Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day Three: Singing Freedom, Celebrating Human Rights Defenders, with Sowmya

We approached eminent Carnatic vocalist, S.Sowmya, to be a part of our campaign with trepidation, preparing for a 'no'. What we got was a very warm and enthusiastic, "It would be a privilege." At that moment, we knew this was going to be an evening that we would all remember for a long time.

The show began with a small celebration of the work of four Chennai organisations that have made a material difference to many, many women's lives through their human rights work; through their domestic violence and legal awareness campaigns; through life-skills and other educational programmes; and through their work to mobilise and organise women whose voices may never otherwise be heard. These four organisations, in alphabetical order, are: Centre for Women's Development and Research (CWDR), Feminist Association for Social Action (FASA), Forum for Women's Rights and Development (FORWORD) and Pennurimai Iyakkam. Following a short presentation about their work, they presented each other with a citation and a small Lakshmi tulasi plant on behalf of Prajnya. We will post the citation texts separately.

Then right on schedule at a little past 6:30, S.Sowmya and her team settled down to sing. B.U. Ganesh Prasad accompanied Sowmya on the violin and Neyveli Narayanan on the mridangam. Two very young students of Sowmya sat with them to offer vocal support.

Sowmya had given a great deal of thought to what she would perform at this concert. She chose to sing kritis in Devi's honour, compositions by female composers and songs by Subramaniam Bharati. Every song was sung from the heart and found a place in the hearts of the audience. Sowmya's virtuosity needs no certificate from Prajnya, but listening to her on Friday, this blogger was left marveling at her ability to sing pretty much up and down three octaves. Her 'keezh sthai' (lower) notes were as clear and precise as her 'mel sthai' (higher) ones, and her breath control would be a great advertisement for pranayama and the sadhana that hones talent to ever-greater perfection.

Neyveli Narayanan and B.U. Ganesh Prasad brought the same spirit, warmth and perfection to their playing, and the result was a kacheri that rasikas present would remember during the coming Margazhi season and compare favourably to others they attend.

The honorees were touched by the kacheri and the musicians' spirit and the evening, we believe, was truly special for them.

As for us at Prajnya, we were deeply moved that something we barely thought feasible had happened in such a wonderful way, and that we were able to give something back to people from our community that had worked so hard for others.

All in all, it was a very special evening and we will all carry memories of it in our hearts.

PS: At this programme venue as at others, our Collaborative Cooking paanai drew attention and suggestions which will be posted online at the wiki.

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