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Jul 2001

Singapore based Aravinth Kumarasamy is a versatile artist. He is a computer specialist, plays the veena and was a Bharatantyam dancer in his younger days. This knowledge enables him to accompany dance with a special understanding. He learnt veena from Mrs. Kalpagam Swaminathan while she was at the University of Madras. He learnt dance from Vazhuvoor Ramiyah Pillai and had his arangetram in 1994 when he was conferred the title 'Nrithya Vaarithi' by his guru. Aravinth has become an integral part of Apsaras Dance Company and is fully involved with music compositions and dance choreography.

You are so busy, doing so many different things.......
There was an article '6 faces of Aravinth' in Citizen magazine of Singapore. It has 6 shots of me doing various things like playing the veena, choreographing, composing, doing nattuvangam, conducting music and as a computer software engineer. They mixed it into 1 frame wherein each face is looking at the other- like a group picture. I guess that sums me up.

What are your most recent endeavors on the music front?
The Kolam- Ayer Indian Youth Ensemble is the one and only Indian youth orchestra in Singapore and the members are between the ages of 15 -22, mostly secondary school and university students who are pursuing the arts, medicines or engineering. We started it in April 1999. We have vocal, veena, sitar, flute, violin, mridangam, ghatam, ganjeera, tabla, pakhwaj and edakka players. We do not teach. The students learn from various gurus and come to us to learn a piece and perform.
Last year we did our first full-length debut concert 'Jananam' in which one of the items was a fusion piece where a Chinese and Malay youth orchestra also joined. Another highlight was a medley of Carnatic compositions by various composers in the 4 South Indian languages. It was arranged and orchestrated by me. Last year in London, I put together an orchestra for a performance called 'Nadanjali'. Artists who played all instruments of South Indian Carnatic music came together for this performance. Highlight of that was my composition Rituragatarangini illustrating the 6 seasons.

What are your recent compositions for dance?
Last year, I composed for 'Arupadai' - a dance drama by Apsaras Arts. It's different in the sense that all the 6 stories of Muruga were put together in the production and new lyrics as well as well-known compositions were used. This was performed twice in Singapore and once by special request by the President and this year the production will tour Australia. I did research on Kandapuranam, the various works on Muruga to come up with the concept, in which I worked closely with writer Va Ve Su (V V Subramaniam).

Another was a composition and nattuvangam for Lingalayam Dance Company called 'Nithya Sumangali' - the story of the devadasis or temple dancers. It was well received as a repeat 7 day performance in Sydney and has been performed twice again on popular request. We came up with a story line based on the research conducted by dancer/choreographer Anandavalli and myself. It deals with the lives of the temple dancers of yesteryears.

Another's a contemporary story called 'Serpent Woman', which deals with the subject of human personalities based on a fictitious story for which I have composed traditional music based on Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi. A contemporary story but danced in a traditional style.
In the non-lyrical 'Surya', I did the concept, music, conducted and arranged the orchestra. It deals with various aspects of the sun based on Hindu mythology and folklore. For this the Singapore Indian Orchestra performed. The dance was choreographed in various styles including contemporary by People's Association Indian Dance Company.

What about your forthcoming projects?
I'm working on releasing my new album, which is targeted towards people uninitiated in Indian ragas. This is part of my Young Artist Award, which I received 2 years ago. It is as yet untitled.I'm working on the concept and music for a dance drama based on a Japanese story for Kannagi India Dance Company of Tokyo. For a Lingalayam dance production, which is based on the life of Madhavi and her daughter Manimekalai (post - Silappadikaram), I'm doing the research as well as composing music for it.
We are working on a show for Singapore TV. It is somewhat like Saptaswara music show in Sun TV or Sa Re Ga Ma on Z TV, but it is based on classical music. I am doing the research and writing for it. Other than the competitive aspect, it aims at infotainment on Indian music. These assignments apart, I've been very busy firming up cultural ties with Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore for the Sruti Foundation / SAMUDRI as its Asia Pacific representative.

How seriously is Indian classical music and dance treated in Singapore?
I feel we take it more seriously in Singapore as we can't take it for granted. We have to ensure it has authenticity, yet have novelty. So we do lots of research, take great pains for every production. This was acknowledged by people we work with like Va Ve Su, Padma Subrahmanyam, Anita Ratnam to name a few. We are exposed to lots of varied culture since Singapore is a melting pot of pan - Asia and European influence. We have picked up good tips from other international companies and learnt how to package and present. This also applies to our lighting and set designs.

With so much of varied activity, do you have any time at all to relax?!
I do not go for parties, no holidays, no watching films. No family life.... that's because I am single! Since I travel a lot, I have a mini tape recorder. In the plane, while waiting at airports, anywhere....if anything comes to mind, I tape it immediately. I hardly sleep, that's the net result!

Aravinth Kumarasamy
12, Jalan Tembusu
Singapore 438227
Ph: (65) - 3467589
Fax: (65) - 3457436

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