Monday, August 29, 2016

Man in the mirror

In 1988, Michael Jackson released - the man in the mirror. That wasn't the song that made me a fan. It was Beat It from Thriller in 1982. I still remember watching wide eyed as video with that parking lot scene unfolded in front of me. I don't remember how old I was but it is one of my earliest memories and have since been a fan of the pop king - Michael Jackson. But his song - man in the mirror. I have tried to live to those words all my life for I truly belive - change begins with the man in the mirror. Happy birthday MJ. Don't think I'll ever stop missing you. I'm gonna make a change For once in my life It's gonna feel real good Gonna make a difference Gonna make it right As I, turn up the collar on My favorite winter coat This wind is blowing my mind I see the kids in the streets With not enough to eat Who am I to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs A summer disregard, a broken bottle top And a one man soul They follow each other on the wind ya' know 'Cause they got nowhere to go That's why I want you to know I'm starting with the man in the mirror I'm asking him to change his ways And no message could have been any clearer If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself, and then make a change1 I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love It's time that I realize That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone? A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart And a washed-out dream They follow the pattern of the wind ya' see 'Cause they got no place to be That's why I'm starting with me I'm starting with the man in the mirror I'm asking him to change his ways And no message could have been any clearer If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself, and then make a change I'm starting with the man in the mirror I'm asking him to change his ways And no message could have been any clearer If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself and then make that Change! I'm starting with the man in the mirror (Oh yeah!) I'm asking him to change his ways (Better change!) No message could have been any clearer If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself and then make the change) You gotta get it right, while you got the time You can't close your, your mind! (Then you close your, mind!) That man, that man, that man, that man With the man in the mirror (Man in the mirror, oh yeah!) That man, that man, that man I'm asking him to change his ways (Better change!) No message could have been any clearer If you want to make the world a better place Take a look at yourself and then make the change Oh no, no no I'm gonna make a change It's gonna feel real good! Chime on! (Change) Just lift yourself You know You've got to stop it Yourself! (Yeah! Make that change!) I've got to make that change, today! Hoo! (Man in the mirror) You got to You got to not let yourself Brother Hoo! (Yeah! Make that change!) You know, I've got to get That man, that man (Man in the mirror) You've got to move! Chime on! Chime on! You got to Stand up! Stand up! Stand up! (Yeah! Make that change) Stand up and lift yourself, now! (Man in the mirror) You know it! You know it! You know it! You know it (Change) Make that change

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Paal vadhiyum mugam

One of my favourite krishna songs. The thing with Krishna is, there is a song for every human emotion that relates back to him. Be it a mothers love for the little Krishna with milk flowing down his lips or for the Radhe in love with her Krishna. This song by Ootukadu Venkata Subbaiyer starts with a mothers love and rest can be interpreted as you want or your emotions then

paal vadiyum mugam ninainthu ninainthu en uLLam paravasam migavaaguthE kaNNaa - my heart leaps with joy as I see your beautiful face stained by milk neelak kadal pOlum niraththazhagaa - with skin as blue of the ocean, you are so beautiful enthan nenjam kudi koNda anRu mudhal inRum enthap poruL kaNdum sinthanai sellAdhozhiya - you rule my heart and nothing can move my thoughts away from you vaana mugattil saRRu manam vanthu nOkkinum un mona mugam vanthu thONudhE - in the nook of my heart, at a moments thought, your beautiful moon like face appears theLi vaana thaNNeer thadaththil en sinthanai maaRinum un siriththa mugam vanthu kaaNudhE saRRu - i see your beautiful smilling reflection in the clear pool of water gaanak kuyil kuralil karuththu amainthidinum angum un gaanak kuzhal Osai mayakkudhE - even as the birds sing, the beautiful sound of your flute, mesmerises me karutta kuzhalodu niRutta mayiliRag-iRukki amaitta tiRattilE - with a flute, and a peacock feather in your hair, gAna mayilADum mOnakkuyil pADum nIla nadiyOdum vanattilE - in a forest filled with dancing peacocks, singing birds, by the blue river kuzhal mudal ezhilisai kuzhaiya varum isaiyil kuzhlodu miLir iLang-karattilE - there in the midst of the forest music, your beautiful flute mesmerises us kadirum madiyum ena nayana vizhigal iru naLinamAna salanattilE - and your eyes dance to the tune of your music, as we stand mesmerised by the haunting music and your expressive eyes kaLinga sirattilE kaditta padittilE en manattai iruttik - There you are standing thriumphly on Kalingan's head, holding my breath and soul with it kanavu ninaivinodu piRavi piRavi tORum kaninduruga varam taruga param karuNai - i wish to be reborn in every birth with all these thoughts in my mind, oh please grant me this wish, oh kind benevolent one Ah what beautiful lyrics. Didn't post the song to translate this but as i was listening to it felt a need to translate the gem that it is. Btw there is an appropriate age for a dancer to do each Krishna. I find it very disconcerting to see a child dance and express radhes passionate love for Krishna. (yes it happens)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Good luck LCW, no matter what we MALAYSIANS are behind you

Tonight the world will witness one of the most celebrated rivalry in the history of badminton.
Lee Chong Wei vs Lin Dan
Our very own Lee Chong Wei or as we fondly refer to as LCW, is ranked no 1 worldwide while Lin Dan stands at third.
Yet there is a very interesting chemistry between both and what we Malaysians call the most nerve wrecking game.
If you watched LCW quarter finals game, you'll realise he is cool as a cucumber on the court. Yet its like theres a mental block everytime he meets Lin Dan who has won most of the games they have played against in.
Every single time they get together, it is so nerve wrecking, I am refusing to watch tonights game as I don't think I can take the pressure.
But I want Lee Chong Wei to win this game, and I am going to sit somewhere and read tweets and hope he wins.
I want Lee Chong Wei to retire with an Olympic gold medal. And that was why I like many other Malaysian was rooting for Indias Srikanth when he met Lin Dan in the QF.
This is his and Lin Dan's last Olympic. This game is one of those semi finals that are greater that the finals. one of those semi final meets that we hope were Finals but alas fate often doesn't give us what we want.
Lee Chong Wei is a hero for every Malaysian. Regardless of the outcome tonight, he has our hearts. He has throughout his career been an absolute inspiration.
I met him a few years ago during a Merdeka parade. He was a quiet, humble man who obliged every fan who rushed to take a photo with him. And that is why I hope he gets his Olympic gold. He more than deserves it.
Good luck LCW, no matter what we MALAYSIANS are behind you.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Malaysians you guys rock

Dear Berita Harian and Kosmo, or whoever else who has decided to write a negative post on our awesome Olympic heroes chan peng soon and goh liu ying silver medal win - THANKS.

Coz if it wasn't for you I wouldn't have woken up to Malaysians of all races and walks of life, standing UNITED to thrash you guys.

So thank you for that cheap publicity attempt, you have just proven what I've always said - despite everything MALAYSIANS are amazing beautiful people who will stand up for their fellow MALAYSIANS when it matters.

Malaysians you guys rock. Stand united always, don't let words break us, instead stand together, remember we are brothers and sisters regardless of race, colour or gender.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

So tell me Malaysians, are you FANS or SPECTATORS?

It was the 1998 commonwealth games.

‪#‎Malaysia‬ played host to the games that year which coincidentally took place very near to where i lived.

While all the euphoria was happening. One of the greatest achievements of our Malaysian athletes was unfolding before us. Our mens hockey team was advancing ahead.

On 17 September 1998, Malaysia beat Canada 2-1 to top Pool B and head into the quarter finals. Malaysians started flooding every single game thereafter and it was entirely impossible to get tickets.

We had been trying to get tickets but couldn't get a single one.

And then on 19 September, Malaysia beat one of the top favourites that year India 1-0, in the Semi Finals to advance to the Finals. the country erupted with euphoria.

And somehow we finally got tickets to the final match on Sunday, 20th September 1998 where Malaysia was to meet Australia. And we were a big group of Indians, friends of friends, i think about 20 of us.

All of us were carrying the Malaysian flag and were one boisterous bunch. Somehow we ended up sitting right behind the Australian teams side bench and there we were waving our Malaysian flag and chanting Malaysia, Malaysia, Malaysia non stop!!!

We were so loud, the Australian team kept looking at us on and off while waiting for the game to start, and we sheepishly smiled and waved back.

The stadium was flooded with hysterical fans, with groups sporting the kompang* and playing their hearts out, riling us fans even further. We were there to support our team, our Malaysians who had done the unimaginable to reach the finals of the coveted Commenwealth games. The whole stadium was filled with Malaysians that day.

Alas the gold was not ours to be. We actually got thrashed by Australia 4 - 0.

I remember the first time Australia scored, we were all still hopeful, cheering the team on. We were thinking its ok just one goal. When the second goal went in, some of us were still hopeful. But by the time the third goal entered, the stadium was eerie and we were slumped in our chairs. most of the spectators started leaving. Our group continued to stay on. By the time the fourth goal went in, most spectators had left. we decided to stay on and cheer them on during the medal giveaway.

Our boys had come far, they were not even on our list of hopeful medal tallys. How could we abandon them now just for losing the final game? THEY still won us the SILVER!!!!

But of course spectators will be just that. We on the other hand were fans.

When the Malaysia team took the podium to receive the silver medal. We loudly cheered them on, standing on our feet and clapping as hard as possible as we were the few remaining people in the stadium. And our voices reached them and all the teams turned to look back at us.

Of course there's always one crazy guy in the group. That was when one guy decided to scream at the top of his lungs - "I love you (a players name, can't remember who) can I have your shirt, pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

We practically scrambled to sit down at that point from embarrassment. Anyway to the 1998 Commenwealth games Malaysian Hockey Team - that was us.

The reason I'm writing this today is coz this morning we woke up to the amazing news that our Mixed badminton doubles team just advanced to the Olympics finals after Chan Peng Soon - Goh Yiu Ling beat the team from China.

They will face Indonesia's Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir in Wednesdays final.

This is a historic moment for us as they have already won us a confirmed first medal in the mixed doubles category in badminton. To me THEY are already winners and we can only get further from here. All you need to do is give them your undying support no matter what happens on Wednesday.

Whether Malaysian wins its first ever Olympic gold doesn't matter, what we as MALAYSIANS do matters.

Don't walk away, don't boo them, don't put them down with words anywhere. Give them your support. Stand up and clap, raise the Jalur Gemilang and wave it proudly.

Regardless of what happens, Chan Peng Soon - Goh Yiu Ling are already our winning heroes.

I have no doubt we will celebrate this together somewhere, in a mamak or at wherever they show this game. But i need you to not leave the arena, no matter what happens.


So tell me Malaysians, are you FANS or SPECTATORS?

kompang - malay drum

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The wonders of Seven

The wonders of Seven
Where do I begin? Should I start by waxing lyricals on the amazing music or that the dance was so divine, the mother goddess herself decided to dance for us?

Sapthashree presented by the talented dancers of Suvarna Fine Arts and its founder Ajith Bhaskar Dass was an evening of enthralling music and exhilarating dance.

I first watched Suvarna in 2010 during Raghava Yadha as part of the dance reviews I was writing for Asiadancechannel and have since been a fan of the stories that Ajith brings in his dance productions.
This year’s exhilarating combination of dance and music brought me back to the memories of another Suvarna production, the haunting music of Vishmaya Vriksha in 2011 by G.S. Rajan, T.S. Lazar & Achutyan Shashidaran Nair or Bhumi Pranam by Achutyan Shashidaran Nair in 2012.

There is no dance without music for it is only with music than the dancers efforts shine as the music stirs your soul and the dance awakens your imagination.

This year Ajith took to the team of 7 or saptha and presented 4 dance numbers in a continuous programme. This is something I’ve always found interesting with Suvarna productions. That he takes one core unit and weaves different stories and experiences into a production. The number has numerous references in the Indian mythology right down to the fact that Triputha thala is a set of 7 beats – takita takadhmi.

Divine Music

Soul wrenching.

That was what the music was. The music composers K. Venkateshwaran (who was also the vocalist for the production) and Dr S Vasudevan have done such an amazing job with the music. Every point or expression they wanted to emphasis through their music was clearly encapsulated in the tunes and lyrics. They seemed to have pandered to every creative request of the dance director, the music dances on its own, vibrating through the soul. Both the Saptha Shakthi and Saptha Tarangini are stunning original compositions, so beautifully rich and so emotionally stirring. K. Venkateshwaran brought out the musics beautiful essence in his soulful rendition of his creation.  At some points of the performance, I wasn’t sure of whom to watch, the musicians or the dancers. Both were equally dazzling.

He was amply supported by the brilliant nattuvangist Sajilal Narayanan who added even more drama to the performance. Achyuthan Sashidaran Nair on the violin was as brilliant as usual. Any performance with him on the musician list, is always a delight to the years. I was surprised at Theban Arumugams mirdangam playing. He was excellent this time as compared to when I heard him years ago in a similar setting. Matching the dancers rhythmic adavus with his crisp beats on the mirdangam that were a story on its own.

The weakest link to me was the Veena playing by Jayalakshmi Premkumar in the opening. In a very crucial part of the opening mayamalava gowla piece, she was playing off thala and that threw of the dancers briefly in that section. But she more than made up for that in the beautiful thanam she played in Saptha Tarangini. I was so engrossed in the moody thanam that, the emcees announcement came at such an unfortunate moment. Perhaps for that piece alone, they should not have the emcee reciting her script as it breaks the beautiful silence that was in that Thanam.

Though not as prominent as I would have hoped for a Kanjira sound, Kuhanathan Nanthakumar added his presence wherever was necessary in the music.

The emcee Meena Kumaree who was also the producer of the show, has been an integral voice to the introductions of Suvarna’s performances. So unless for that one moment, her voice and explanation is often a welcome addition to the production. Offering just the right amount of information prelude to each dance segment.

Saptha Dwani
The evening began with Saptha Dwani as 7 maidens appeared on the raised dias to represent the 7 swarangal (music notes) of Carnatic music. And so Shadjam, Rishabam, Gandharam, Madhyamam, Panchamam, Dhaivatham and Nishadam were artistically portrayed as the musicians sang in the raga Mayamalava gowla in adhi thalam.

And what better way to pay tribute to the 7 swaras, than to dance to Saint Thyagaraja’s SHobilu Saptaswara set to ragam Jaganmohini, Rupakam thalam.

The Thygaraja kriti is sung in praise of the 7 divine notes of music that glows to the core of the human body, shining through the vedas and holds the heart of humans and the divine celestials.  

The dancers weaved and danced to the notes of raga Jaganmohini and blazed the stage away. I especially loved when they weaved the gayathri manthra into the phrase “vara gayathri” that comes in the Charanam.

Saptha Shakti
I had read with interest that they eventually composed this piece from scratch as they weren’t able to find one song that captured what they wanted to showcase. And what a delight the song was. Set to thala misra chapu, the ragamalika started in Brindavani and travelled through raga Bibhaas, Kedar, Durga, Basant, Megh Malhar, Surya and finally ending in the electrifying verses of Revathi. On stage as the music flowed we saw 7 devis emerge on stage – Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Maahendri, Kaumari, Varahi and Chamundi.   

This was my favourite piece of the evening as I have barely seen Ajith explored the Devi theme in his dance. Ganga ma yes but I am so used to seeing him doing different versions of the Yadhava prince that this was such a delight to watch.

Each of the dancers were given an opportunity to shine as a Devi. Each doing the role they were given extremely well. But that is what Ajith seems to bring out in his dancers, a need to excel and the confidence that is needed to hold such roles.

However the moment the young dancer Haridivya Muralitharan stood on stage, it was Kaumari herself that I saw – the one who blesses her devotees with power and confidence. Three devi’s showed us their presence that night, to dance in the the dancers who took their form, and this was the first of the three moments I experienced that evening.

And then Chamundi emerges on stage as the singers electrified the room with the raga revathi. Devi Chamundi had merged within the young dancer and it was she we saw dance on stage. The goddess that is at once fearsome and compassionate and protective of her devotees. As she crossed over and leaped over the dancers, her eyes gleamed in magnetism that made you gasp in shock.

The dancer Logeshwari Durairaj was new to me as I had not seen her in the senior line up of Suvarna dancers before. I am told she and Haridivya, have both been part of the productions for many years but usually in the ensemble section.

This is what I have always loved in Suvarna’s productions. Despite being an excellent dancer who could do the whole production by himself, he has continued to include his dancers and students into every production, giving each one ample opportunity to shine, and often taking the stepping into the shadows and giving them the main spot. We will not have been able to witness such talent and divine presence if it was not for the trust and encouragement only a Guru such as Ajith could do.

Costumes in a Suvarna production is always excellent. From hair to fan to the colours of the costumes, everything is often looked into. Similarly in this piece the dancers are wearing beige costumes with red and green checker pleats. But what was visually stunning was when they turned, the back of the pleats was a bright red pleat that stood out in the excellent lighting design by KRSS. Lighting is so important in any dance performance and sometimes not given enough emphasis. So it is extremely delightful to see the light shine on its own in the different pieces. In this for example there was a lot of shadow light play to emphasise the devis. That created stunning visuals for the audience.

Saptha Rasayati
After that exquisite dramatic performance, Ajith took us on a light hearted journey of a theme I have seen in many of his productions – love and the yadhava prince. But what is interesting is that despite it being a theme at every production, no one performance or choreography has been the same.

Saptha Rasayati was set to chatusra jathi Atta talam, in the ragas Nagaswaravali, Chandrajyothi, Vasantha, Vaasanti and Reeti goula.

Ajith emerges on stage as the playful cupid and shoots his arrows into Krishna and Radha – the stage of love awakening was beautifully portrayed by Parthiben Sethu and again Logeshwari Durairaj.
Now I noticed Parthiben Sethu as an addition to the senior Suvarna dancers line up a few productions back. He is a dancer to be watched. There is a sense of innocence, genuine emotions in his expressions. And their pairing for this segment was a perfect one as both were young and were able to beautifully portray the awakening of love and what follows, the teasing period of new love – kadal udalgal.

One of the beautiful parts of the lighting was the appearance of the moon on the blue screen. It was a perfect addition as Radha and Krishna danced to the tune of the beautiful music.

This was then followed by Krishna flirting with the gopikas much to the chagrin of Radha, and then Radha erupts in anger and leaves Krishna. A remorseful Krishna searches for Radha as she recupriates and eventually forgives Krisha as their love is reawakened in their unification.

Each stage of these emotions is portrayed by different pairs of Krishna and Radha. With all 4 male dancers taking turns to play a different kind of Krishna. It was a delight to see these different stages of Krishna expertly played by the Suvarna dancers.

I loved that they included the classic Krishna tune “Chinna kannan azhaikiran” in the final verse which is set to Reethi Gowlai.

I have not written much about the senior line up of Suvarna nor on Ajiths performance simply because they have always been talented dancers and shined in each role that was given to them. As I said before, the Suvarna productions are performances I truly look forward to watching as it has always been dazzling full blown dance and music showcases.

Sapta Tarangini
The final piece of the evening was a tribute to the 7 holy rivers of India. The original composition was set as a Talamallika in the raagam Sindhubhairavi in lyrics of the 7 rivers location.

Saraswathi ....Jampa..sanskrit
Yamuna.....Tripuda..braj baasha

Again the music composition excelled here. As I had already mentioned the opening Veena thanam set such a beautiful tone to the song. You could feel the rivers course flow through the music according to their attributes. Similarly the dance was choreographed to match the intensity of each river.

Loved how Ajith had weaved the rivers flow into the formation for Narmadha or how they referenced the invisible river Saraswathi in the choreography as there’s a lightness to the dance in this segment.

What’s interesting is I have seen Ajith do the theme of rivers before and the fact that he manages to do a totally different choreography for the theme is pretty brilliant.

Ajit does a beautiful solo in the Sindhu nadhi segment of the dance and the music at this point is absolutely stunning.

And then Ganga ma herself descends from heaven to sweep us into her embrace just as she does every devotee that chants jai ganga ma before dipping into the holy river Ganga in Varanasi. She is at once strong, yet she holds you in the flow of her waters, comforting her devotees as only the hug of a mother can.

The dance coordination and formations at this point were just superb and then Ajith took us to the next stage as he transported the audience to Varanasi for one of the most beautiful sights one will experience in Varanasi – the evening Ganga Arathi. So there I sat, once again rocking gently on a boat on the pitch dark river as the 7 dancers gently paid tribute to Ganga ma with their arathis as the bell tolled from the orchestra. What a moment that was.

And with that, the evening ended with a gasp of flashback to Varanasi that I am sure anyone who has been there would have experienced. Thank you for transporting us back for that brief moment – for the greatest achievement of a dancer or musician is the ability to make us feel or experience an emotion and that was what the evening of Sapthashree was to me.

As I’m typing this I’m sitting and wondering when will I hear the exhilarating music from that production again?

Let me ask Suvarna the same thing I asked MPO recently, could you please make it available for us to purchase the DVD of the music or production as I find it frustrating that all I have is bits and pieces of memories of these amazing shows and no way to relive them. I grew up to be a fan of the music of Queens simply by listening to music of his live shows something that the indian classical music fraternity refuses to embrace. Every single live concert I go for, there’s numerous reminders of please do not record the show but where do we go to relisten to those stunning moments that is only capable to be captured in a live show? How do we rehear these amazing original compositions and arrangements if it is not available to be heard ever again?

Either post it online or make it available for purchase.

All you have to do is post a note on the availability of the DVD to be purchased post show on Facebook and I am sure there a rasikas like me who will be clamouring to buy a copy and you will have enough orders to make copies.

This post will not be possible without the help of Meena Kumaree, who graciously took time to answer my questions and send me all the details on the production. Thank you so much for that.

 ps: photo is not mine

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