Aruna Sairam

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Aruna Sairam
Aruna Sairam.jpg
Background information
Born (1952-10-30) 30 October 1952 (age 66)
GenresCarnatic
Occupation(s)Vice-chairman of Sangeet Natak Academy, vocalist
Websitewww.arunasairam.org

Sangeetha Kalanidhi Aruna Sairam (also spelled Sayeeram) is an Indian classical vocalist. She is a recipient of the Padma Shri award from the Government of India and has been elected as Vice Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi (India's premier national institution for music and dance) by the Government of India.[1] In 2011, Aruna was the first Carnatic musician to perform at the BBC proms in London. She is regarded as the Music Ambassador of India.

Early life[edit]

Aruna was born in Mumbai into a musical famiy. She received vocal training from her mother Rajalakshmi Sethuraman, who was a student of the Alathur Brothers and Thanjavoor Sankara Iyer.[2][3][4] Her father Shri Sethuraman[5][6] was a music connoisseur who hosted musicians and dancers in the family home. At one of these gatherings, Aruna met Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. T. Brinda,[7][8][9] who trained her in the style of Veena Dhanammal.[10][11]

As a child, Aruna demonstrated an aptitude for music; she won her first gold medal at the age of eight at a competition in Mumbai. At 14 she performed her first full-length solo concert at a local festival. At 21, she won the Best Young Musician Award at the annual conference held at the Music Academy in Chennai, where she began to be noticed.[citation needed]

Over the following years, Aruna performed Carnatic music, drawing on the influences of Mumbai and in a pure classical style. She was influenced by film, western and Hindustani (northern Indian) classical music. She ushered in a new approach to concert presentation, extending the boundaries of the Carnatic repertoire while retaining classical grammar and tradition.[citation needed]

Training[edit]

Aruna Sairam was taught by Sangeeta Kalanithi T.Brinda,[12][8][13][14],[15] ,[14] and others.

Shri S Ramachandran,[16] from the bani (style) of Chittor Subramanya Pillai,[17] expanded her already wide repertoire and taught her the fine nuances of nereval singing (improvising within poetic texts). A S Mani, a disciple of Tiger Vardacharyar,[17] guided her through the creative process of swara singing (improvising with the sol-fa). Prof T R Subramanyam,[18][19][20] an acclaimed music professor at Delhi University,[17] taught Aruna to sing and spontaneously compose within ragam-tanam-pallavi. K S Narayanaswamy,[17] the respected veena singer, taught her the subtlety of gamakas – the microtonal oscillations that mark Carnatic music.

Despite her extensive training, Sairam felt the need for guidance in voice training to become capable of fully expressing her creativity and knowledge through her voice. She met German voice maestro Eugene Rabine,[21] who helped her discover and apply a new sound and emotion to her voice. She later took advice and guidance from Carnatic singer Balamurali Krishna (popularly BMK).[17] To this day, she remains in touch with the New York-based voice teacher David Jones.[22]

Career[edit]

India[edit]

Aruna Sairam has performing at the Indian President's official residence – Rashtrapati Bhavan at Shakthi Sthal – and the memorials to Indian prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi at Vir Bhoomi.[23] She has also performed across India at venues including The Music Academy in Chennai,[24] the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi, and at seminars and festival held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in Delhi, the Music Forum in Mumbai, and Kolkata's Sangeet Research Academy.[25]

International[edit]

Aruna has performed South Indian vocal music internationally. She worked as a visiting professor at a German music conservatory where she taught South Indian music She was intrigued at the lack of awareness of her art form outside the subcontinent.[citation needed]

This experience gave her a mission to make South Indian classical music global. She performed at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall.[26][27] as the first South Indian classical vocalist in the Proms' then-116 year history in 2011. Sairam has also performed at New York's Carnegie Hall, Paris's Théâtre de la Ville[28][29] and Morocco's Fes Festival of World Sacred Music.[17][30]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Sairam has won many national and international awards, including the Padma Shri and the US Congress Proclamation of Excellence.

  • Padma Shri from the Government of India[31]
  • Aruna Sairam has been appointed as Vice-Chairman of the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi, 2015[32]
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Government of India – 2014[33]
  • Bharathi Thyagaraja Samman Award by Dakshinamnaya Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Bangalore – 2015[34]
  • Isai Mani Magudam Award by Rajalakshmi Fine Arts, Chennai – 2015[35]
  • Arsha Kala Bhushanam Award by Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Coimbatore – 2014[36]
  • Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar Award by Rajah Sir Annamalai Chettiar Memorial Trust Chennai – 2013[37]
  • Shri P. Obul Reddy and Smt. P. Gnanambal Award 2012[38]
  • Indira Sivasailam Endowment Award – 2012[39]
  • Sangita Kala Nipuna by Mylapore Fine Arts Club, Chennai – 2012[40]
  • Sake of Honour Award by Rotary Club of Ambattur 2011[41]
  • U S Congress Proclamation of Excellence – 2008[17]
  • Gaana Padmam by Brahma Gana Sabha – 2008[42]
  • The "Kalaimamani" by the Government of Tamil Nadu – 2006[43]
  • The "Isai Selvam" by the Government of Tamil Nadu – 2006[44]
  • Sangita Choodamani by Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Chennai – 2006[45]
  • Aruna Sairam has been appointed the Advisor to the Department of Culture, Tamil Nadu, on Musical Education by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Recordings[edit]

As of 2019, Sairam has recorded over 50 records.[46] Her recordings span classical repertoires, thematic presentations, concert recordings and collaborations with German, French, Moroccan and other international artists. Six of her albums have been produced and distributed in Europe and the US. She has collaborated with artists including French artisty Dominque Vellard and Christian Bollman of Germany, as well as with eminent Hindustani musicians. "Aruna: Thousand Names of the Divine Mother", an album containing sacred chants from the Lalitha Sahasaranamam, has rarely been reviewed internationally.[46]

Teaching[edit]

Aruna Sairam has undertaken various mentoring programmes, notably the 2011 BBC World Routes Academy Project,[47] in which she tutored the British-born, South Asian veena player Hari Sivanesan. She also tutored a French singer of medieval chant Marco Horvat under the Indo-French Cultural Exchange Programme.

After her initial stint in the Music Conservatory in Germany, she has continued to teach as guest lecturer in several European schools. She has also taught at Harvard Sangeet, a workshop on Carnatic Music for students of Harvard University, US. She was also appointed by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu as an advisor to the Department of Culture, Tamil Nadu, on Musical Education between 2007 and 2011.

She has written a detailed thesis about voice training and she tutors young artists in this subject. Recently[when?], she was invited as a Faculty to the International Jazz Convention at the Banff Centre, Canada, by its Director Vijay Iyer.[48]

Every year, The Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata invites Aruna as a mentor and member of its expert committee and as the external examiner for the graduating scholars of the Academy.[25]

Foundation[edit]

She and her husband have set up the Nadayogam Trust, which gives performance opportunities to young musicians. Under the Nadayogam Trust, a scholarship scheme has been instituted, through which violins were given to students of S V College of Music and Dance, Tirupati. The trust also maintains an archive of teaching materials and a collection of recordings.[22][49]

Critical reception[edit]

…her passion and probing intensity is reminiscent of the penetrating, exploratory improvisations of John Coltrane…Los Angeles Times, 2006

…We lived a moment of dazzling musical joy… She seemed to have a nomadic hunger for all kinds of relief – sharp peaks or deep abysses… Le Monde, Paris, 2007

Aruna Sairam is the darling of Carnatic vocal music and the first ever from her tradition to sing at the BBC Proms…Pulse, London, England, 2011

M S Subbulakshmi is no more. But if there is any singer who comes close to matching such purity of voice, diction, impeccable sruti alignment and frill-free singing, it is Aruna Sairam … Outlook Magazine, 2008

Hail a New Queen of Soul… The mesmerising star of this concert at the Royal Albert Hall was South Indian singer Aruna Sairam. She is a soul singer up there with Aretha Franklin. I was trying, and failing, to think of a classical singer with the same status and artistry – Jesse Norman, Cecilia Bartoli? I'm afraid not. Aruna Sairam has the universal power to take you to another world… London Evening Standard, 2011

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