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Fusion Concert- India New England

- By GITA SRINIVASAN
Published: 5/2/2005

Fusion concert nets over $5k for Sri Lankan charity Jazz, violin, veena come together in fund-raiser for tsunami victims in country

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. - Manitha Neyam Trust, Inc, a Boston-based charitable organization that helps the needy, organized a fund-raising Carnatic-jazz fusion concert to help tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. Durga Krishnan, proponent of Carnatic music and veena player was the key organizer who got the various artists together.

The Carnatic ensemble consisted of violin virtuosos Lalgudi G.J.R. Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi with Neyveli Venkatesh on mridangam, Thirupanithura Radhakrishnan on ghatam - all artists from India. Durga Krishnan performed on veena while the jazz performers included Marc Rossi of Berklee School of Music on the piano and keyboard.

He was accompanied by Lance Van Lenten on the flute and saxophone and Bill Urmson on bass guitar. The fusion was an energetic improvisation that incorporated the rhythms of both jazz and Carnatic pieces that maintained the raga formation throughout. The first and most complicated piece consisted of three raagas with vibrant interplay between the artists. This was then followed by solo improvisations by each of the artists. The artists were treated to standing ovations. The fusion received so much applause and requests for more, which all the artists gracefully complied by playing an unrehearsed improvisational piece in Amridhavarshini set to a traditional eight-beat cycle. Durga Krishnan, second from right, played the veena, an instrument rarely seen in fusion concerts. Special mention should be made of the fact that the Veena, a unique instrument for a fusion concert, stood out amongst all with its distinctive, divine and melodious sound.

The evening was a musical delight with eight talented artists, each bringing their own brand of creativity and genius to form a fusion of beauty, while serving a noble cause and bringing help and relief to children who need it.

Fusion Concert- Lokvani

Blending of east of west seems to be a popular trend in the music world and jazz-Carnatic combinations seems particualrly popular. Finally the Carnatic ensemble came together with the Jazz group to present a special treat. Local Veena teacher Smt. Durga Krishnan who was instrumental in making this concert happen was part of this ensemble and enhanced the presentation with her brilliant Veena accompaniment. The audience loved the fusion concert so much that they requested the artists to extend their presentation. The artists complied by playing an unrehearsed improvisational piece in Amrithavarshini. Every one of the artists was superb. Durga Krishnan must be commended for making this unique concert happen and for her excellent veena playing. A great musical evening in support of a great cause.

Fusion : Triveni - Music requires devotion and discipline and to accomplished global artists a chance to elevate its tastes by acquiring an audience beyond the regular listener. The Learn quest music conference added an international flavor to the occasion with the concert 'Triveni ' which included jazz by the Marc Rossi Group, and a jazz-Indian fusion set featuring Marc's group plus accomplished veena player, Durga Krishnan along with U. Mahalingam on the Mridangam and Vijay Ghate on the Tabla. On the Jazz side, artists who took the stage were Marc Rossi, composer, piano, and keyboards, Lance Van Lenten, Saxophones and flute, Bill Urmson, Bass, Mauricio Zottarelli, drums. The group gave a taste on how two distinct classical styles may merge and produce pleasing and stimulating music. While Fusion may have its critics, it also has its admirers who acknowledge its boldness, its surreal nature and its new impulses. The second piece, titled 'Reminiscence' composed by Durga Krishnan in Raaga Hindolam certainly allowed many in the audience to appreciate the beauty of such an exercise where even die hard traditional classical music lovers applauded. The piece, started with the Pallavi in the 7th beat which Durga Krishnan explained is unusual in Carnatic music and set the tone of the entire composition that ended with a lot of musical exchanges and improvisations among the artists accompanying the piece The unique jazz and Carnatic mix was just right, without sacrificing the Raagas and made the melody and rhythm inseparable.

Sangeet Sammelan

LearnQuest Hosts Music Conference With Success by Shuchita Rao. The music conference was organized by LearnQuest Academy of Music, a non-profit music school, based out of Waltham, MA providing instruction in Indian Classical Music. The concerts began at 10A.M on April 15 and April 16. Titled "Sangeet Sammelan", the conference successfully created the aura of "Sangeet Sammelans" that run continuously over a period of 2 or 3 days and are held annually in several parts of India. Being a faculty member of LearnQuest, Durga Krishnan was an integral part of this Sammelan. She also enchanted her audience with her Veena recital accompanied by Pravin Sitaram on Mridangam.

In Conversation with Durga Krishnan

- By NIRMALA GARIMELLA

Durga Krishnan is New England's much sought after Veena artist and beloved Teacher, and that is her best introduction. Whether giving lessons on the Veena to her students or enthralling the audience with her performance at community events, her passion for the instrument and her love for music is unquestionable.

At the time of this conversation, she is animatedly talking about the upcoming Fusion Concert on April 9th in North Andover organized by Manitha Neyam, a non profit. The artists are the famed violinists duo, Lalgudi Krishnan and Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and Marc Rossi, Jazz artist. "The beauty of this fusion concert", says Durga, "is that it promises to be unique because the combination of music offers flexibility and freedom to improvise within guidelines. When Manitha Neyam, the non profit was looking for ideas for a fundraiser in the spring, I thought that this partnership might just work. I urge all music lovers to come and enjoy this superb performance in the wonderful auditorium with great acoustics.

The conversation steers to how music entered her life. Durga started playing Veena when she was 9. My father recognized that music was vital for my education and chose an auspicious day to begin my initiation into this art. As a student at the Carnatic Music College , I was taking vocal lessons, learning to play the Veena, and soon became a disciple of the maestro Chitti Babu.

Durga has an interesting story to narrate about how she became a Shishya of Chitti Babu. While I was learning Veena in Chennai, I sent a card to Chitti Babu in the form of fan mail against my parent's wishes requesting to meet and learn from him and was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply four days later. My father reluctantly took me to meet him, she recalls. "Chitti Babu asked me to play and later agreed to teach me and the rest is .. history.

What was the Guru Shishya relationship like for her?
He was a wonderful musician and a great man with much musical experience. His style was unique and he was always a very calm and relaxed teacher. Very kind and patient. Of course he had his quirkiness like all great musicians, she says with a twinkle in her eye. While teaching some ragas for example like the Mohan Raga, he would tell us to tease and tantalize the Alapana, unlike the normal course where you develop it in phases. But his influence has been tremendous in the way I teach my students".In her twenties she continued to pursue her musical education by studying voice and became a respected professional Veena player in Chennai. The year 1974 brought her to the US along with her husband Dr Krishnan. The Krishnans moved from Texas to New York where she performed regularly at the Ganesh temple in Queens and gave lessons before moving to Boston in 1977. Her other major influences include the illustrious Lalgudi Family and her eyes immediately light up when she speaks about them. ?In my mind, Lalgudi Jayaraman is the encyclopedia of music. Growing up, I have always listened to his music and his Tillanas and been fascinated by his Sahityam To hear the words are so important in music and his compositions are a rare musical choreography. I love his style. It is so pure, no gimmicks. I have been so fortunate to be associated with this family. To me, he is almost like the incarnation of the Trimurthi's in Carnatic music". On her annual trips to India in December to participate in the Carnatic Festival, Durga Krishnan takes music lessons from the Maestro and the Lalgudi's. Not only did this method improve her technique, but it provided the impetus for constant lesson development and a source of inspiration to positively affect the lives of all those around her. " Being in front of your Guru is a very humbling experience. I realize how hard learning can be and I think this makes me a better teacher."

Durga Krishnan has always strived to teach at the highest level while still advancing her own musical vision, which has made her a coveted teacher while being a gifted artist.

I believe that the right encouragement and guidance is key to successful training. I am happy that most of my students have not given up their instrument even after going to college.

Siddharth Bhasker, a student of Durga and a senior in High School has been learning the Veena for more than 8 years. But it has been a unique way of learning thru the speakerphone between Boston and Philadelphia for the past six years. Says the bright youngster, ?When we were living in Boston I took regular lessons from Durga Aunty. When my family moved to Philadelphia we adopted the speaker phone, all the while thinking we will find a better solution but learning this way was so effective that it became a permanent one. Durga Aunty is very good and knows my learning style well. She listens and is very attentive even on the phone. In summer, I travel to Boston for a week to study with her and that reinforces the learning material."

Durga has seen many of her young students improve their grades and expand their interests, and firmly believes in the relationship between studying music during childhood, the right mentoring from family and teachers, and academic/professional success in adulthood.

"I believe that music should relieve stress not add to our already busy lifestyle," Durga says. "I want students to look forward to my class. Many of my students admit that they pick up the instrument just to get relief from their studies and to relax."

She constantly reminds herself of the fact that she wouldn't be doing what she does now unless her parents and all her music teachers had continuously encouraged her to pursue her musical dreams.

In the end she has but one fervent wish.? I want Carnatic music to be a household name in this country. Responsibility doesn?t end with teaching alone. It is passing on the value, the culture through this fine art. It is the younger generation that will sustain and keep this art alive.