More fragrant than jasmine

More fragrant than jasmine
By Amjad Ali khan

Every human being’s first teacher is his mother. In fact, the first ‘music’ that a child hears is the mother’s voice. Have we ever thought about the great ladies who raised great artistes? The lives of these brave and timeless women are often a tale of struggle and evolution.

When I look back, I cannot remember a day when my mother was not there for me, watching me practise, play, eat. In whatever financial condition we were back then, life looked beautiful because of her unconditional love. I grew up and moved on, but she remained in the background with her blessings. My mother suffered a lot because of the big joint family of Abba Saheb in Gwalior. She had no say in most family matters and was not treated with love and respect by other members who lived with us.

Recently, I was saddened to hear that Ustad Alla Rakha Khan’s wife, Bawi Begum, who was affectionately called Ammaji, passed away in Mumbai. She was, perhaps, the last of the artistes’ wives who kept the house open for family and friends without, in today’s language, an appointment. With the erratic timings of the profession, such warmth and welcoming can be expected only from a person with unsurpassed love, affection and understanding.

I have had some of the most memorable evenings at Alla Rakha Khan saheb’s residence in Mumbai. It was always great interaction and great food. I pray to the Almighty that her soul rests in peace and the legacy of love and affection that she has left behind stays forever in their home. She blessed the music world with her jewels, Zakir Hussain, Fazal Qureshi and Taufiq Qureshi.

I recall similar stories of the wives of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Enayet Khan. These ladies gave birth to the finest artistes who represented Indian classical music.

I hope all artistes and their wives give quality time to their children. Artistes need to travel constantly, but it is very important to strike the right balance between professional and family lives.

My wife, Subhalakshmi Khan, deserves the highest praise for handling my life the way she is doing it. She has been the best daughter to her parents, the best wife to me, the best daughter-in-law to my parents and the best mother to my sons, Ayaan and Amaan.

She is in charge of the museum Sarod Ghar and the Haafiz Ali Khan Awards. She has been dealing with art and artistes for years, and has completely dedicated herself to my family. She makes immense effort in maintaining the Ustad Haafiz Ali Memorial Trust.

Subhalakshmi began coordinating and managing my concerts soon after our marriage. Now this includes the management of Amaan’s and Ayaan’s concerts as well. She did not know how to cook at the time of our marriage, but today we all look forward to her cooking, as she has an exclusive touch in everything she cooks. She could not meet my father but has heard all the old stories of our family from my mother.

Only a mother can multi-task at all levels and still have the time to devote to and the love to share with the family. I don’t know how mothers do this, but they do! I have watched my mother and wife perform these roles with utmost devotion. I have forever felt blessed and remain grateful to be in the midst of such divine love. I remember a quotation by Sathya Sai Baba:

Sathya Sai Baba: More fragrant than the sweet-smelling flowers like the Jasmine and the Champak, Softer than the cheese and the butter, More beautiful than eye of the peacock, More pleasant than the moonlight, Is the love of the mother.

The Week Reference

Neyveli Skandasubramanian : ‘Playing for bhajans improved my skill’

Neyveli Skandasubramanian : ‘Playing for bhajans improved my skill’
V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

Over the years, encouraged by his gurus and fellow musicians, Neyveli Skandasubramanian has become one of the most sought after mridangam players. Impeccably dressed, he can be identified at once thanks to the sacred ash and vermilion on his forehead and his broad smile. Skandasubramaniam recalls some memorable moments in his musical journey.

Early years and basic training…

My father B.Y. Sundararajan learnt mridangam from Poovalur Venkatraman (a disciple of Palani Subramania Pillai). Compelling family circumstances made him take up a teacher’s job in Neyveli. His unfulfilled desire of becoming a mridangam player was in a way responsible for what I am today. Neyveli Balasubramaniam spotted my love for rhythm and put me under Tiruvarur Krishnamurthy of AIR Pondy, who was frequenting Neyveli to conduct classes. In a year, there were only four or five classes. But I would continue practising. Then there was a lull for four years. But my father was determined and took me to Tiruvarur Krishnamurthy’s house at Pondy. Soon classes began during weekends and holidays. The only difference was I had to travel to Pondy every time. Playing for Srirangam Ranganathan’s vocals regularly helped immensely. Also, my sister, a qualified musician, would sing at home so that I could practise.

My days in Neyveli…

Even as a child, my mother would take me and my sister to all concerts in Neyveli along with my grandmother, who was a good singer. I have listened to many veterans. Music was always my first choice when compared to games in the township. I would never miss concerts even during exams. Competing with my sister, I would run to the main gate to grab the concert notice for the month when it was being distributed. Listening to concerts in AIR was another highlight.

Most memorable Neyveli concert…

D.K. Jayaraman’s performance with T. Rukmini and R. Ramesh is still etched in mind. We were in awe as we had listened to him only on AIR. That day, we never wanted the concert to end. The way he encouraged young R. Ramesh was something incredible.

The influence of Pudukottai Sanjeevi Bhagavatar…

Regular bhajans and annual Radha Kalyanam were part and parcel of Neyveli life. Pudukottai Sanjeevi Bhagavatar would stay in our house when he came to participate in the Radha Kalyanam festival. It was he who made me play for his bhajans. I received my first ever sambhavanai of Rs.75 from him. Playing for bhajans regularly improved my skill, what with varied style, different talams and tunes and long hours of non-stop playing.

Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and an important decision…

After completing DME, I immediately got a job. Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, a nephew of my first guru, knew me even during my Neyveli days. After convincing my parents, he made me take up mridangam full time. Then I moved to Madras. His words of encouragement helped me overcome my initial diffidence in a new atmosphere. His mother T.R. Aanandavalli sang a lot for my practice sessions. Bhaktavatsalam made me participate in several competitions and in the first year of my entry, I won prizes at The Music Academy, IFAS and MFAC . Incidentally I got the Government scholarship to learn mridangam under him.

Professional life…

Winning competitions earned me a few concerts. My guru also recommended me to many artistes, and sabhas. S.V. Krishnan of Raga Sudha boosted my morale by featuring me at least twice a month. One such concert for Rajee Gopalakrishnan really pushed my career ahead. My maiden tour abroad was with her, arranged by Cleveland Sundaram. Playing for veena vidwan K.S. Narayanaswamy in the presence of M.S. Subbulakshmi is something I will cherish forever. At the end of the concert, Veenai Vasu virtually lifted me from the stage on his shoulders, showering praises.

My association with Sudha Ragunathan…

After playing at a few concerts for Sudha Ragunathan, there was a gap. Then, all of a sudden, she called me up and asked me to accompany her. There was no turning back after that. Accompanying her for concerts, there has not been a place that I have not visited both within India and abroad.

Encouragement from other vidwans…

O.S.Thiagarajan is a big source of inspiration and so is T.V. Sankaranarayanan. Playing for Priya Sisters, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Sikkil Gurucharan and many others regularly, has helped me adapt to different styles.

Love for Tiruppugazh…

Our house in Neyveli would always ring with Tiruppugazh. My parents, brothers and sisters were all good at it. These hymns of Arunagirinathar are the ultimate statement on rhythm. Taking part with T.V. Sundaravalli in her Tiruppugazh concerts and albums has been soul satisfying.

Most cherished moments…

The blessings I received from Kanchi Paramacharya when he released the first Tiruppugazh CD of T.V. Sundaravalli at the Mutt and the pat on my cheeks from Sathya Sai Baba after I played with Priya Sisters in Puttaparthi… I will never forget those moments.

Approach to concerts…

On the days I have concerts, I get up early and set my mind for the evening’s concert. Tuning myself to the style of the artist whom I am going to accompany that evening goes on the whole day. By the time I leave my house, I am all set. On concert days I never undertake any domestic work. Non-concert days are reserved for my family.

The Hindu Reference

With love for the Baba

With love for the Baba

A grand event was staged to celebrate Puttaparthi Sathya Sai Baba‘s 84th birthday.

To celebrate the 84th birthday of Puttaparthi Sri Satya Sai Baba, a five-day festival of music was organised. Several associations of his devotees, followers and members of the city seva samithi in association with the pupils and teachers of Sri Satya Sai Vidya Vihar in MVP Colony, organised the festival of music, dance and drama.

The ballet Sree Paadaalu scripted and directed by M. Prakasa Rao, staged on the penultimate evening on last Sunday was the highlight of the festival.

Enacted by about five scores of pupils of the Sri Satya Sai Vidya Vihara on the imposing stage, attracted a very large gathering. It depicted the story, how a very prideful scientist who was an atheist got totally reformed after coming to know about Sathya Sai Baba from one of his staunch devotees whom he came across by chance.

As was advised by the devotee, he went along with him on a pilgrimage to get ethically worthy enough to visit Prasanthi Nilayam, the abode of Sathya SaiBaba at Puttaparthi and fall on his feet to get blessed by him for deliverance from the ill effects of the sinful life that he had led.

Visualisation as to how his desire gets fulfilled marked the grand finale of the ballet. All dialogues in prose and lyrical form for all the dramatis-personae were perfectly rendered by professionals (evocatively, musically, melodiously and aesthetically) and were pre-recorded. Makeup, sound and stage management were admirably accomplished. No wonder, watching the ballet, spell bindingly turned out to be an enthralling and elated experience.

The Hindu Reference

When A Mother’s Dream Came True

When A Mother’s Dream Came True
V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

If the art was mother’s gift, the title Bala Meera was given by Jawaharlal Nehru.

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Meera Grimes aka ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra receives you at the entrance of her spacious apartment on Poonamallee High Road, with a broad smile. For a moment, I remember those days when my family members would hurriedly complete the evening chores and rush to concerts and katha kalakshepams. One was child artist Bala Meera Chandra’s harikatha. I recall the discussions that would go on till late at night about her treatise on the subject that day, her charming looks, her abhinaya and her fantastic voice.

Over a hot cup of coffee, Bala Meera starts the conversation. “Harikatha encompasses storytelling, poetry, music, drama, dance and philosophy, and it is about God or about saints who had realised God. I owe it all to my mother Neela Balasubramaniam. She used to accompany my grandmother to Kadapa Lakshmi Amma to learn music, dance and harikatha. Lakshmi Amma is the first woman harikatha artist as far as I know. My grandmother and C. Saraswathi Bai provided her vocal support. Having lost her husband at an early age and due to the prevalent social stigma, Lakshmi Amma confined her performances to her house, and only women would be in attendance. My mother’s childhood dream of becoming a harikatha performer did not bear fruit. So, she was hell bent on making me one.”

Her arangetram

Bala Meera’s brothers were her accompanists and her cousins and aunts gave her vocal support. Her mother never missed her programmes.

Bala Meera’s voice sounds like the tinkle of a bell. She goes on “My mother taught music and dance to many children and as I watched them, it was but natural that I imbibed the art. Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma, an accomplished musician and harikatha exponent, volunteered to teach me the art of storytelling. His father Mahadeva Sharma had written a book on the various aspects of harikatha. The first piece I learnt was ‘Dhuruva Charithram’. My arangetram took place when I was 12. I was a student of Sarada Vidyalaya, T. Nagar, at that time. Offers started pouring in after that. Many sabhas, bhajan mandalis in the city and those in the districts provided plenty of opportunities. The training went on for about five years, and I learnt ‘Valli Kalyanam’, ‘Rukmini Kalyanam’ and many more pieces, expanding my repertoire in the process.”

Meeting a veteran

“Having heard about you, I wanted to see how a little girl in a skirt performs this art. That’s why I am here a day earlier. I am really proud of you and will help you hone your skills further,” was harikatha exponent Embar Vijayaraghavachariar’s comment when Bala Meera fell at his feet after her performance at Bangalore Ramani Ammal’s festival. Embar was to perform the next day. She reveres Embar a lot and values whatever she learnt from him.

A large photograph of a sanyasi in her drawing room attracts your attention. She explains, “That is Swami Remaji (Vaidyanathan) who was introduced to me by my mother when I had just finished SSLC. He taught me several bhajans of Surdas and Meerabai that he had set to music. He was an expert in all genres of music, be it Carnatic, Hindustani or Western classical. A nuclear physicist at the Cambridge University, he renounced life to propound a new philosophy. He was my spiritual guru. Before he passed away, he bequeathed to me all his writings running to several thousands of pages. I am in the process of bringing them out as a book.”

The prefix ‘Bala Meera’ got attached to her name when she performed Meera bhajans in the presence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a village in Rajasthan. A large number of people had gathered there to donate gold equivalent to the weight of Nehruji for the National Defence Fund. “Patting my cheek and appreciating my performance, Nehruji said, ‘So you are the Bala Meera performing Meera bhajans.’ That was in 1963, and from then on I came to be known as ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra.”

She rates her harikatha performance on the 30 saints in 30 days at Sai Samaj, Mylapore, as one of her best. ‘Krishna Rathna Thrayam’ taught to her by Swami Remaji was another pet subject.

Performing alongside the women trinity M.S., MLV and DKP at a Tiruttani festival got her an opportunity to perform at The Music Academy, on the request of T.L. Venkatrama Iyer. Dr. V. Raghavan helped her get a scholarship from the Academy to learn Lalithopakyanam under the tutelage of Mahadeva Bhagavatar. In the process, she learnt many Dikshitar kritis.

Academic life

“As I was busy with my concerts, harikatha and dance programmes, I did B.A. privately. After obtaining a Diploma in music and dance, I went on to do my Masters at the University of Madras. That’s where I met John Grimes of the U.S., who was doing research. He was deeply into Indian philosophy and wanted to marry an Indian who would help him in his journey. That’s how we got married, with the blessings of the elders and Sri Sathya Sai Baba of whom he was an ardent devotee.” The bookshelf in their house is full of John’s books on Indian philosophy, including a treatise on Adi Sankara’s Viveka Choodamani.

Shifting base to the U.S. after her marriage, Bala Meera continued her performances there. Due to ill health, she cut down on the number of performances. Unable to bear her daughter’s ill health, her mother Neela passed away suddenly. “I never thought that I would be able to perform again. But by God’s Grace, I am still performing, but am limiting it to chambers and smaller crowds.”

Her book ‘Harikatha’, that covers Samartha Ramadas’ contribution to art of spiritual story telling, is what she considers her best contribution to this art. She says Samartha Ramadas is the father of harikatha for it was he who codified it logically into a structure. The spiritual guru of Chatrapathi Shivaji, he travelled to South India and established maths in Thanjavur when it was ruled by Shivaji’s step brother Ekoji. That’s how harikatha spread in the South.

Bala Meera also hails Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavathar, who was a violin vidwan for harikatha performances then, as the father of harikatha kalakshepam, for he adopted it to suit this part of the country. “Nonetheless, Samartha Ramadas’ ‘Dasa Bhodha’ is the ultimate book on harikatha and its grammar,” she says assertively.

As I take leave, “Harikatha is a sugar coated pill,” she sums up.

The Hindu Reference

Sathya Sai Baba In Melody

Sathya Sai Baba In Melody

Devotional singer Bhavdeep Jaipurwala is to release an album in praise of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. His forthcoming album “Sathya Sai Baba” is also sung and composed by Sumit Tappu.

“The album comprises of nine songs which are not the typical bhajans, in fact we have kept the music contemporary. It is different from what has been sung so far for baba, so I am sure people will like it,” informs Bhavdeep Jaipurwala.

The album will be releasing in November in Puttaparthi, Bengaluru. “We are releasing it in Puttaparthi as 15 years back we had released an album called Sai Darshan, which went on to become one of the bestsellers so far among the devotional music,” he shares.

Hopefully this time too Sai makes their belief stronger with the success of yet another devotional stint.

Deepa Mishra/ Sampurn Media

Thai Indian Reference

My Jakarta: Paulus Panggabean, Hard Rock Cafe General Manager

My Jakarta: Paulus Panggabean, Hard Rock Cafe General Manager
by Zack Petersen

Hard Rock Cafe - Paulus Panggabean

Hard Rock Cafe - Paulus Panggabean


Paulus Panggabean lives the good life. He’s not exactly on vacation 24/7, but it’s close. As the general manager of Hard Rock, Paulus splits his time between Bali and Jakarta. He lives it up in two of the countries hottest spots, meeting the coolest people and listening to the best music—and he gets paid to do it.

The tattooed father of four sat down to quell our jealousy, talk about his favorite piece of Hard Rock nostalgia and let us in on the mystery surrounding the origin of the Hard Rock name.

Question: How many Hard Rock T-shirts do you have?
Paulus Panggabean: So many … I don’t even know. Hundreds.

Question: How did you land the job as general manager of Hard Rock?
Paulus Panggabean: I was working in Mulia Tower on Gatot Subroto and one day I read an advertisement that a Hard Rock was going to open here, and I love Hard Rock. Before that, I worked on a cruise ship and my roommate on the ship had worked at Hard Rock Singapore, so he told me the history of Hard Rock, everything about it. So when I went in for the interview, I impressed the GM from Singapore with how much I knew. I’d always dreamed of working at Hard Rock.

Question: Where and when did the first Hard Rock open?
Paulus Panggabean: In London, in Hyde Park, June 14, 1971. There are so many stories about Hard Rock and how it got the name. Two Americans living in London reckoned that the American food there at that time sucked, so they wanted to open a place that served good food and where the poor and the rich could hang out together, a place that treated everybody equally. Can you imagine that an ex-Rolls-Royce showroom serving greasy food across from Buckingham Palace became the most popular restaurant in London.

Questioner: And now they’re all over the world.
Paulus Panggabean: The Hard Rock logo is one of the 10 most recognized logos in the world. You know you have the Nike Swoosh, Coca-Cola and all that. The survey said that 85 percent of the people recognized the logo. Even if they weren’t sure exactly what it was, they recognized the logo.

Question: It must be rough flying from Jakarta to Bali all the time. People probably tell you every day how jealous they are of your job.
Paulus Panggabean: Yeah, it’s three weeks in Jakarta and one week in Bali. I’m blessed.

Question: What’s the difference between Hard Rock Bali and Hard Rock Jakarta?
Paulus Panggabean: The market is different in Bali; we get more tourists. Here it’s more regulars and repeat customers; we have more functions as well.

Question: How many tattoos do you have?
Paulus Panggabean: Actually I have 11 tattoos, but some of them are sleeves. I got my first tattoo when I was 22. There’s an Italian guy who comes to Bali every year. The next time he comes I’m going to get a Tibetan skull with flowers. I’ll have to do it in two sittings.

Question: What about the music that plays here at Hard Rock. Where does it come from? Do you guys make the playlist?
Paulus Panggabean: Every Hard Rock in the world is given the same playlist. We have this amazing machine called VDS, video data system, and it’s automatically downloading. It’s like a giant DVD player. Every night it automatically downloads or deletes videos. It just plays randomly. Some of the performances are really rare, they’re taken from Hard Rock live shows or other exclusive Hard Rock events.

Question: What is your favorite piece of nostalgia here?
Paulus Panggabean: I have a guitar from Steve Vai. I know him personally. He did a concert in Jakarta, he’s a cool guy. He used to play guitar for David Lee Roth, then he had a solo project and now he’s part of G3, he and Joe Satriani.

Question: You must get comments all the time on the rock memorabilia. What gets the most feedback?
Paulus Panggabean: They love the old stuff, you know, the legendary memorabilia. The young guys are amazed by the stuff from Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain.

Question: When you’re not hanging out in Hard Rock, where do you go?
Paulus Panggabean: I love to go to Dragonfly and I like Blowfish.

Question: How often do you guys have concerts?
Paulus Panggabean: We have at least two concerts a month, but we have live music every night. We have a house band here.

Question: Do you ever get behind the bar and help out?
Paulus Panggabean: Yeah, if the restaurant gets really busy, I help out where I can. I used to be a bartender so it’s no problem.

Question: Where did the name Hard Rock come from?
Paulus Panggabean: There are so many theories about where the name came from. Hard rock was a popular form of music at the time. Another one is that it came from “The Flintstones,” because the cafe is called Bed Rock Cafe. And the third one is a parable. One of the Hard Rock founders [Isaac Tigrett] is a Sathya Sai Baba follower, and Sathya Sai Baba told Isaac everyone in the world is carrying one big boulder, but you chip away your problems and you have one tiny hard rock.

But I think the real story is that in 1970, before Hard Rock opened, The Doors put out an album and on the back cover there is a picture of the Morrison Hotel and underneath there is a door that says Hard Rock Cafe. That was a year before the opening.

Question: What is the next event you guys are hosting?
Paulus Panggabean: Here in Jakarta we have Dance Company on October 2, and on October 9 it’s Andra and The Backbone.

Jakarta Globe Reference

Also see:
Hard Rock To Storm The City

Hard Rock To Storm The City

Hard Rock To Storm The City
Swati Sharma
First Published : 09 Sep 2009 04:02:07 AM IST
Last Updated : 09 Sep 2009 09:23:07 AM IST

HYDERABAD: It’s not just a restaurant, it is a museum of rock culture, with authentic memorabilia from Rock ‘n’ Roll legends covering its walls.

After spreading the spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll around the world since 1971, Hard Rock Cafe, a premium brand with Rock ‘n’ Roll sensibility at its core, is almost ready to rock the city this September. With guitars, racks of clothes, shelves of gold records — it was an incredible sight. ‘Love All, Serve All,’ the motto displayed at the entrance was adopted from Sathya Sai Baba.

David Holle, who started as a waiter in Hard Rock Cafe in New York, 25 years ago, is the person choosing the memorabilia for the location.

“Hard Rock Cafe has an acquisitions person, who goes to auctions in search of memorabilia. But often artists actually call the café and ask if they can sell or donate some of their collectibles”, says Holle. “We don’t sell memorabilia, but we do have Hard Rock signature retail store – the Rock Shop, which offers a line of authentic Hard Rock Cafe items, including Hard Rock’s famous Classic and City T-shirts, as well as highly collectible accessories and pins.”

“Hyderabad is an exciting and strategic city for us. The city has its culture and music and I am hopeful that Hard Rock will become the ultimate destination here. It is better known for its atmosphere than its food,” says Anibal Fernandez Lorden, director, Middle East, India, Africa franchise operations and development.

The walls are adorned with neat glass showcasing Madonna’s brown bret, Tina Turner’s black ankle boot, Keith Richards’ guitar, Elton John’s sunglasses and nearly 70 other such objects that are treat to a music lover’s eye. Michael Jackson’s black fedora hat is among the memorabilia.

The memorabilia being featured in Hard Rock includes some of the most valued and treasured pieces of Rock ‘n’ Roll history.

Hard Rock’s Memorabilia Collection has grown over the years through donations, auctions, and acquisitions from some of the world’s greatest musicians and artists.

Hard Rock strives to showcase this collection for music fans everywhere while preserving some of the most memorable moments of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

It is a brand that believes God is in the details and maintains high quality service at all times. It is not about coffee, it’s about music, finedining and entertainment.

The round bar and the inviting restaurant is a major entertainment place, with the popular retail shop on the first level, a must for all visitors.

Hard Rock International manages about 115 cafes – 65 of which are they own — across 41 countries.

Started by two Americans, Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, it opened the first café in London in the early 70s, celebrating the Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit. The Hard Rock Cafe is going to open at GVK One Mall.

Rock and Relics

  • Its memorabilia collection, which consists of more than 60,000 pieces that are rotated to different cafes, is considered as the world’s most comprehensive “visual history” of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and has prompted observers to describe the brand as a “cultural force.”
  • The birth of Hard Rock International’s memorabilia collection is itself a part of music history. The collection began when Eric Clapton, a regular customer at the original Hard Rock Cafe London, asked the staff if he could hang his guitar on the wall to mark his favourite bar stool as his spot.
  • Hard Rock also derives significant revenue as an accessory retailer.
  • Its merchandise, like T-shirts, lighters, shot glasses and music related products, is city-specific and has reached many markets across the world years before the brand actually set foot there.
  • With more than 130 outlets in 40 countries around the world, Hard Rock Cafe has become a global phenomenon. These treasures include a collection of classic guitars and other instruments, posters, costumes, music and lyric sheets, album art, platinum and gold LPs and photos.

Express Buzz Reference