying to explore various styles in music, I am unable to dedicate time for dance.

‘Penpaattukal’ a folk compilation was one of your areas of research. Is it still on?
The research is still on to compile something in a very authentic manner by giving due respect to the great folk artists. My intention is to really connect to the masters behind such folk forms and popularize that so that we will be able to recreate those songs to revive the rich culture and musical value these forms posses. The lyrics mainly deals with socio-political background and I am planning to make it appealing in contemporary style. It demands a lot of time as I need to personally meet the people who are familiarized with this musical style and who practice this as part of their traditional functions & events. PenPaatukal is a term which I use just to categorize a collection of different styles of folk music though I am not sure if that could be termed as such formally. The intention is to come up with albums for those genres. I try to find time during my journey as a part of stage shows in different places. So the quest is still on and hopes it will culminate in a good product.

You were an active participant in District & University level Youth festivals. Recently for the 2013 State youth festival you were invited as a performer, so could you please share the nostalgic experience?

 It was indeed nostalgic when I was invited as an artist to perform at the Youth fest which was held at Mallappurram district. I represented Mallapuram during all the University festivals. The venue and ambience was very much familiar. It’s indeed a proud moment to perform as a guest for such an event. It was a Gazal performance and this is the place in Kerala where you could find the maximum Gazal lovers. Many teachers were there who have seen me practicing during my school days and they were very happy to see me pursuing a career according to my passion. I met many senior photographers & reporters who have been reporting such events for many years, which was also a cute experience.

Any noticeable difference in 4 South Indian languages considering your experience in these industries?

 I was initially launched in Malayalam by Alphonse Sir in the movie Athisyan. Then I sang few songs for films in Malayalam. When I got a chance in Tamil for G. V. Prakash Kumar Sir’s recording I was familiarised with the recording studios. I felt like being in the comfort zone when I was recording for Tamil too. My first Kannada song was composed by Ouseppachan Sir. For Kannada & Telugu too, my previous experience in other language rounds in different competitions helped me a lot. With the help of lyricists and assistant music directors we can overcome the initial barrier of not knowing the language in detail. For some recordings the lyricist will explain each word its meaning to enhance the expressions & emotions to be provided.

Gazal Concert by Sithara Krishnakumar

Apart from being a dancer and musician you have tried in various fields like anchoring, short films and so on. Any such aspirations in other fields too. Regarding future plans in your musical journey.

 Music & dance will always remain my passion. Short film was part of a club formed by many passionate friends in my college as part of our project for English Department, which could be treated as a onetime stuff. I am currently undergoing training in Hindustani Classical music, Ustad Fayaz Khan. I have joined Rabindra Bharathi University for M.A Hindustani. In order to perform classical concerts in future, we need to practice a lot so my prime duty is to dedicate time for musical training. Playback singing is sure to go on based on the opportunities that come my way. Non-filmy collection is  another area of focus where I am planning to come up with an album which consists of Malayalam Gazals. Few of my friends have contributed a lot with lyrics and theme for each of the songs in that upcoming collection.

Most memorable incident in your career – something like a dream come true coz of an artist with which you shared a stage.

 Most memorable incident was when I sang in front of Yesudas Sir. It was the first time when I met Das Sir. It was during the Baburaj Memorial Award 2001 during an event held at Tagore Hall, I was not notified in advance that I had to sing in front of the legends Das Sir & Janaki Amma for the final round. It was one of the biggest surprises too.  I was fortunate to have received the award from him. While I met him during that event I was on cloud nine when he asked me my name & made a casual chat. After few years when I received Swaralaya Yesudas award from him it was another unforgettable event for me.  One of my unfulfilled dreams is to sing at least one song with Das Sir.
Sithara Krishnakumar receiving award from Yesudas

Any recording or any stage show which you think shouldn’t have happened? Any prior experience where you felt some performance as a professional singer could have been better?

No such forgettable incident in my career. On an optimistic note I would love to believe that whatever happened in my musical journey so far is for good. Regarding betterment I believe it’s always good to have that notion which in turn makes us feel grounded to ensure teh quest for perfection is always there. I was surprised to see that few music directors also give feedback about my live performances.

 The song recording or stage performance which made you feel proud?

I can’t say like that about the song which made me feel proud or so. For many songs I have felt a special satisfaction for many songs like the Tamil song for GVP Sir’s and recently rendered song in movie ‘Celluloid’. The song in Celluloid is placed in 1930’s. It’s a perception of the music thought during that time by M.Jayachandran Sir, so it was altogether a new experience.

Have you got the chance to record a song at a single stretch as it used to be in olden times?

In All India Radio (Sithara is a B high grade artist in AIR), we don’t use the punching system for the light music recording. It is indeed good as I get a chance to learn a song from a music teacher with all nuances before recording the song at a single shot. I always ensure that I don’t miss the AIR sessions when I get a chance. In films usually songs are not recorded at a stretch as the complete design of the song will be decided later in most of the cases. We will listen to the songs after full orchestration in a completely new layout most of the times to suit the character of the films.

Looking back to your nurturing stage, what advice will you give to other upcoming artists?

Play back singer Sithara Krishnakumar  Try to get involved in music with passion. Never get carried away or worried about opportunities in films, as in playback singing it’s not the singers who choose the songs but we are selected or opted by the creators of a song. Currently we have a trend of making three to four singers sing a particular song and narrow down to a particular singer only after the music director listens to those different versions. This recording pattern will be communicated to singers upfront if it is done in this fashion, so singers are getting used to the same. Another trend in place is where  a singer might be asked to sing all the songs for a particular film and the song which suits the most will be chosen for the singer. I guess there is no point in thinking too much about the songs which you couldn’t sing because of this method, moreover I believe the apt singer should render the right song and this trend moves in that direction.

Despite your busy schedule how do you find time to practice?

It’s not a tough ask in terms of practice. The inspiration for the same is many great personalities who are at the helm of popularity but who still find ambient time to practice. I don’t plan any such time slots for practice, but practise during whatever time available on a daily basis. Whenever we are on the move, if we are involved in music by listening or trying to learn its also a mode or practice. Usually I practice Hindustani classical nowadays as I perform its semi-classical version Gazals frequently.

 Live Gazals or playback singing which is the most dearest for you?

In Gazal shows, the audience will be very much aware of the music style and the lyrics. They mostly request good and unique compositions through ‘farmayish’. In Gazals we connect to the audience in a different manner as we have a two way communication. The feedback after Gazal sessions do help me a lot.

Gazal Concert by Play back singer Sithara Krishnakumar

In recording, it’s another world where we try to transform the musical thought by the music director, lyricist and a director to a different form. In film song the execution of a song undergoes many expressions & emotions depending on the situation a film might demand. It’s indeed another great experience. I would like to consider both styles dearer to me.

Considering you attempts to try out various styles of music which requires very wide range of modulation, could you elaborate on the vocal exercise which you follow?

I have been asked this many a times as the songs which I got in movies required a varied range of vocal projections. When we sing in a particular pitch it may sound like our voice is almost similar throughout the song, but when we render songs in different pitches we may feel it’s entirely a different voice source. The songs which sound different is not because we try to sound different in terms of timber, but when we sing a particular piece in an extreme pitch or other scales it may sound different.

 The song in ‘Elsamma Enna Aankutty’, the song ‘Kannaram Pothi Pothi’ the song was designed in three different styles owing to different pitches. When you sing the opening lines it sounded mostly like a male because of the pitch and it was not an intentional attempt to change the voice. My duty was to do justice to the modulations insisted by Rajamani Sir. In youtube I have seen comments for this song stating its sung by two singers, it may be because of the opening note in an unusual pitch.

Your comments on Reality shows. Nowadays we don’t see many youngsters becoming so popular in the playback singing circuit considering the huge number involved in such reality shows. In your case reality shows had a very positive impact.

 The reality show is a good platform for the youngsters and for sure all who succeed in those are undoubtedly talented in music.  The journey in playback singing may be dependent on other factors too like getting an opportunity.  Too much in number may be another reason which attributes to the tough competition among the new comers to get the initial pull in the industry. Singers like Najeem who came from reality shows are popular now and getting a good grip in the music industry too. I guess if someone doesn’t get carried away with their success in reality shows, opportunity will surely knock at the right time if they are involved in music with utmost dedication even after the competition.

Support from your family?

Definitely family support is a great boon for an artist. My mother used to find good music teachers when I was five. When I wanted to pursue my studies in music, my parents stood behind me.  Even after marriage the encouragement just increased. My husband is keener than me on ensuring my success as a playback singer. I got maximum opportunity in playback singing after marriage.  

Sithara Krishnakumar with Husband Sajish

She is currently engaged in performing live shows with other artists and bands too thereby maintaining a good balance between the various styles of musical expression despite her busy schedule.  She finds time to visit her musical masters frequently to seek their blessings.  A special thanks from to Sithara for sharing her experiences and thoughts which will be very interesting for the readers.  Hope Sithara as the name suggests be a shining star always and will entertain. All the best and hope you achieve many accolades throughout her musical journey.

Sithara Gazal Concert | Photo Gallery

Prepared by | Jeeth Yesudas

Week-day drama by KSNA

From April, the Sangeeta Nataka Akademi plans to usher in a change of scene for theatre in Kerala by introducing the concept of ‘week-day drama’.

“Every week, we will invite directors to stage a play in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Kannur. A play that has been staged in a district will travel to the other four districts. So theatre buffs will get to watch 48 plays in a year. It will be ticketed at a nominal rate of Rs. 10 for each person and the entire proceeds will go to the theatrepersons staging the play,” says Soorya Krishnamoorthy, Chairman of the Sangeetha Nataka Akademi.

In addition, the troupe will get Rs. One lakh as a subsidy. Only those plays that have qualified in the competitions conducted by the Akademi in different categories such as professional drama, short drama, amateur and ‘Pravasi’ amateur dramas will be selected for the performances. “As of now, only plays in Malayalam will be considered. But there is no reason why we should not include other languages too after gauging the response of viewers and theatre artistes,” says Krishnamoorthy.

Although the initial plan was to hold it on weekends, that was dropped as it was feared that audiences might be thin on account of the mega shows and films on television. “So ‘weekend drama’ had to be changed to ‘week-day drama’. But discussions are still on. The plays will begin in April. In Thiruvananthapuram, the plays are likely to staged at the Museum Auditorium,” adds Krishnamoorthy.

Reference | The Hindu

Vendeurs d’Enclumes | Rock Concert @ Nishagandhi on 17 Feb

vendeurs d’Enclumes Rock Concert @ Nishagandhi

As part of Bonjour India, Festival of France in India, Alliance Française de Trivandrum in association with the Embassy of France in India will present a rock evening, by Vendeurs d’Enclumes at Nishagandhi on 17 February 2013, 6.30pm.

The French scene is full of surprises especially with Vendeurs d’Enclumes.

The French sextet originated from the centre France (Orleans) has been developing an indigent universe for the last past 8 years. From classical music influences to jazzy vibrations, the band takes on the energy of true rock to deliver energetic (French-spoken) songs and live experiences. Torrents of notes emerging from saxophones, guitars, drums and bass lines flood around Valerian Renault's voice and words. Then poetry confronts and battles : rhymes with silliness, life and accidently... love.We discover French texts written with finesse and raw, with commitment, excess and cheerful. A spontaneous musical progression with subtle alternations, the freshness of the orchestrations, and musical texts rise and respond to a song called maximalist, a musical version, free and inspired.

vendeurs d’Enclumes Rock Concert @ Nishagandhi

12 years old, Vendeurs d’Enclumes has cut their third album "Décadrant."

Winners of "Bravos" (Audience Award and Professional Award) at the Festival Alors.. Chante ! at Montauban in 2010, the group linked together concerts and francophone festivals with explosive repertoire.

Line up 

Valérian RENAULT - Vocal / Guitar
Sébastien RIDEAU - Guitar
Cyrille BOUDESOCQUE - Saxophones
David SEVESTRE - Saxophones
Nicolas LE MOULLEC - Basse
Matthieu HENAULT - Drums/Trumpet

Kalasagar Award 2013 | Oru Piranalinte Ormakai

Kalasagar Award 2013 :: Oru Piranalinte Ormakai
Kalasagar has been annually celebrating its founder's birthday on May 28 which has now become a part of the cultural calendar of Kerala with the whole hearted support of ministry of culture, Government of India and active participation of the well wishers. The award function always proved to be a grand and glorious tribute to the late maestro.

As Part of 89th birth anniversary of kalamandalam Krishnankutty Poduval on 28th May 2013, Kalasagar award will be presented to artists in the field of traditional performing art formssuch as Kathakali vesham, music, chenda, maddalam, & chutty (make-up), ottanthullal, chakyarkoothu, kootiyattam, mohiniyattam, bharatanatyam, kuchupudi, thayambaka, panchavadyam – thimila, maddalam, edakka, kombu, thalam. The awardees will be selected through nominations received from art lovers. The artists should be between the age group of 40-70 and well known performer/guru and should be a permanent resident within the state of Kerala. The nominations with bio-date is invited from the art lovers to reach to the secretary, Kalasagar, Kavalappara, Shoranur, Palakkad, Kerala 679 523 by 30th Apr 2013.

As usual there will be various cultural programs by the eminent artists after the award presentation.

Shri Krishnankutty Poduval, was a legendary player of the chenda and an informed critic of Kathakali. He studied the visual grammar and rhythmic structure of Kathakali under Guru Pattikkamthodi Ravunni Menon and went on to reinterpret the chenda‘s role in Kathakali. Poduval was reputed for tracing subtle emotions in the characters with his chenda, providing mood music to romantic scenes and prompting the actors to do their best on stage. His holistic understanding of Kathakali helped him integrate music with each visual. This remains an unparalleled achievement. Poduval scripted and directed many Kathakali plays like Bhishmaprathignya, Amba, King Lear, and Snapakacharitham. He left behind a treasure trove of knowledge on Kerala's performing arts in general and on Kathakali in particular - both at the theoretical and practical level.

Kalasagar Kavalappara
Kalasagar continues to promote and propagate his ideals by enabling precise training and performing of traditional art forms, besides participating in cultural festivals across Kerala and outside. Kalasagar has a team of well known Gurus and talented artists who perform traditional art forms such as Kathakali, Ottenthullal, Chakyarkoothu, Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattom, Panchavadyam, Thayambaka, Keli, and Chenda Melam as well as present lecture-demonstrations.

Curtain comes down on Nishagandhi Festival 2013
 Mallika Sarabhai receiving maiden 'Nishagandhi Puraskaram' on behalf of her mother Mrinalini Sarabhai from Hon. Chief minister Oommen Chandy

The curtain came down on another unforgettable Nishagandhi festival with a splendid display of dance & music on the final day. Icing on the cake was that the event also witnessed the first Nishagandhi award. The official closing ceremony was dropped off owing to the house boat tragedy @ Punnamada.Kerala Chief Minister Sri. Oommen Chandy presented the maiden 'Nishagandhi award' instituted by Kerala Tourism for excellence in classical dance. The recipient of the award Mrinalini sarabhai could not make it to the function because of health issues. Mrinalini's daughter Mallika Sarabhai received the award on her mother's behalf. 

Kuchipudi by Manju Warrier at nishagandhi Festival 2013

Kuchipudi by Manju warrier was a crowd puller. Mallika presented the memento to Manju Warrier after the performance. Manju said to the media that she has not yet decided anything about her way back to movies/acting but will definitively continue with the dance performance.

Manju Warrier is receiving memento from Mallika Sarabhai

Padmashree Penaz Masani performed Ghazal on the final day of the fest. It went down well with the audience too. 

Ghazal by Padmashree Penaz Masani

Photos by | Amal Raj
Kuchipudi by Manju Warrier @ Nishagandhi Festival 2013.

Exclusive photo gallery of Manju Warrier performing Kuchipudi at Nishagandhi Festival 2013

Gallery 1 | Arun Vijay Photography (
Gallery 2 | Amal  Raj  Photography ( 

Kuchipudi by Manju Warrier @ Nishagandhi Festival

36-hour musical tribute to Indian cinema 

 A musical marathon concert by classical singer Pandit Ramesh Narayan

Internationally acclaimed Pandit Ramesh Narayan, doyen of Hindustani classical vocalist, broke his own record with his 36-hour long marathon vocal recital of Hindustani music at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on Sunday in Pune. He had established a record singing feat by rendering 30-hour vocal recital of Hindustani music in 1994 in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

“I feel greatly humbled that I was able to dedicate this 36-hour non-stop vocal recital of Hindustani classical music to paramgurus and legends of music, art, literature, science and social reforms of the world who have transformed society,” Pandit Narayan told Financial Chronicle soon after the event. Even at the end of mesmerising hundreds of artists and music aficionados for two days, the distinguished vocalist looked fresh and energetic. “Music does not tire me but as you can see, it refreshes me,” he beamed. He said music is understood by all irrespective of race, creed, colour and language and is a great uniting force all over the world. “Therefore, music attracts one and all, wherever it is performed,” Pandit Narayan said.

The 53-year-old singer said the marathon vocal recital supported by 36 renowned musicians and singers from all over the country was rendered in accordance with the samayachakra of ragas, as an act embodying the spirit and essence of Hindustani classical music.

Pandit Narayan, disciple of internationally renowned Pandit Jasraj, began singing sharp at 5 am on Saturday as he was cheered with artists and music connoisseurs who had gathered in large numbers. He rendered melodious, soul-stirring performance according to the time theory of Hindustani classical music for the next 24 hours. And the remaining 12 hours were dedicated to other ragas, bhajans, ghazals and other devotional songs.

Pandit Narayan, who had already mesmerised music connoisseurs and artists by his marathon singing for 30 hours, 19 years ago in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, never thought of breaking his own record. “Last year, my guruji Pandit Jasrajiji had asked me if I could sing for 24 hours. Since I had sang for 30 hours, I told guruji that I will sing for 36 hours,” Pandit Narayan said. Thus, Sangeet Samarpan 2013, a 36-hour continuous vocal recital of Hindustani classical music was conceived and presented at FTII as part of 100 years of Indian cinema.

“The record created by my disciple Pandit Narayan is worthy to be noted by Guinness Book of World Records,” Pandit Jasraj, 83, who was impressed with the performance, told Financial Chronicle. Nobody had achieved this commendable feat, he said. “But we did not contact Guinness Book of World Records as Pandit Narayan did not want it as he firmly told us that he was not singing for breaking any record,” Ramdas Narayan, the vocalist’s elder brother, said.

“I sang for peace. Peace for myself and to bring peace to others. Music heals and music is heaven,” Pandit Narayan said. He said there are four types of music performed today by artists all over the country such as artharthey (for money) sangeet, kamarthey (for desire) sangeet, bhawarthey (for emotions) sangeet and moksharthey (for self-actualisation) sangeet. “Mine is moksharthey sangeet, that is to uplift the soul and connect one’s atma to paramatma and to be lost in bliss,” Pandit Narayan said. “There is nothing greaten in this world than music. And music is my breath, my being and my living,” the distinguished vocalist, who has enthralled the audience from US to Canada to Germany to Japan, said.

“I was lost in his melodious heavenly ragas since the past two days,” Neelima Atre, 70, said. “Music is indeed Parameshwar, which wiped away all my sorrows. I was truly drowned in bliss and mind you, it is not psychological,” the woman said, beaming with joy.

D J Narayan, FTII director said the film and television students had a great exposure to the festival of Hindustani classical music as many of the Bollywood cinemas are based on Hindustani classical music.

“I got pumped up with more energy and inspiration,” Pandit Aditya Narayan Banerjee from Kolkata, who played table for 12 hours at this marathon singing, said. Pandit Banerjee has accompanied Pandit Narayan for his 15 musical concerts in India and abroad. Koustav Sarkar, Bengali music director, who played harmonium for 10 hours, said timed simply stopped whenever he was accompanying Pandit Narayan on stage. 

Courtesy |

Manju Warrier all set to hog the limelight on Jan 26th at Nishagandhi

Manju Warrier performing Kuchipudi at Guruvayoor. Photo courtesy | Basheer Pattambi

The popular Malayalam actress Manju Warrier who was in oblivion for quite a long time made a comeback to the dancing world last October where she performed in Guruvayur. She is all set to hog the limelight on Jan 26th at Nishagandhi. This year's Nishagandhi festival will have proper culmination with Manju Warrier performing on the final day. It seems we could see her in many such stages going forward. This is the biggest stage for her since her comeback. Since a popular heroine is performing after a hiatus the event is sure to garner a lot of media attention too. The stage is set to witness the Kuchipudi performance by Manju Warrier on Jan 26th @ 6 pm. 

Kozhikode emerge victors at 53rd Kerala State School Art Festival 

Kozhikode Team with Gold cup

Kozhikode reiterated the fact that it never felt the dearth of artists at school level. Having put up a consistent show in all the State School Art Festivals held ever since it was instituted, this time too it raised the bar by being the victors at 53rd State School Art Festival grabbing 912 points from 232 events.  This is the 7thconsecutive time Kozhikode emerged as the winners, overall its their 14th time.  Thrissur came second with 900 points. The host Malappuram attained the third place with 881 points and it was a special add on for them being the host team. The golden cup (actual one made of 117.5 Sovereign gold) model was presented to Kozhikode team by Kerala Education Minister  P K Abdurab.  Unfortunately the cup was broken into two pieces because of the rush among the crowd.
Director of Public Instructions A. Shajahan read out a message by Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, who couldn’t make it to inaugurate the finale as agreed. Minister for Urban Affairs Manjalamkuzhi Ali released a souvenir. Minister for Social Welfare and Panchayats M.K. Muneer gave away trophies to schools which topped in the festival. The Chief Chef of the festival Pazhayidam Mohanan Namboodiri was facilitated at the function.

Durga Higher Secondary School, Kanhangad, secured maximum points (123) in higher secondary category. BSSGHS, Alathur, Palakkad, topped in the high school category. When Malappuram, Palakkad, Kozhikode, and Thrissur shared the first prize in the Arabic Art Festival (95 points), Kannur got the second prize (93 points). GHSS, Thalapuzha, Wayanad, topped in the Arabic fest. In the Sanskrit Art Festival, Palakkad and Kannur shared the first prize by scoring 95 points. Thrissur, Kasaragod, Malappuram, and Kottayam shared the second place with 93 points. Durga HSS, Kanhangad, topped in the Sanskrit festival.

Undoubtedly this time around the fest was successful in garnering maximum media attention for the positive things. The event ended on a high note with a lot of expectations for the next year’s fest to be held at Palakkad.  

The Cultural Gala Nishagandhi Festival 2013 opens in style

  Article by | Jeeth Yesudas
Nishagandhi Festival 2013 started off in great style on a promising note here at the Nishagandhi open-air auditorium, Kanakakunnu Palace. Popular actor Suresh Gopi was the Chief Guest. Shri.K. Muraleedharan MLA presided over the function. Shri A.P.Anilkumar (Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes & Backward Classes and Tourism) inaugurated the Fest by lighting the lamp. In his inaugural address honorable Minister stressed the importance of the expansion plans of the festival of making it more appealing with an Indian touch. The announcement of introducing Nishagandhi awards for the artists in classical dance & music field was well received by the audience.

Dr. Omanakutty, Mayor, Adv. K. Chandrika, Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, Tourism secretary Suman Billa and Tourism Director Smt. Rani George were present at the dais and spoke about the importance of this fest during their addressing. Chief Guest Suresh Gopi was silent because of some voice therapy and conveyed his message through a written note which the anchor Thara Kalyan read out to the audience. The ambience was terrific at Kanakakunnu palace premises as it was the inaugural day of 7 days music & dance night. Nishagandhi Kathakali festival also started today. It seemed Thiruvananthapuram is more likely to be called as the cultural capital of Kerala.

The cultural gala started off with the specially choreographed show led by Jayaprabha Menon (Mohiniyattam), Malti Shyam (Kathak), Kavita Dwibedi (Odissi/Odishi), Priya Venkataraman (Bharatanatyam) & Bimbavati Devi (Manipuri.). It was a unique experience as it proved to be an unprecedented audio-visual treat for many. Rarely one would witness such eminent dancers performing together, so it formed a perfect blend of music, dance, costume & traditions of different forms which elated each art form to a supreme level.

Following the initial combination sequence with five leading members, was the display of each art form in its true form where the popular dancers lead their respective teams. The five dance forms represented a cultural expression in different styles.  Towards the later part the five dancers shared the stage displaying an elegant pattern of the dance combo. The show had a perfect culmination when around 20 dancers joined together to conclude this unique dance performance.

Mohiniyattam by Parvathy (Aswathy Jayaram) was another highlight of the star studded event. She was making a comeback under the guidance of Padmashri Kalamandalam Kshemavathy teacher. The performance started with the dancer stepping the tune of Navarathri Keerthanam and the next segment was the portrayal of different facets of Goddess in the form of Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. The portrayal was related to Kannagi’s story. Considering her comeback after a gap of fifteen years and since it’s the re-entrant phase to the dance world, her efforts are appreciable. She portrayed the various expressions of Goddess to near perfection.

Kathak performance by Vikram Iyengar & Renon India team (Kolkata) was the final event of the opening day. Renon India was formed in order to provide access to classical dance by the global audience in a modern way. The Kathak performances provided a vivid style of dance expression as it went through the various segments Gindhi, Lepak (Persian: Bravo), Trivert and Abhinaya. The portion where it had the background score of Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo the famous Ghazal song written by Fayyaz Hashmi was the most enchanting. The last segment was 'Shoonya Se' which was inspired by the five elements in Indian thought namely Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Void. 

All present there were spell bound with the splendid performances on Day 1. It is sure to make the art lovers expect more in coming days

Article by | Jeeth Yesudas
Photos by | Amal Raj V R

Nishagandhi Festival 2013 to begin on January 20

Nishagandhi Festival 2013

Nishagandhi Festival is one of the most prestigious cultural fests held in the capital city of Kerala, Thiruvanathapuram . It provides a wide platform for the Indian artists to showcase their art forms in its true colour with the proper blend of tradition & culture. It’s conducted as an annual fest held consistently during the month of January. It is held at Kanakkakunnu Palace premises where the events are staged at the Nishagandhi Open Air Theatre.

Many popular artists consider this platform as one of its kind owing to the exposure provided to the public during such a vibrant event conducted in its full glory. True art lovers will get an opportunity to experience the dance performances of artists who have excelled in Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi , modern ballet and other folk forms. It’s organized by the able guidance of KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation). During the fest, another events runs in parallel to showcase the traditional handicrafts of Kerala, highlight the traditional food items and also some musical experiments. Overall the event provides an insight to the traditional scenery of India. It could be viewed as a elate conglomeration of the popular classical art forms.

Nishagandhi Festival 2013 will start from Jan 20 @ Nishagandhi Auditorium and below are the few attractions of this year’s event.  

‘Naman’ Specially Choreographed Show by Jayaprabha and Group

At the Nishagandhi Festival, Jayaprabha and Group will present Naman, a unique blend of five classical dance forms. It explores panchabhuta, the five elements, and culmintes with Shivapanchakshara. Using different styles of dances and different rhythmic patterns, the presentation tries to weave a rich tapestry of music, rhythm and movement. The inherent strength of each dance form is used to creatively explore the inner world and inherent vibrations of Shivapanchakshara - Namashivaya.

Jayaprabha Menon Known for her novel presentations and excellent abhinaya, Jayaprabha's performances, though rooted in tradition are contemporary in theme. A recipient of Nritasree and Sringaramani Award, she is the Director of International Academy of Mohiniyattam, New Delhi.

Mohiniyattam by Jayaprabha Menon. Photography | Ratheesh Sundaram

Mohiniyattam by Aswathy Jayaram

Aswathy Jayaram popularly known as Parvathy, actress turned classical dancer once again hits the stage after her long break since she stopped acting. She started her journey into the vibrant world of dance right from the tender age of six. Aswathy's main inspiration was her mother Padma Ramachandran who was a disciple of late Sri Guru Gopinath and late Dandayudhapanu Pillai. She participated in several youth festivals under the guidance of Guru Ennakkadu Narayanankutty, a direct disciple of Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiyamma and won innumerous accolades for her mind-blowing performance and this paved the way to her entry into Malayalam film Industry. She was a popular heroine with the credit of more than eighty films and by several awards till she tied the knot with the well renowned actor Jayaram. After a long break of fourteen years she once again embraced her only passion-Mohoniyattam. She immediately grabbed the Kshemavathi in the year 2008, her learning experience under her teacher gave her the confidence to once again start performing. In the following years she gave performance in prestigious stages and well known temples, she wishes to continue dancing survived by her husband Jayaram and her sin Kalidas and daughter Malavika.

Mohiniyattam by Aswathy Jayaram

Kathak by Vikram Iyengar & Group

Vikram Iyengar Co-founder and Artistic Director of Ranan is a dancer, choreographer, theatre director and performing arts researcher/writer based in Kolkata, India. A top grade solo artist with Doordarshan with performances across India and abroad, he is an INLAKS scholar with an MA in Performing Arts from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He is currently co-editor of the India Theatre Forum performance e-journal, e-Rang.

Ranan Performance Collective grew out of a need to demystify Indian classical dance and make it accessible and enjoyable for larger audiences. At the Nishagandhi, Ranan will present excerpts from three very different dance productions - Vaichitra, Rangeeniyan and Shunya Se. Together, the evening will span the range and richness of Kathak showcasing pure dance, abhinaya and experimental choreography. 

Kathak by Vikram Iyengar. Photography | Sapratibha

Heartbeat (Percussion ensemble) by Dr. 'Ghatam' Karthick. S

Dr. 'Ghatam' Karthick. S is a disciple of maestros Vikku Vinayakram and Subash Chandran, Dr. Karthick is one of India's topmost percussionists. Also one of the most in-demand percussionists in the Indian film industry, he records extensively with India's top film composers like Ilayaraja, A.R.Rahman and Harris Jayaraj. An M.A, M.Phil and PhD in Sanskrit, with an M.A. in Indian Music from the University of Madras, Dr. Karthick is one of the esteemed faculty for Indian Studies at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, an institution of contemporary music involving Jazz, Rock, Classical and World Music.

At the Nishagandhi, Dr. Karthick will lead his music emsemble, Heartbeat that blends Popular, Carnatic, Jazz and Folk Music. With a galaxy of musical instruments, the concert will showcase varied styles to create a medley of heavenly music. Accompanying him on the show will be artistes who have collaborated and performed all around over the world in many reputed fusion music festivals and cultural.

Dr. 'Ghatam' Karthick. Photo Courtesy | YACM

Mohiniyattam by Smitha Rajan

One of India's best and internationally acclaimed Mohiniyattam performers, Smitha Rajan is a strict traditionalist in her style, well known for the structural integrity and spiritual intensity she brings to the stage. Granddaughter of one of India's finest classical dance performers, Padmasree Kalamandalam Krishnan Nair and Mohiniyattam legend, Guru Kalamandalam Kalyanikuttiamma, Smitha holds the unique distinction of being trained by them. Well versed in Kathakali and Bharatanatyam, she actively performs all over the world in both Mohiniyattam and Kathakali. A member of numerous cultural organizations, she is also associated with many television networks in India and abroad. Smitha currently resides with her family in St Louis, USA and is the artistic director of Nrithyakshetra, St. Louis Chapter.

Mohiniyattam by Smitha Rajan. Photo Courtesy | R. Ravindran (The Hindu)

Kuchipudi by Amrita Lahiri

Amrita Lahiri started her training in Kuchipudi at Washington DC under Anuradha Nehru, a senior disciple of Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam. Later, she learnt Bharatanatyam from Leela Samson in New Delhi. She also studied under Swapnasundari and Seetha Nagajothy. Since 2006, she has been learning from Kishore Mosalikanti in Chennai. The influences of these eminent gurus are reflected in Amrita's performances around India and abroad. She is today based in Mumbai where she teaches and performs Kuchipudi. She also writes on dance and has worked professionally in arts management at prestigious institutions like the Kennedy Centre, Kalakshetra, and most recently, at the National Centre for Performing Arts as the Head of the Dance Department.

Kuchipudi by Amrita Lahiri. Photo Courtesy | The Hindu

Odissi by Sharmila Biswas

A leading dancer and choreographer in the Odissi classical dance form, Sharmila is a senior disciple of the legendary Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Noted for the originality in her composition, technique and stage design, Sharmila's versatility ranges from classical Odissi dance to experimental choreographic work. Honoured with the Uday Shankar Award and the prestigious Mahari Award, she has also received the Junior and subsequently the Senior Fellowship Award from the Dept. of Culture, Govt. of India and the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi. Sharmila is graded as an 'outstanding' artist by Doordarshan and the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Govt. of India. Sharmila is the Founder Chairperson of the Odissi Vision & Movement Centre - an institution created for the promotion of Indian Dance & Music through research, training and performances.

Odissi by Sharmila Biswas. Photo Courtesy | shyamhari chakra (The Hindu)

Bharatanatyam by Urmila Sathyanarayanan

One of India's finest Bharatanatyam dancers, Urmila Sathyanarayanan has won critical acclaim for her crisp and precise footwork as well as the spontaneity and vivaciousness of her facial expressions. Blessed with a captivating stage presence, Urmila's strength lies in her ability to create vivid and aesthetic images through mime. Also an astute choreographer, she has conceptualized, choreographed and presented close to a dozen of her own original thematic productions. A disciple of the late Guru K.N. Dandayudapani Pillai and Guru K.J. Sarasa, Urmila has won several prestigious awards, including the Kalaimamani award, Nritya Choodamani Award and the National Eminence Award. An empanelled artist of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and an 'A Top' grade Artist of Doordarshan, Urmila today runs a dance school in Chennai, known for its high standards.

Bharatanatyam by Urmila Sathyanarayanan

Meditative ensemble by Pandit Ramesh Narayan

Pandit Ramesh Narayan has the unique distinction of being one of the few vocalists from Kerala to have carved a niche for himself in Hindustani music. Hailing from a family of Carnatic musicians settled at Kuthuparambu in Kerala, he had his early lessons in music from his parents. He later learnt Sitar under the tutelage of Satchidananda Phadke, a renowned disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. Drawn to Hindustani vocal, Pandit Ramesh Narayan earned his 'Visharad' from the Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Later, his talent and technique were honed by none other than the legendary Pandit Jasraj.

At the Nishagandhi, Pandit Ramesh Narayan along with other renowned musicians will present 'Meditative Ensemble', a newly launched musical production exclusively designed for the Festival. A blend of pure Indian music combining instrumental music and vocals as well as Carnatic and Hindustani, it will be a unique musical journey.

Meditative ensemble by Pandit Ramesh Narayan

Styles Amalgamated by K. Krishnakumar & Binni Krishnakumar

K. Krishnakumar & Binni Krishnakumar Gifted are the musician couple K. Krishnakumar and Binni Krishnakumar who traverse musically from the traditional South Indian Classical to the popular filmi music. They have widely traveled in India and abroad to perform solo, duo vocal Carnatic concerts and theme-oriented special concerts. They are the disciples of the doyen of Indian Classical music, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna. The duo presents traditional music in a very trendy and scintillating style.

Conceived by Trivandrum K. Krishnakumar, the specially conceived fusion concert at Nishagandhi will an amalgamation of different styles of music of India musically backed with a global touch. The concert will feature musical pieces highlighting the different genres and combining them to a memorable amalgamation. The ten-artist fusion musical show will feature various musical pieces - The Beginning - Music, The Flower - Song Evolution, The Song and Rhythm, The Rustic and The unison.

Trivandrum K Krishnakumar & Binny Krishnakumar

Odissi by Aloka Kanungo

A disciple of Padmabibhushana Sri Kelucharan Mohapatra, Aloka Kanungo is a rare combination of dancer, choreographer, teacher and scholar. Lauded for her fusion works with Manipuri (Maha Raas), Kathak (Shiva Shakti) and Rabindra Sangeet (Barshar Gaan & Bhanu Singher Padyabali), she is also known for her work on the ancient and almost extinct dance forms in group choreographies like Sthapatya Satya, Gaatagata and Mahavidya. She has also worked with physically challenged and under privileged children in a project called Kautuk - a children soiree. A recipient of many prestigious awards and honours, the Orissa Sangeet Natak Academy Award, Mahari award from Pankajcharan Das Odissi Research Foundation, Udayashankar Award etc., Aloka today heads the Shinjan Nrityalaya in Calcutta.

Odissi by Aloka Kanungo. Photo Courtesy | The Hindu

Ghazal by Padmashree Penaz Masani

Padmashree Penaz Masani The uncrowned queen of ghazals, Padmashree Penaz Masani has carved a niche for herself in the world of Indian music. With her charming looks, glorious voice and impeccable Urdu diction, she has won the heart of millions across the world. Discovered by the legendary composer Jaidev during a singing contest, she was guided by her guru, the famous Ghazal exponent Madhu Rani. Penaz cut her first album in 1981 and has the distinction of having one Platinum and three Gold Discs to her name. She has sung in over dozen languages and has performed extensively at concerts across the world. Perhaps the only women to have achieved an eminent status in the traditionally male - dominated world of Ghazals, Penaz has received numerous state and national awards during her illustrious career - including the Debut Award for the best child singer in 1976, the Vasant Desai Swar Prathistha Award in 1977 and the S D Burman Trophy for the most promising classical singer in 1978. The nation honoured her with the Padmashree in 2009.

Ghazal by Padmashree Penaz Masani

Kuchipudi by Manju Warrier

The popular Malayalam actress Manju Warrier who was in oblivion for quite a long time made a comeback to the dancing world last October where she performed in Guruvayur. She is all set to hog the limelight on Jan 26th at Nishagandhi. This year's Nishagandhi festival will have proper culmination with Manju Warrier performing on the final day. It seems we could see her in many such stages going forward. This is the biggest stage for her since her comeback. Since a popular heroine is performing after a hiatus the event is sure to garner a lot of media attention too. The stage is set to witness the Kuchipudi performance by Manju Warrier on Jan 26th. 

Kuchipudi performance by Manju Warrier. Photo courtesy | Basheer Pattambi

Program Schedule

Nishagandhi Festival 2013 Program schedule

Kathakali Mela schedule (Daily @ 6pm)

Nishagandhi Kathakali Festival

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