SaMaaGaMa by eAmbalam: an overview
- Vidyalakshmi Venkataraman
Photos courtesy: eAmbalam

January 4, 2013

SaMaaGaMa, Chennai’s first unique outdoor festival of free interactive workshops and performances hosted by eAmbalam was held on 15th & 16th December 2012. Nageswara Rao Park was the perfect setting for the events scheduled. Two venues were prepared - one in the chess square and the other in the shady patch ahead.

The invocation was sung by T V Ramprasadh at 6am on 15th and the park was filled by the organizers, their in-house team, volunteers, invitees and general public. What was interesting about SaMaaGaMa was the range of workshops therein handling wellness, music, dance and general themes. The wellness workshops covered Tai Chi by TV Ranga Rao and a discourse on ‘Art and life’ by Dr. Shilpa Pandit on the first day and included yoga by Renjith Babu and meditation by Dr. Shilpa on the second. The participants and onlookers had a “feel good” experience in these four workshops.

The music workshops on both days were interesting, informative and educative. On Saturday morning in the park we got a scholarly exposition from Dr. Sriram Parasuram about the nature of melodies in Indian classical music in their aspects with special reference to allied ones. The greatness of Carnatic music, interspersed with beautiful renderings of classical based film songs made Madurai GS Mani’s open house on “Any questions on Carnatic music” interesting. Dr. RS Jayalakshmi did a wonderful exposition on ornamentations to swaras in Carnatic music in her practical workshop on gamakas on the veena and also by vocal. It was a pleasant experience for all gathered under the trees at 9am on Sunday morning as MO Parthasarathy with vocal support from Keerthana, tabla by Aditya Srinivasan and violin by Easwar Ramakrishnan trained the participants in unusual exercises like singing day to day shlokas in Sanskrit, Tamil and other languages to Hindustani tunes. South Indian percussion was explained at an experiential level by Melakkaveri K Balaji in his workshop on ‘Mohora and Koraipu’ on both mridangam and kunnakol.

In the dance workshops section, with demonstrations from the troupe about the concept, Narendra Kumar and his Anusham Dance Group encouraged the participants of the ‘Joy of Rhythm’ workshop to explore the aspect of rhythm in various facets of performing arts. Eminent dancer and teacher of the Odissi style of Indian classical dance, Sujata Mohapatra gave a charming demonstration of the footwork and hand movements typical to Odissi to the participants of her workshop. Lucrezia Maniscotti brought in her expertise in both European theatre and abhinaya from Bharatanatyam into her workshop and her well attended theatre workshop drew all age groups. Vasanth Kumar’s Kalaripayattu workshop gave us a glimpse into the handling of our body and some weapons according to the traditional Indian martial art of Kalari. Back to the chess square, the energetic Lavani was explained after a brief performance by Supriya Kharat. As children, teenagers and adults tried out each step they were happy to follow her directions.

Akatha Kahani- a song, story and dance presentation on Kabir, 14th century mystic poet and radical thinker was performed by Jaya Madhavan, Bindhumalini and Archana who succeeded in combining all three concepts to take Kabir to the hearts of the audience. With a panel full of established artists it was a very productive session with the title ‘Arts in Education’ in the afternoon at the park at the chess square. With artists like Sangeeta Isvaran, Anusha Subramanyam, and critic ‘Sruti’ Janaki in it, the session was an informative experiential educative panel discussion indeed! T V Ramprasadh moderated the proceedings with inputs from his experiences as a performing artist. In the evening, Sri Guru Raghavendra Yaksha Kala Vrinda staged the story of ‘Jambavathi Kalyana.’ The rich greenery was the perfect foliage for the colourful classic Thenkuthithu pattern of Yakshagana presented powerfully by this troupe. SaMaaGaMa even had a solo Tamil theatre act where with her prodigious talent, SS Kalairaani enacted the intense feelings of Nandanar, a Shaivite saint, who was deprived of the darshan of the Lord inside the temple due to the prevalent caste system then.


Kasim and Babu

Anupama Bhagwat

Karmic Blues

A general workshop on paper art was a novelty in SamaaGaMa. The Origami Society of Madras founders, Subash Thyagarajan and Kartik Raghavendra Vignesh are two enthusiastic youths who have set out to make this art more popular. In keeping with this they conducted two sessions of Origami in SaMaaGaMa and had every participant create different pieces of art.

In the performances section, artists came from all over the country and displayed various genres. The Carnatic vocal performance of Sriram Gangadharan with his mellifluous notes enthused every visitor in the morning. In the evening, Nadaswaram sounds engulfed the green surroundings.  Kasim and Babu, the eminent duo who are globalizing the importance of Nadaswaram music, rendered auspicious the proceedings of SaMaaGaMa with their concert. Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra’s tutelage was on excellent display while Odissi exponent Sujata Mohapatra danced. The progressive Blues / Jazz band Karmic Blues containing multi-ethnic members excited the listeners with their “away from the normal” medley. Anupama Bhagwat’s technical virtuosity was visible in her evening’s performance as she effortlessly played enchanting tunes in her concert on Sunday, ably supported by the enthusiastic tabla player Aditya Srinivasan. It was a joyful experience for the rasikas to see Mohinattam at its classical best by Smitha Rajan during SaMaaGaMa. Multifaceted senior musician, Prof. V V Subrahmanyam enthralled the connoisseurs who had eagerly gathered for his late evening concert. This concluding treat of SaMaaGaMa left the audience wanting for more.

Sujata Mohapatra

Smitha Rajan

Chennai in Margazhi or the December season should witness more of this. eAmbalam has been the trendsetter by bringing a plethora of performing arts of India to the common man. SaMaaGaMa is synonymous with quality, variety, information, education, sharing and all that which synchronize with eAmbalam’s vision of “creating artists everywhere.” The unique event truly enriched the understanding of the students, laymen, connoisseurs, musicians and dancers who had gathered there.