Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Smitha Balu and Emie Roy
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On Friday, singer Smitha Balu will render a rare Carnatic music concert in Sydney. Smitha's friend Emie Roy, who is a presenter will be the story teller of the concert. The duo will breathe life into Swati Thirunal’s rare compositions in Malayalam.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Swati Thirunal, who ruled erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, had composed 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani genres. He is known as 'the King among musicians and the musician among the Kings.' Photo: Manorama

Swati Thirunal, who ruled erstwhile Kingdom of Travancore, had composed 400 classical compositions in both Carnatic and Hindustani genres. He is known as 'the King among musicians and the musician among the Kings.' He wrote all his compositions in Manipravalam, a highly Sanskritised form of Malayalam.

The thematic concert, titled Utsavayanam, will be held at the Consulate General of India's culture centre. Smitha will render 12 rare kritis form the historic 'Utsavaprabandhakritikal'.

'Utsavayaanam' means the vehicle used in the procession of Lord Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple during the temple festival. The kritis penned by Swati Thirunal describes the procession and the vehicle of the lord on each day of the 10-day long festival. The festivals that happen twice a year are known as Alpashi utsavam and Painguni Utsavam. 'Utsavayaanam' aims to popularise these kritis in two forms or yaanams, through music and narration.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
'Utsavayaanam' means the vehicle used by lord Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple.

“These kritis are usually not performed as concert, save for the the invoking kriti - the first one in the lot - and the concluding kriti - known as mangalam. The other kritis are played only on Nadaswaram and is performed only during yearly festival when the idol of lord Sreepadmanabha is taken out during the 10-day annual temple festival,” said Smitha.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Tha 'Pallivetta' ceremony held during the annual Painguni festival. Photo: Manorama

Meet the artists

Smitha, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, is a performing artist and a PhD holder in Indian music, while Emie, who hails from Kothamangalam in Ernakulam, is a veterinarian.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Smitha's recent concert at the Sydney Music Circle in March 2019 saw her performing a few rare compositions of Swati Thirunal.

Smitha is passionate about both Carnatic and light music. She holds doctorate in Indian Music from the University of Kerala. She completed Bachelors and Masters degrees from the Maharaja's College for Women in Thiruvananthapuram and trained under reputed music teachers K Omanakutty, Perumbavur G Ravindranath, late Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma and Uma Ramu Ayyar. She has presented the Sapthavarnamalika, a concept based on the presentation of classical compositions in seven Indian languages. In her recent concert at the Sydney Music Circle in March 2019, she showcased a few rare compositions of Swati Thirunal. Emie, being a popular presenter, will narrate the meaning of the Sanskritised Kritis.

Smitha and Emie said their aim is to contribute to the growth of Carnatic music in Sydney and get its rich heritage to be a part of its mainstream music culture.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Emie, being a popular presenter, will narrate the meaning of the Sanskritised Kritis.

Juggling to keep alive their passion along with career and raising a family, the two women share an amazing camaraderie. “Music keeps us strike a work-life balance,” said Emie, who is settled in Sydney since 12 years. Emie came to Sydney 14 years ago.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Juggling to keep alive their passion along with career and raising a family, the two women share an amazing camaraderie.

Smitha will be accompanied on violin by Balaji Jagannathan from Jamshedpur, while Harish Ravindran will be on Mridangam.

Meet Smitha and Emie, the Kerala women who aim to popularise Carnatic music in Australia
Balaji Jagannathan and Harish Ravindran
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