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1. Vina recital by Mrs. Subathra Raguraman
with M.Balachandar and T. Pirashanna
2. Sri Balu Raguraman on Violin with Sri Tiruvaroor Bhakthavathsalam and Sri R.N. Prakash

Bhavan West Kensington, London 18 February 2012

Balu Raguraman has long been well known to UK followers of Indian classical music as a leading and well loved teacher of violin at Bhavan (L & see Sweta's Arangetam, below*). But he is also a distinguished soloist in his own right - "arguably the most professional Indian solo violin artist and accompanist in the UK".

This month his artistry together with that of his wife, the distinguished vina player and teacher Subathra Ragamuran, were generously showcased at the Bhavan Centre, one of the most important centres for Indian arts outside India, in a pair of recitals which, happily, were being videoed professionally, and everyone present will hope that a DVD will emerge.

Tonight's concert was a veritable feast of Indian strings solos supported by formidable percussionists. With a break for reflreshments, it lasted from soon after 6 (Indian concerts don't usually begin quite on time) until about 10.30 !

The first half was devoted to a rare vina recital, with Subathra Ragamuran's tone on this most intimate of instruments (plucked with the fingers, not plectrum) notable for its rich sonority and discretion.

Amplification, necessary in this large converted church when there is a full house, was not excessive and was free from distortion which has in the past sometimes marred events at Bhavan.

Subathra was worthily partnered on mridangam and her hour or so was an enthralling experience and treasurable memory. My only caveat was to wonder why there were no pupils on stage (Sweta Panchuagnula maybe? - qv. below) keen to provide accompaniment on the tanpura instead of the electronic drone device used to proide the background harmony?

Subathra's husband Balu took over for the longer second half of the evening, which had some extended developments of fairly simple tunes, which enabled us to keep in touch with what was happening.

Announcements from the platform were as usual devoted to eulogies of the artists and summaries of their always impressive CVs, with but with no more than a brief word sometimes about ragas to be given. Cognoscenti amongst the audience mark the rhythms (talas) with hand gestures, but I suspect that this too goes above the heads of many of the audiences which, with families and even small children in national costume, make these concerts into colourful social occasions.

Balu wove variations endlessly to mounting exciement, delighting his knowledgable listeners, who would have been happy for them to go on all night! To my ears, the tuning of his violin (? D♯-A♯-D♯-A♯) made it sound more like a rich viola than a Western violin, with little inclination to explore the heights above the leger lines which European violinists exploit.

There rarely are any programme notes at Indian classical concerts, which makes it harder for western afficionados to make more than superficial contact with this glorious music. The whole culminated with a prolonged percussion battle on mridingam and ghatam (clay pot) together with a gentle hand-held percussion instrument to add spice and tonal variety.

The evening finished with extensive and fulsome votes of thanks to all involved, and an invitation to the audience to support the next Bhavan event, a Shivaratri Puva , a "stunning show of music and dance by Bhavan's teachers and students in invocation to Lord Shiva, pooja followed by Prasad (dinner) to which ALL WELCOME"... Be there!

Peter Grahame Woolf

It was a privilege to attend Bhavan again, filled to capacity, for this service held on an especially auspicious day - the first time Shivratri (as I understand it) had fallen on a Monday for eleven years.

Prayers and songs in various Indian languages were introduced by Bhavan's Director, Dr M.N. Nandakumara, and entertainment at the highest level was given by vocal and dance classes of Bhavan's thriving training in Indian arts.

Just a few photos to give the flavour of a memorable evening; the supper afterwards was excellent:








Bhavan, West Kensington, London 1st October 2011

* A marvellous event, attended by invitation, celebrating a young Indian violinist's 'rite of passage' (see arangetram) sweta:
Sweta, a 3rd year medical student, is a very promising violin student and I assure you of a wholesome evening of good music and great food. On behalf of the family and as her guru I take this opportunity and invite you to join us for the evening.
- - a personal invitation from my side. Looking forward to your presence, Yours Musically, Balu Raguraman, Classical Indian Violinist, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London Centre W14 9HE.

Arriving to a buzz of activity I found the large converted church in West London which is Bhavan UK filling for this concert; the audience, consisting of family friends, pupils in Balu Ragamuran's violin classes and others "networked", so I was told, spreading even up into the gallery!

Sweta was honoured to be supported for her concert by a generous group of percussionists on mridangam, ghatam (clay pot), morsing (Jew's harp) and tambura, and she acquitted herself with confidence and aplomb. It was a privilege to be invited; this was the first concert I had attended with violin centre stage, Sweta's guru sitting on stage in support (pictured, above R). More usually one hears it supporting and shadowing singers.

Decorations on stage were lavish, families with children came in national dress, a professional cinematist was in attendance and the whole atmosphere was exciting. A noteworthy feature (not usual at Bhavan or Darbar) was a lavish printed programme, with all the information about the items and performers one could wish, and such as one expects at western classical concerts. Introductions from the stage were in English because, so I was told, not everyone in the community speaks the South Indian language of this group.

I was unable to stay for the feast because of a prior commitment at Wilton's Music Hall, but hope that after Sweta qualifies as a medical doctor she will be able to find time to continue performing on the violin, that she may continue to appear at Bhavan and possibly participate in a future Darbar festival?

Peter Grahame Woolf


Shivaratri Puva withmusic and dance by Bhavan's teachers and students in invocation to Lord Shiva, pooja followed by Prasad (dinner) to which ALL WELCOME"... 20 February at 7 00