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30th August 1998

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Rohan and Druvi de Saram in concert presented by the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust

Evening of interplay

By Arun Dias Bandaranaike

"Interplay" would be the single verb that informed this absorbing concert, presented by the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust, and billed as the Golden Jubilee Performance by this Duo. Siblings do not as a rule have reason to work at this level of compatibility in the realization of a common goal; but at this concert in Colombo one could not have done otherwise than observe in wonderment , how two players, whose independent careers rarely converge, are able to "mesh" so completely, subservient to the cause of excellence in musical performance.

Rohan & Druvi

As is probably well known by now, Rohan's career in the past 20 years or so has been as a cellist in the renowned Arditti Quartet, devoted to the performance of new and commissioned works, which has placed him among the foremost of modern string players, much in demand in the concert circuit of Europe and on occasion in the USA. (This past summer he was featured at the internationally famous festival at Tanglewood in Massachusetts. ) Druvi, on the other hand, is better known for his interpretation of the classical repertoire, with only occasional forays into 20th Century compositions.

The evening's concert programme reflected all of these facets of the players' achievements , even as it did provide great delight to the full house at the theatre. Of especial poignancy was the presence in the audience of Miriam de Saram, their mother, who despite an age of 90, missed not a single note in her enjoyment of the evening's proceedings! Beethoven's lush Sonata No.3 in A major started the concert. This engaging work belongs in the composer's , so-called, middle period , and is possessed of such telling lyricism as to make parts of it eminently "hummable" ( as some would do as easily with the renowned Violin Romance.

The Allegro in the First movement and the opening Adagio Cantabile of the 3rd were superlative, with Rohan's bowing ( arco) displaying that awesome control and legato phrasing that veritably makes the cello sing. The complexity demanded in this piece is to be able do justice to the composer's bidding in this regard, and Druvi's compellingly sympathetic work bore evidence of finesse and skill.

The concert's closer was from a slightly later period, from the end of the 19th Century ; the beloved Grieg Sonata in A minor, Opus 36. To borrow Bill Campbell's phrase, "this is a geographical piece" that can conjure in the listener's mind the image of the northern -most parts of the Northern hemisphere! Certainly, the 1st movement might have initiated just such a reverie among icy wastes and breezes across Norwegian fjords. If such nuances were intended, then the 3rd Movement Allegro was a summer's dance of gaiety. A completely attentive audience sat as one, totally transfixed, as Rohan and Druvi conducted our collective being through every voluptuous sensation .

The two other works in the Programme did likely transport us in a different direction and Eastward, to Asia ; "Prabandha" composed by an Indian born violinist and Teacher (at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music), John Mayer, and the Improvisation for Cello, Piano and Oriental Drums. Curiously, though, the duo are the dedicatees of this Suite in 8 movements, and have recorded "Prabandha" in London, but , the Colombo concert was the first occasion that they performed it in public! It is a profound work, calling for considerable skill of execution and delicacy of expression; for one thing, some of the sections had very complex time- signatures; including mimicry of the Tabla in the left hand of the piano part (e.g. Jhalla ). The Cello carries tonal approximations of the Sarod and Sitar and perhaps even the violin at times, all of which bespeaks the composer's Asian ethos. The cello part often called for deft double-stopping with measures locked in to a ground note or bass "drone" just as is often heard in Indian Classical music. Druvi's piano played multiple roles in this milieu; at times playing rapid unison parts, immediately switching to a propulsive rhythm beneath the convoluted lines for the cello, and yet again providing delicate responses to the melodic fragments , in counterpoint. "Prabandha" deserves greater exposure than it has received till now.

Rohan's prodigious technique and control was much in evidence in the Improvisation, which despite its claim, was a piece that had Form and purpose. This was admittedly a spiritual meditation inspired by "Deiyannge Netuma" or the religious intent of the Drums of Lanka. Piyasara Shilpadipathi pinned this aspect of the performance. The cello deliberately moved away from the soundscape of Western music, and, with the addition of electronic amplification, was able to move to and fro in creating sounds and noises that were intrinsically of the Orient.

The Piano, as it turned out, was cementing the ambience with chaotic rumbles in the Bass. The whole was held together by a multiple toned continuo on an electronic synthesizer by Ranga Dassanayake. It opened and closed with "white" noise that bespoke an amorphous void. From that beginning, fragments of sound developed, using the harmonics of the cello strings - perhaps a reflection of the entry and dispersal of Existence in the context of the Universe?!

In the "sections" that appeared in sequence, one detected a movement from disorder and chaos toward order and rhythm, with the entry and re-entry of the Drums ( Geta Bera , Tammattama , & Udekki ) . This evolved toward a Tutti of abandon and levity, which, all too soon led to the melancholy of the human predicament symbolized by the chant of Pirith , the disquieting scream of the Siren, the agonized mourning leading to a truly morbid horanewa tone ( all of these effects achieved with the cello!) that actually followed the funereal cadence of the "final procession." Of course, these sensations may carry any interpretation at all, but the Improvisation was very much in the realm of modern Ambient music. Rohan referred to this as an "experimental" piece ; and it certainly was. The electronic amplification was not as expertly negotiated as the audience ( and I dare say, Rohan himself ! ) would have preferred. Yet, there is no gainsaying that this did present an interesting challenge for the listener. This reviewer would definitely wish for more!

Grand centenary concert

September heralds an unique opportunity for students, teachers and music lovers, to join in the Centenary Celebrations to mark 100 years of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools Music London Conducting examinations in this country.

The ABRSM is the largest international musical organisation in the world extending their services to over 85 countries. Over half million students sit for their examinations annually, throughout the world.

The Royal Schools of Music was established in 1889 with King Edward VII, the Prince of Wales as its first President. Thereafter successive sovereigns continued to extend their patronage, and currently the Queen, the present patron of the Board has also sent a special message to Sri Lanka for the Centenary Celebrations whilst the Chief Executive of the Board Richard Morris will grace the occasion.

The primary purpose of the Board is the advancement of musical education at international levels through music exams conducted globally.

In Sri Lanka, these exams have been held in every discipline, for a continuous period of ten decades and thereby helped to guide teachers through their syllabuses and also for their students to obtain internationally recognised professional qualifications.

Through this process, selected scholars have enjoyed advanced musical education at their prestigious colleges which are located in London, Manchester, and Scotland and thereby acquired international acclaim.

A few of these internationally recognised artists have rallied round the organisers of the Centenary Celebrations and have now arrived in Sri Lanka to join in the week long activities. The celebrations get off to a start with a grand centenary commemorative concert on September 1 sponsored by The Colombo Hilton. In this unique concert platform international scholars Rohan de Silva, Ramya de Livera Perera, Sujeeva Hapugalle, Anusha Attygalle and Ashan Pieris with Sister Veronica as soloist will present an exciting and versatile programme from the transcendental classics to jazz together with other well knovn musicians. The evening's programme includes colourful combinations of instrumental and vocal ensembles. The programme's grand finale is by eight pianists consisting of the current musical elite backed by a mini orchestra, specially got together for the occasion. The guest artistes for the evening will be the popular 4 piano ensemble of Mano Chanmugam and also Shyama Perera on the electronic organ.

Tickets for the Grand Centenary commemorative concert on September 1 sponsored by the Colombo Hilton are available at Titus Stores, Liberty Plaza, and the Colombo Hilton.

Local representative Mrs. Olga de Livera has co-ordinated this concert and a series of events from September 1st to 4th at the British Council. These programmes include an address by the ABRSM Chief Executive Mr. Richard Morris, a reception for teachers, lectures by the visiting AB examiner and the AB scholars plus videos. Another representative from the ABRSM Publishing Dept will be here to present extensive supporting material to teachers.

She danced with graceful ease

The performance of Bharata Natya Arangetram by young students who debut in that dance tradition, has become, more or less, a familiar feature in Sri Lanka's culture-scene today. The event, under usual circumstances, follows a set pattern, with only very limited variation from the accepted norm.

The care lavished upon the training of a given dancer, the level of concern of the dancer's parents, tend, in some instances, to make something of a difference. At a recent Arangetram, the patrons were provided a surprisingly fresh departure from the routine dance - debut practice. The Bharatha Natyam debutante, in this instance, was Jithendrika Jayakalani de Alwis. A variety of strands fused harmoniously together, to make this particular Arangetram stand out and remain indelibly etched in the minds of discriminating patrons.

Jithendrika Jayakalani de Alwis built her performance upon the total tradition of Arangetram presentations in this country. If she was able to display innovative touches, it was solely because her dance memory is replete with the contributions of those who preceded her.

The high quality of the dancing, with which she entertained the audience at her Arangetram, is the inevitable outcome of the assiduous stoking of her ample talents, by her Guru Vasugi Jagadeshwaran and dance supporters.

Jayakalani's Arangetram, is, in a way, a tribute to the dramatic progress made in Sri Lanka, in field of dance teaching. In recent years Sri Lanka's Dance Gurus' - both Sinhala and Tamil have ensured an unprecedented evolution in the quality of dance performances in this country.

Jayakalani's Bharata Natyam competence, is the product of the disciplined training she received from her esteemed Dance Guru Kalasuri Vasugi Jegadishvaran. She heads her training centre "Natya Kala Mandir" following the age - old tradition, Jayakalani studied at her Guru's feet, adhering to the sacred ties between Guru and Sisya (Teacher and Pupil).

A unique feature in Jayakalani's Arangetram, was that, she danced to the singing of her mother Visharada Chandrika Siriwardene. In addition to her mother, there were other expert vocal supporters - Kalsuri Arundhathi Sri Ranganathan and S. Vishvanadan. Jayakalani made it quite clear, through her compelling performance, that her family tradition too helped her considerably.

But whatever may be the quality of the supportive aspects, what is centrally important is the performance of the dancer staging the Arangetram. In this, Jayakalani's talents were scintillating. She went through complex and difficult steps and postures with such a sense of ease and relaxation, as if she had been dancing from the day she was born.

Review by Edwin Ariyadasa

Ink on rice

Jayamini de SilvaJayamini de Silva, the 26-year-old artist from down South speaks English like the Chinese do. She is studying Chinese traditional art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and she is going to hold the first ever Chinese painting exhibition in Sri Lanka by a local artist.

Jayamini is from Ambalangoda. Having had done her primary and secondary education at Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda, she qualified to enter the Kelaniya University. In 1994 she started reading for a degree in aesthetics. But in the same year she won a scholarship to the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. Now in her final year of study, Jayamini is specializing in Chinese traditional painting.

In Chinese painting calligraphy is the most important ingredient. So it goes without saying that she specializes in Chinese calligraphy too. Traditional Chinese painting has two styles. One is called the Gong-Bi or 'tiny brush'. The other is known as the Xie-Yi.- the free hand.

In China there is a saying that goes something like this. "If you can't do good Calligraphy you can't be a good artist. That is because most of the brush strokes in Chinese Xie-Yi style of painting come from strokes that are used in Calligraphy.

So it follows that calligraphy is the bottomline in Chinese painting particularly in Xie-Yi style. This is me speaking.

These two styles are prominent in Chinese painting system. If I might call it a system. This is my structuralism speaking.

"One is called Gong-Bi or the 'tiny-brush' and the Xie-Yi Free hand." And this is Jayamini speaking.

And then there are special traditional brushes to do a traditional Chinese painting-like the ones made of bamboo, horse hair etc. Her paintings are mostly ink on rice paper and Ink on Silk and the usual Acrylic on Canvas or oil on canvas.

"The Chinese painter doesn't have the advantage of the oil-on canvas-Western-painter who spends hours and hours sculpturing the painting. A traditional Chinese painter has to finish the painting in one-go." -This is also Ms. Jayamini.

So, if something goes wrong you have to throw the rice paper away and have to start all over again, and again, and again. Until you come out with the perfect painting or until you get what you've wanted. So practice is the the thing.-This is me.

That is why-like in music-practice is extremely important for the Chinese painter. And that is why Calligraphy helps- like the varnams in Indian classical music-for the Chinese painter- Calligraphy cuts both ways, It's an art as well as an exercise.

About 75 works of Ms. Jayamini de Silva will be exhibited on August 31 and September 1 and 2 from 9.30 a. m to 6 30 p.m. at the Art Gallery, Colombo.

-M. Mahasenan

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