Saturday, April 18, 2015

Turning to be a Tansen Gene . . . !

A land mark institution in South India which cradled the carnatic Music culture, Tansen Academy of Music, seeks to provide Hindustani Music education that builds character and personality along with imparting a sound musical knowledge. When I met, Shri. Krishna Ballesh, the founder of Tansen academy of music, Chennai, the first question that came to my mind was, "Why the name Tansen?".

When 24 August 2006 was marked as one of the saddest days of Hindustani Music, owing to the demise of Ustad Bismillah Khan, many Hindustani lovers and musicians felt the void created by the greatest Shehnai Artist. Shri Krishna Ballesh, inspired by the musicianship of Ustad Bismillah Khan, the Shehnai Mastero, started taking music classes in memory of him. Though his father, Shri.S.Ballesh, was handling practise sessions and formal classes to almost all the contemporary artists in the music industry, Ballesh was not able to concentrate both on his recording sessions and classes. Slowly, the classes handled by Krishna, started seeing more students - the networking developed. Krishna has also taken the opportunity to visit many areas across Chennai, and even skype classes for abroad students striving to make music accessible and inspirational to the lives of very many people every where.

The surprise twist happened when Mrs.Anupama Chowdry, Wife of Mr.Chowdry.H.K(Hon' Director - IT Exemptions) walked in for one of the classes of Krishna Ballesh. She was a lady of alacrity and floored the musical sessions with pure bhakthi. It was during 2009, when she gave an idea and huge support to start a music school/ a foundation academy. The small classroom turned into an academy! And when the naming ceremony was on, huge confab prevailed. Tansen was one of the nine gems at the court of Jalaludhin Mohammed Akbar, the Mughal Emperor. He was a prominent Hindustani classical music composer, musician and vocalist, known for a large number of compositions, and also an instrumentalist who popularised and improved the plucked rabab. And hence, the final decision was, "Tansen Academy of Music" !

Classes were taken through out the seven days of the week. Online classes, Home tutions, classes at various places across chennai, and the network of Tansen genes started to get distributed across various walks of the world.

It was interesting to note people who are in different cadre club together as a clan in the name of STUDENTS. Few interesting personalities spoke about the academy, Kalai " I am lucky to be here when there are very many people waiting outside to taste the real feel of Hindustani Music" . Channi, " There are no institutions to teach, now a days, in the Guru Shishya Parampara! Our Krishna Sir and Bade Guruji (Pt. Shri.S.Ballesh) and every one in their family, do!".

When Feroz spoke his heart out, " There are no specific batch restrictions or age group restrictions to learn music from this academy. Any one can walk in to any of the classes and learn!" Ragu another proud student turned singer explained his experience in the concert - like classes which helped him to overcome his muffled voice and come out at a singer in the cine industry.

And as a final touch, there was one little student friend, who stole my heart :-) ( Cm'on! In a lighter vein, I say, but I must say, He shud be my another Lil Brother, for many reasons! How about adopting him as another brother, Lemme givva tot, if his parents have no trouble) Too much of activeness personified in one human, a cute combo of naughtiness, responsibility and shrewd nature - al together in the name of Sharath R! Hailing from a carnatic familial back ground, he proudly said,  he could feel the unalloyed form of Hindustani music and at the same time, enjoy the carnatic music too!

After talking to the students of the Tansen Academy of Music, I was left with a feel of satisfaction of having interacted with a pure breed of musicians and wished the team to grow more and render service to music!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Break your Mind set Before it breaks you ! !

Preethi Srinivasan, disliked the look of pity and sympathy in everyone’s eyes and did not want to be looked upon as a handicapped person. Of recent, Preethi Srinivasan, the founder CEO of Soulfree organization has posed me a challenge, a 20 – 20 – 20 Challenge.. .It is simple. Stay erect in a chair for twenty minutes and twenty seconds without disturbing or moving your lower part of the body. Try to take up the challenge and see, who is struggling in life more. And it took me 20 times 20 of 20 days to take up the challenge…  I learnt not to sympathize with the differently abled people but to empathize them . Kavingar Kannadhaasan, in his golden lines of poem, had mentioned, “Unakkum keeze ullavar Kodi vaazhnthu paarada Manithaa…” there are lot more of people who are suffering more than you are and hence stay blessed and cherish the blessings. (Please don’t misinterpret, when what I actually meant is, people say they “suffer” and theirs is the worst ever “suffering”, but in reality, there are people who can oversee and overcome what others stamp as “Suffering”)
Disability – Challenged – or whatever… I Happened to attend a function, Cavinkare Ability Awards 2015, where the ABLE persons were awarded for their normalcy and being normal and competing with all others. It was so good to see very many people being nominated. And the jury members were in a perplexed condition to assess who were the best in their struggles of being normal.
The function was organized jointly by C.K.Ranganathan - CMD, CavinKare Pvt Ltd, Jayshree Raveendran - Founder , Ability Foundations and a few other s partnering the noble cause. The event had eminent and famous personalities, like Dr.A.R.Rehman, Mr.Chiyaan Vikram, Ms. Bombay Jeyashri, Dr.Maria Zeena Jhonsan, Ms. Revathi, Mr. Terry Thomas.. and many more. The founder chair of ability foundations was also there to grace the event. Media partners, award presenting partners, witnessed the event which was as usual staged in a grand manner.
The special achievement award went to Mr. Ramakrishnan of Amar seva Sangh, a 80 year young man, who never dared to dream and made it into reality. When he had a dream of serving the nation by joining the navy, he was forcefully been put into a wheel chair where he couldnot sense anything below his shoulders. But, he never gave up. He started fighting against all odds, and have started Amar Seva Sangh – an institute/ Organization to support lots and lots of people and there by serving the nation! Service to Humankind is a service to the nation!
Janarthanam .K who has got creativity at its highest levels, suffered an electrocution during his early childhood! He is a mouth painter and a graphic designer by professional passion, made extraordinary attempt to break stereotypes that come along with the physical disability through accidents! He made a fruitful struggle and now, is a director of short films. He gleamed with joy and said, “I have a big dream. I want to become a big noted movie director”. All I could do is, respect his dreams which are going to become definitely true in near future.
When I find it tough to control my voluntary actions of moving about like a rag doll, in a chair or jumping here and there, and getting named as a girl of contagious energy, I was astounded to see Siddharth Taneja – who was down with cerebral palsy,
Sorry did I mean” Down”, ?! Definitely no he is UP and Moving HIGH ! In his words, “Who does not have difficulties in life? Just because I cannot use my hands I am not abnormal. I just learnt to write and work with my legs”  When few studies showed that adolescents with cerebral palsy had a lower QoL with their able bodied peers, Siddharth, proved to have on par or even a far better QoL (quality of Life) than his able bodied peers. Working for “make my”, Siddharth refused to take up special privileges that the company had offered him on the fact that he is fighting with a disorder!
Praveen Vyas, curbed to bed after a road accident, never allowed this set back to hinder his success in life. He has started a newspaper Phalodi Jayate, in his native Jodhpur which had no printing press. Today, his creation sells 1,500 copies daily. He works just by lying in his bed. He acts as a constant source of motivation to all his colleagues/sub – ordinates/employees.
She has proved that a strong determination and will is far more important than a strong body. She – the lady of alacrity and clear vision – Savitha Singh – bagged the Eminence Award that night, for supporting girl child, female empowerments, etc. She suffered an early polio attack and was kind of abandoned by the society but strived hard to set up, organize and help girls / ladies, transcending her disability!
The evening/night, was indeed an eye opener to me and almost to many others, who witnessed fashion shows by the differently abled people! Inspiring talks by Jaishree Ravindran, Revathi, added more emotions and knowledge to the evening!
Everyone has hardships they encounter in their lives, but when someone with a disability is able to overcome all of the additional faucets, a disability brings to not only survive, but to find mega success, that is an amazing thing to behold. It takes a lot of strength and a complete no-fear attitude to go as far as these highly successful people with disabilities have.
 After the full course eye – opening curtain raiser kind of sessions, questions surrounded me, literally, about the need of the hour! What on earth makes us to think that ‘we face too much of struggles, we are not comfortable,’ or what makes us wait for leading a “sophisticated” life with iOS and iP-6, and all that ? What makes us to fight with our loved ones over the viber / tang / whatsapp interfaces, about their “Privacy” settings, “Last seen” and “out of range” and all that, when there are people outside, who needs our respect and empathy; when there are people who strive hard despite the split second tragedy; when there are people who needs your support to achieve a basic QoL; when there are people who move towards success rather than succumbing to all the mishaps they faced in life – medically ! !

 Don’t you think, it is high time to change our mind sets, accept people as they are, take up the situations as they come ? Let us try to be interdependent, sharing and caring, helping each other out, ensuring the glee and bliss transcending every where, to make our Mother India or even the Planet earth, a happier place to live ? ?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Climbing the chords #4

 We live for moments, the ones that have magic – the ones we never forget. The magical moment having its own silver lining, Moment of sheer joy, where words turn meaningless, you turn speechless, but experience bliss! For Krishna, that moment happened in life. It is in these moments that contentment resides – The moments of astonishment! Krishna fondly recalls, “Ustad ji recognized my father and called him to sit next to him. My father introduced me to Ustad ji. My eyes were full of tears, and I was dumbfounded. I did not know what to talk or how to react! I was indeed, a bundle of emotions!

My father asked Ustad ji to bless me for which Ustad Ji replied “ Mera Aasheervadh Har vakth hai inke paas, Lekin mei inko sunna chahtha hun” ( My blessing is always with him But, I want to hear him playing). This was the first sentence spoken to me by Ustad ji ! These words are always etched in my mind”, says the ecstatic Krishna Ballesh. You could feel the tears of pride and joy evoked through the craft works and words of Ustad ji, even now when he recalls about Ustad Bismillah Khan!
Krishna continues, “ My father accompanied me. After a few minutes of me playing, Ustad ji ordered his son to play Tabla as to accompany us. I played Raag Madhu Vanthi – with some alaps and chota kyaals. I was on cloud nine, when my humble little efforts were acknowledged by Ustad ji, with “Waah”, “Kya Bath hai bĂȘte”. My joys knew no bounds that day. You would have heard people saying about blissful moments or whatever. I experienced it on that day. A day to be cherished in my life forever in Golden Carpet is that day!  Guruji was kind enough to say to my father to send me with him so that he can train me. And, my father readily accepted!!”

From then on, seven and half years of training sessions on the Banarusi Gharana Shehnai style playing in Khayal Gayaki ang, Thumari ang ,Dhun and Kajri style. He has enabled him to refine technique and mastery. He performed in Ganga Ustav in Benaras & son of Ustad ji, Ustad Nazim Hussain Khan accompanied in Tabla.

Krishna proudly recalls the association with Ustad Nazzim Hussain, son of Ustad Bismillah Khan! “We were more like siblings. Sharing the same taste in music, practicing jugalbandhis on and off! When I was about to leave Benaras, I was down with pox. Husain took care of me like his kid. I felt, after Ustad ji’s death, Hussain has taken place of his father in terms of his love! “

Krishna Ballesh has been accompanying his father for the past 10 + years and has given several Solo performances in several Sabhas in India & Abroad & also performed for culturals events with his father. In Chennai,Ganayogi Panchakshara Sangeet Sammellan,He has performed with Surmani Samrat and Karnataka Rajostav Puraskar Awarde Violinist Sri. VEERASHWAR MADRI of Dilruba & Shehnai Jugalbandhi with the Gayaki Ang ,taans and tone. He has given some jugalbandhi concerts with vocalist, veena, violin, dilruba, flute, harmonium with various artists of Hindustani and Carnatic musicians.

He has performed before Dr. Gangubai hangal, Dr. Rajkumar, Swami Jayendre Saraswathi Swamigal, Dr L.Subramanium, Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasiya Maestro Illayaraaja, S.P.Balasubramaniu, Hamsalekha,Violin Maestro M.S.Gopalkrishna, P.B.Srinivas, M.S.Viswanath, G.K.Venkatesh, S.Janaki, Vanijairam, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan, M.Balamurali Krishna, Violinist Chandrasekaran, Pt M.Venkatesh kumar, Pt Shivanand Patil, Pt Vinayak Torvi , Pt Somnath Mardur,etc..
Despite all these stalwarts, performing with Ustad Bismillah Khan sir was considered to be a blessing to Pt.Krishna Ballesh. For the Shehnai King, along with his student bodies, Pt.Krishna Ballesh is organizing a tribute “Ras Barse Utsav” on April 11, 2015, In memory of Sri Sanna Bhrammana and Ustad Bismillah Khan . When your clock strikes 05.30 pm IST sharp, make your presence, to Chinamaya Heritage centre to witness the magical moments.

And that is how, Pandit Krishna Ballesh is now serving to music through his academy, Tansen Academy of Music. Yeah, I understand, how did this Engineering Graduate, founded Tansen Academy of Music, to propagate Hindustani ? Hold on for the next post,

Until then,

Lots of love,

Riya J

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Climbing the Chords #3

Driven out of curiosity, I started asking how Krishna Ballesh stepped into music. However, I knew my question was sheer senseless, as the Ballesh family had been rendering music service over 300 plus years as I have read. Krishna Ballesh learnt shehnai under the distinguished tutelage of the world renowned Shehnai Maestro, Bharat Ratna, Ustad Bismillah Khan Saheb .
Born as the Second child to the Ballesh couple, on 5th November in M.K.Hubli (Belgaum district) Karnataka , learnt his initial musical classes and trainings from his grandfather Shehnai Vidhwan Pandit Sanna Bharamanna ji. The classes would start with initial “Sa Re Ga Ma” and slowly would transcend to “Om Nama Shivaya” .The classes would start as early as 04.30am ! ! Krishna Ballesh humbly expresses his reverence to his grand father and fore father who forms the bas for  his musical knowledge
He gently recalled, his early child hood days. When he was six years of age he learnt Hindustani vocal in kirana gharana from Dr. DP.Hiremath for several years. The association with Pandit.Hiremath was so touching that the guru had to leave his bases and shift for this child – a sincere student ! Krishna continued Patiyala Gharana khayal gayaki from Hyderabad Nizam’s Court Asthan Vidhwan’s Maharasthra Maha Pandit Sri. Kodhanda Salunke Maharaj and Pandit Sri. Prakash Salunke has been training him very much in the past years and still training continues..
Krishna Ballesh, travels down his memory lane when his eidetic memory flashes upfront his eyes. He started playing Shehnai without the knowledge of his father. Having heard of Ustad Bismillah Khan, his childhood days were just filled with Shehnai Mastero Ustad’s performances. He smiles shyly, briefing upon how he got caught while performing shehnai. Once, when Pt.Ballesh went for a concert, Krishna as a child, started playing shehnai. He was shocked to see his father returning from the concert. The astonished father and scared son - their expression was beyond transcending to words. It was then the father came to know that his son could play shehnai! And, the official classes for shehnai, started for Krishna from his father on a fine vijayadasami day ! From then on, serious sessions of practice continued. Krishna, with a naughty smile, acknowledges, his father to be a “Strict” guru. Additionally, he also reminds of the “Good” house owners, who had let him to practice day and night and never considered the sounds from his reed as a disturbance!
 Krishna Ballesh gave his first public appearance accompanying his father Pandit S.Ballesh in Ustad Ahmed Hussain Khan Music Circle in Chennai and started his music tour. And 2nd performance in Ganayogi Panchakshara Sangeet Sammellan in Chennai and received the blessings from Dr. Pandit Puttaraj Gawai ji.
As a child, he used to listen to Ustad Bismillah Khan Ji, and would ask his grand dad, when would be his chance of meeting the Sahenshah of Shehnai. For every question of his, he got a reply that he would have his day to meet the Mastero!
At last the much awaited moment arrived!! “To perform shehnai before Ustad Bismillah Khan Saheb!”
 It so happened that Krishna Ballesh accompanied his father to Banares to meet Shehnai Shahenshah. The excited Krishna was planning, preplanning and rehearsing what all he must talk to his Manaseeka Guruji. But, at that moment, nothing could be done.
I was thrilled to hear more from him about his association with Ustad Bismillah Khan, for whom they have arranged a tribute “Ras Barse Utsav” on 11th of April 2015, at Chinmaya Heritage Centre, Chennai. If you want to witness the colors of Hindustani raags and Riyaz, join the team, and jam with all the Tansen academy folks!
Will continue in my next post to say about the associateship of Pandit Krishna Ballesh with Ustad Bismillah Khan. 

Until then,

Lots of Love,

Riya. J

Climbing the chords . . . #2

Hailing from the family of Shehnai maestros and concerting since the age of 13, Pt.Shehnai S.Ballesh is known to hold the audience in thrall with his performances. Pt.S.Ballesh has also had the privilege of getting trained under the extreme expertise of Ustad Bismillah Khan for a few years.
After a small pause, Krishna Ballesh, continued to say how his father got associated with Ustad Bismillah Khan. Pt.S.Ballesh was at “Thala Bhavan” , Dharwad, all set for the gig - greater grander performances. Ustad Bismillah Khan was brought to the site, in the “Pallak” (Palankeen). Just imagine, the luck of the performer, to win the hearts of very many people including the Ustad Sir!!  While Pt.S.Ballesh was performing, the sound systems went Phut..! The perseverance of S.Ballesh was so great that he had performed without the sound systems, for three full hours!!! (Any artist could understand the plight of performing without a basic sound system, for that matter!) The concert geared up and ended so well ushering few special raagas, in an air of festive gaiety, with a gayaki style of Shehnai as well! Pt.Shehnai Ballesh was holding a place in the remote areas of Ustad Khan Sir’s Heart. However, a similar kind of event happened, that made S.Ballesh to be a Sishya (Student) of Ustad Bismillah Khan sir! This event carried an impact in S.Ballesh’s timeline.
Looks like, the power had the power to connect these two people for life time! In the second event that happened in one of those days, there was a power failure at the concert hall, where, Shehnai S Ballesh was to perform along with few other artists. Also, Ustad Bismillah Khan sir was to issue forth few sparkling notes of Raags and Tals , giving in , to the deeper levels of receptivity by the listeners! When the (electrical) power failed, Ustad Bismillah Khan Sir’s pressure shot up, as how to conduct this event. Pandit S.Ballesh approached Ustad Sir, and had tried to pacify him. The sparks occurred at the synaptic clefts of Ustad Bismillah Khan Sir that this was the guy who performed for three hours without electricity, sometimes ago! The pacified master, and the little student, started their performances and had made the event a great grand success. S.Ballesh became the disciple of Ustad Bismillah Khan and he was brought to Varanasi by the Ustad and was given advanced training by the Ustad himself!
After the performance in Gadag Karnataka Rajostav Puraskar awarde Sri.Veereshwar madri ji made S.Ballesh to step in for South Indian Film Industry to Chennai. And from then on, he had a long music career! The South Indian Film Music Industry gave a red carpeted welcome to Pandit.S.Ballesh. He had been the only Shehnai Player, who gelled with most of the music directors across South India, from M.S.Vishwanathan to Illaiyaraja, Noushad Ali to Paravoor Govindan Devarajan, Rajan and Nagendra to Upemdra Kumar, Rajeshwara Rao to Ravindra, Madhan Mohan to Ravindra Jain! S.Ballesh broke the paradox of “Fixed Musicians” to the music directors and played for all the musical directors in a perfect pace.
During his associateship with Ustad Bismillah Khan, he learnt and mastered different shades of behaag, Shuddha Sarang and many other raag and taals. Ballesh considers Ustad Bismillah Khan not only as a musical guru, but a spiritual guru as well who propagated brother hood.
To the man, the master, the Shehnai Shaheenshah, is the tribute Ras Barse Utsav, that is to be held on 11th of April, 2015, at Chinmaya heritage Centre, Chennai. Mark your calendars, Make sure you join the team to witness a rare of its kind – Hindustani Concert – Live in Chennai!
Lot more to share,
Until then,
Lots of love,


Climbing the chords . .#!1

When South India has been the cradle for Carnatic music, it looks indeed a herculean task to establish a Music Academy that propagates Hindustani colors of music to those who love it! And, Tansen Academy of Music has let its freak flag fly high, amidst all the odds. Driven by curiosity, I walked in for one weekend classes conducted by the academy, to know, what is happening.  I reached the class venue against the clock, that I generally do and you must obviously know ! :-)
About a score of music lovers, in their pursuit of learning Hindustani, were surrounding the source of music, who was ecstatically moving, with his eyes closed, a blessed throat thumping out divine notes and the whole class was in his finger tip control! The master, Shri Krishna Ballesh, the Founder of Tansen Academy of music, with Sur Mandal in his hand, was rendering "alu Bela Sajan Aayore..." meticulously and to me it was like a mini concert than a class. I understood I had to wait for the classes to get over and I never minded, for, I was given wages to have a candy!  Sajan Aayore was succeeded by "Avan Nahi re...". I kept on wondering , how the man, could make every one there present to follow his notes and sing, Individually for that matter! There was a swar sangathi, "SNSNSNDNMGMGGMGMNS" which crept in , purely by coincidence and imaginations of Krishna Ballesh ji, the students found it suffocating for the first time and just for the typically perfect guru, to mentor his students, He repeated, "Ready 1, 2, 3 and 4, SNSNSNDN... " The swars were chopped off into pieces and taught. And, in the blink of eye, the students followed it, perfectly fine! Once the classes were over for the day, I slowly approached Shri Krishna Ballesh, to know more about his musical journey and how he came in touch with Ustad Bismillah Khan and all that ! Krishna Ballesh was kind enough to have a nostalgia, dusting the memories of the past, slowly unfozzilizing them, to us...
Hailing from a village in interiors of Karnataka, in the village of M.K.Hubali, Pandit Sanna Bhrammannapa and his family had the privilege of propagating, living, dwelling, breathing or whatever – ‘ing’ of Hindustani music and Shehnai instrument. The five brothers in the Bhrammannapa family were classy shehnai players who were known to perform Jugalbandhi ( A duo concert ) ! Wah, so it proves, Shri Krishna Ballesh had the 'music gene' running down his family! What a precious Inheritance, you bet ! The royal inheritance of the music gene from Pt.Sanna Bhrammannappa later got bestowed to his son Ballesh.S who in his latter age, went all the rage, in South Indian music industry and was named Pandit Shehnai Ballesh, then on!
When S.Ballesh was a kid, he learnt hindustani vocals and Shehnai from his father and then moved on to his Dhodappa (Father's elder brother) Pandit Dhodda Bhramappa as well. Pt. S.Ballesh gelled along with Dr.D.P.Hirey Matt to get to know and master Khirana Gharanna style of singing Hindustani and the Guru - Sishya kinship lasted for decades and is still fresh across the generations to come. As times passed by, Pt. S.Ballesh happened to perform at Shri Balaiya Yogi Swami Mutt, for Makara sankranthi event. In those days, Makara Sankaranthi used to be celebrated and gala times happened all throughout the night! During one such festive nights, S.Ballesh had given an impressive performance that Pandit Kothanda Salunke Maharaj from Karsundi, Maharashtra took S.Ballesh as his student and they started giving new colors to the Patiala Kharanna! Pandit.Panchakshari Gawai - An extraordinary artist, who foresaw without eyes, the talents imbibed with S.Ballesh, was very instrumental and another guru who molded S.Ballesh to right shapes. In the Veereshwara Punyashram, the annual functions that last for three days, named as Punyathithi, had the pride of witnessing S.Ballesh 's performances, every year, on the third day, in the name of "divine Invocations". For the first time, S.Ballesh performed Raag "yaman Kalyan" which was widely appreciated and the foremost primary Shishya (Prathama Sishya) of Pt Gawai - Pt Putraj Gawai - who is a visually challenged man but can play utmost 13 instruments, came to the stage and honoured S.Ballesh upfront to him. This incident of honoring an artist during the festival was reported for the first time in the timeline of the Ashram. In addition to honoring him, Pt. Putraj had ordered S.Ballesh to perform every year from then on.
And when Ballesh is hosting the event, Ras Barse Utsav 2015, it is a tribute from student family, to all the gurus on earth! So fingers crossed for ! Okay, I understand your inquisitive query lingering in your heart and soul, “How can a person who had been dwelling in Karnataka could meet  Illayaraja MS.Vishwanathan, ,A.R.Rahman and all those stalwarts and brought Shehnai to South Indian music and Cine industry especially?” “How did S.Ballesh manage to break the paradox of Shehnai shows which were filled with  just sadness and brought in unalloyed forms of Shehnai ?”

Hold on for some more time to know how the chords climbed so high!

Lots of Love,