Friday, January 06, 2006

Kalamandalam Hyder Ali is no more [courtesy: uma]

Kalamandalam Hyder Ali, the first and only Muslim to be a Kathakali musician, was killed when his car collided with a lorry on Thursday. He was on his way to the Kerala Kalamandalam in Cheruthuruthy to offer music lessons. The Hindu (Along with Kalamandalam Sankaran Embranthiri and Kalamandalam Haridas, Hyderali re-invented Kathakali music in the latter part of the previous century, enriching traditional musical structures with progressive ideas. Clarity of lyrics and bhava-rich expression were their specialty. The criticism against them was that they borrowed a lot from the Carnatic idiom, thus shifting the focus from lyric-oriented, abhinaya-friendly expressions to musical showmanship. Hyderali's generation countered the criticism, contending that improvement of the musical language did not affect the totality of the dance-drama.) and the Indian Express (Kathakali aficionados recall how those in control of an ancient temple in Chengannur actually broke down a part of the temple wall and erected a platform there for Ali to sing for the Kathakali performers inside the compound, since his Muslim identity barred him from being allowed inside.) are running obits (no one seems to be sure of his age for some reason). He was laid to rest today afternoon IST. As a mark of respect, shops and business establishments in the area downed their shutters.

He was instrumental in rendering Kathakali music in independent music programmes without the visual component and brought a Kathakali flavour to Carnatic music renditions.

I must consider myself privileged to have seen him perform at the Masters of Kathakali presentation in March last year at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Centre. Here's a report of the performance.

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