Fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka and then seeking refuge in India, Sivaganga Sahathevan is no stranger to seeking peace through music. With an appreciation for music from an early age, Sivaganga helped spawn an awareness of an existing stream of Indian music in her hometown in Preston as a gift to the Indian community who gave her a sanctuary.
Sivaganga vividly recalls that she was on her way to Darebin City Council in Preston to pay her council rates when she saw a poster advertising the Darebin Music Feast. As she read the poster, she wondered why there was no Indian component. Determined to find out, she talked to a few locals in the area and crossed paths with the producers of the Feast. With her willingness to contribute back to the Indian community at heart, she helped arrange a performance of Carnatic music for the event. That was way back in 1998.
Since then, she continues to actively take part in the Feast. From 2001, her group had a standalone performance in the programme. “We decided to donate all proceeds to the Starlight Children’s Foundation and this very important partnership has continued ever since,” Sivaganga told Indian Link as she discussed the breadth of her contribution. “In 2017 we also started performances that raised funds for the Girls from Oz, a charity that enables indigenous girls from rural and remote Australia to obtain musical education and to help sustain their communities.”
With her efforts and the support from her team, contributions of $37,000 have been passed on to the two charities. Sivaganga is thankful to her team, in particular Dr Chandrabhanu and the Bharatalaya Academy.
“Dr Chandrabhanu gave me my first opening in Melbourne’s world of Indian music and dance, and the Darebin Music Feast gave me the platform to present Indian music to the wider Melbourne community.”
Both enabled her to engage with the community, encourage artists to showcase their talent, and work with groups of people who share a passion for comforting others through music and performance.
“This latest award is for them,” she said with gratitude. “It is also motivation for me to keep going.”
Sivaganga acknowledges the participation and assistance of many organisations in her musical career including the Academy of Mary Immaculate, the Australian Girls Choir, Multicultural Arts Victoria, Vani Fine Arts Society (UK) and Shylar Productions in Chennai. She recognises the incredible devotion of the Taste of India committee, her students, the many families and friends and, very importantly, established Australian and international artists and sponsors.
Talking of the future, Sivaganga shared that her aim is to develop activities to engage the elders in the community and draw on their experiences and knowledge. She also wants to offer a platform to enable up and coming children and students to express their culture through music and performance.
“You can see that this is a pretty challenging agenda,” she laughed. “However, I believe not only that each person can make a difference, but also that being a leader to a team of dedicated individuals keen to work together, will support the community.”