Keeping the Carnatic tradition alive

Kalakruthi School presents its annual showcase writes UMA KARTHIKEYAN

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One of the foremost classical music institutions in Melbourne’s Indian community, Kalakruthi School of Indian Music celebrated its annual program of student showcase in early July.

It was a cold winter evening, but the warmth of the music touched the gathered audience at the Doncaster Secondary College.

Kalakruthi School.Indian Link

The Kalakruthi School was founded in 1994 by Shobha Sekhar, training students in the vocal and veena traditions of Carnatic music. Herself an artist of international repute, Shobha Sekhar currently teaches music at the University of Melbourne. Her own training came from stalwarts in the field, including from her mother Mangalam Muthuswamy, a great exponent of the veena, whose 10th memorial anniversary was also observed as a part of the annual program this year.

Some fifty students ranging in age from four to fifty presented their talent on the night. The performances made me wonder about the time and effort that each of the students would have made to bring their talent to stage. It is a great achievement by Shobha Sekhar to have inspired these musicians to learn, practice and seek further knowledge. 

Many performers stood out with their renditions. Young Melbourne student Sakthi has been training at Kalakruthi since her age of four. Currently she is pursuing her medical studies in Hobart. Being brought up in Melbourne and far away from a land where this music originated, her passion for music was inspiring.

Kalakruthi School.Indian Link

How does she balance her music activities with her busy student lifestyle?

“Music is a part of my life now and I cannot imagine a life without it,” she replies. “I make time for regular practice, and while doing other activities like walking or running, I listen to Carnatic and other forms of music on my iPhone.”

She also credits this interest to the perseverance of her parents and the interest created by her teacher Shobha Sekar.

To practitioners and followers, music is truly an ocean of knowledge; the more you immerse yourself into it, the deeper it gets, pushing you to seek more learning, and thus engaging your mind with positivity. The great Indian sitar exponent Pandit Ravi Shankar once said famously, “Music can lead to a deep sense of inner peace.” Thanks to the activities of institutions like Kalakruthi, community youth are inspired to engage their time in blissful and peace-filled activities.

Kalakruthi School.Indian Link

In a wonderful innovation that shows the desire of the school to reach out to the youngsters as well as keep up with new trends in technology, each item performed was accompanied by a PowerPoint backdrop with captivating images and translations of the song, its origin, its composer and the other details. This heightened the experience for the audience.

Students came from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and this did stand out truly in the performance. The event was well attended by the who’s who of Melbourne’s Indian classical music fraternity, including Ramnath and Gopinath IyerVasan and Latha SrinivasanMurali Kumar, Indira Srinivasan, Ram and Jayshree Ramachandran, Ravi and Narmatha Ravichandhira, Meena Ilankumaran, Ushanthini Sripathmanathan, Balasri Rasiah and Rama Rao.  These luminaries relentlessly support this art form and help in their own way in bringing the next generation of musicians to the Melbourne stage.