Saturday, November 10, 2007

of celestial musicans and dancers of the skies...

uday shankar program

uday shankar program 2

awhile ago i posted a side from a 78 set of pieces from uday shan-kar. above is a recent find, a 1937 program from one of shan-kar's performance tours, featuring the incredible color image inside.

according to the program, shan-kar was born in udaypur and was sent by the maharaja of jhalawar to the london college of arts to study in 1920. the young shan-kar studied painting, and began to be interested in the dance forms found in ancient indian sculpture and painting. he graduated with a painting exhibition in 1923, but the seed of dance was already growing inside of him. eventually, torn between painting and dance, shan-kar was introduced to anna pavlova, who convinced the young artist that he was "a born dancer" because "god never gives such rhythmic bodies to painters and sculptors!"

shan-kar entered the world of dance as part of anna pavlova's company and starred in her radha krishna ballet - one of her most successful - as her partner. in the mid 1920's he successfully started his own touring dance company, but became unhappy with indian music played on western instruments, and a dance company mainly made up of european dancers. he eventually returned to india in the early 1930's and began to develop his "hindu ballet" with a company that included hindu musicians and dancers...

it is interesting to note that uday's younger brother is ravi shankar the famous sitar player and also that my favorite indian film director guru dutt began his career as a young dancer in uday's hindu ballet.

the track here is from a dance called gandharva. according to the 78 sleeve: "the gandharvas are the celestial musicians and dancers at the court of indra, the vedic lord of the skies. this is a solo dance of uday shan-kar. the name of this tune is raga malkounsa; and it is played by vishnudass shirali, dulal sen, rabindra and brijo behari. raga malkounsa is one of the greatest and loveliest ragas in all the music of india. shan-kar is exceedingly fond of this tune. this music is quite akin to the music of bach - the very essence of music."

click here to listen

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