By the end of the 30-year Sri Lankan war in May 2009, cultural life in Jaffna was in tatters. Facilities for learning and performing music and dance had collapsed due to physical destruction, economic decline, and mass migration. But four years down the line, there is a cultural revival, in which India and Indian cultural groups are playing a part.
“Our role is inspirational and catalytic,” explained T M Krishna, renowned Carnatic vocalist from Chennai who organised the Svanubhava Festival in Jaffna between September 4 and 6, bringing a galaxy of artistes from Tamil Nadu such as Sudha Raghunathan, Leela Samson, Aridwaramangalam A K Palanivel, Patri Satish Kumar, B Raghavendra Rao, B S Purushottaman and Dr S Karthick. “Local involvement was much more this year, as compared to last year. The questions asked at the workshops also showed a high degree of knowledge especially among the students of Ramanathan College of Music. I sang a string of alapanas in a variety of ragas and asked the students to identify the ragas. Their replies were spot on,” Krishna told Express.
Sudha Raghunathan, already a rage there, was a big draw. “Veerasingham Hall, where she performed, was overflowing. The questions posed at her workshop were numerous and some of them were quite challenging. Leela Samson also got a good response with nuanced questions being asked about Abhinaya and Nritta. Karthick’s translation of Leela’s English replies greatly helped,” Krishna said.
However, the local perspective was somewhat different. Reflecting the views of a number of connoisseurs who did not want to go on record, Prem Ananth, News Editor at daily Uthayan and a degree holder in Visual Arts, said that the Jaffna man saw the Indian festival as a Lankan govt-sponsored one.
“If it had been an independent festival with no State involvement, it would have been seen in a more favourable light. The press too would have given it coverage,” Ananth said.
Enthusiasm for Svanubhava was adversely affected because it clashed with the Nallur temple festival where local musical talent was getting exposure, he added.