In conversations with Gayathri Krishna, the lady behind Bangalore’s cult performing arts trust – Bhoomija.
After the generation of National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA), Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Society For The Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth (SPIC MACAY), and Kalamandir, it has almost become rare that you find good performing arts centres/presenters across the country that have a vision and are being true to their mission. After 2000, there have been very few organisations that have let their work speak for them and not the other way round. Of course, there are numerous sabhas, sanghas, and other prestigious platforms that are led by a stellar committee, but not many are doing things differently so as to keep up with the changing times.
Bhoomija, a performing arts trust in Bangalore, hosts concerts across venues in Bangalore, India, and abroad. Having started just four years ago, they have already done over a hundred shows with a variety of talent ranging from kids around the age of 6-7 until legends like Dr. Umayalpuram K Sivaraman, Vikku Vinayakram, Aruna Sairam, Venkatesh Kumar, Bombay Jayashi, etc. at venues like Ranga Shankara, Madras Music Academy, Forbidden City Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House, and Carnegie Hall. Their shows are a wonderful confluence of traditional performing arts and contemporary presentation in new and different formats that makes each of their show, a different experience for audiences.
Gayathri Krishna, 48, the brain behind Bhoomija, is an IT Professional and an arts manager. “I’ve been with Ranga Shankara and Arundhati Nag from 2003. So my complete exposure to arts management comes from my theatre sensibilities at Ranga Shankara. Aru would envision a programme and I would run it for her. That was the combination we were,” she explains. Krishna has been one of Ranga Shankara’s mains, putting together the programme schedules and National and International Collaborations at the iconic theatre venue. Since then, she wanted to set up a similar platform for music and dance. Hence, Bhoomija was born. “There is no science behind why I decided to call her Bhoomija. There are these two Carnatic Kritis–nijadasavarada and ramachandram bhavayami which had the word ‘Bhoomija’ in their lyrics and somehow the word stuck along. Something about the ‘Born of the Earth’ appealed to us, Krishna recalls. Her passion for the arts, culture, and the very process of putting things together is infectious and inspiring. She goes on explaining, “Our musicians are not attuned to being marketed or presented in a different manner. Contrary to my experiences with theatre artists, I’ve found musicians to be far more reserved. Musicians come from a sensibility of extreme and toil to become musicians. But the gap or void between these musicians at the top and everybody else is huge! The ones on the top don’t pay attention or have it in their constitution that they should be presented in a manner that commensurates their journey. To work around this sensibility and do things differently is what I’m trying to do with Bhoomija.”
The journey from there on…
From their first concert – “Listening to Life: The Journey of a Raga” to their latest – “Tribute to Lalgudi Jayaraman”, Bhoomija’s association with Bombay Jayashri has been very special. “A few years ago, I was asked to book Chowdiah Hall on behalf of someone for “Listening to Life”-a Bombay Jayashri concert. However, the organizer decided to plug off in the last minute due to insufficient funds and I decided to take up the show myself. That’s been the journey from there on with Bombay Jayashri,” said Krishna.
“One day, my trustees and I were discussing, and I had this idea of taking Carnatic music to Sydney Opera House. We wrote to them and eventually hosted Bombay Jayashri there in the Concert Hall. At that time, Jayashri’s Life of Pi song had become very famous. A young girl from China wrote to her saying, “I hope I can listen to you in China.” And so we were introduced to somebody who runs the Shanghai Festival and we took Jayashri to China. It was the first time Carnatic music was sung in the multi-city music festival. I was stunned by the response there! From there on, we took her to Carnegie Hall and presented her where MS sang last.” she explained.
All through Bhoomija’s journey, one of the key points Krishna has been emphasising on is trying to take Indian Classical Music to younger generations and audiences. Bhoomija’s Manganiyar Classroom (a musical showcasing manganiyar kids below the age of 13), Jackfruit Festival (a music festival by children for children), Carnatic Choir (a choir of kids under the age of 13) , and The Youth Carnatic Orchestra (an ensemble of musicians from the age 18-24) have been some of the prime efforts taken up by the organisation to not only kindle interest about Classical music in younger minds but also provide a platform to nurture their talent. Being guided under visionaries and greats such as Vikku Vinayakram, Roysten Abel, Bombay Jayashri and Abhishek Raghuram, kids under the age of 15 and youngsters are guided in supervised environments so that they not only learn but also realize the beauty of the art form, the beauty of collaboration, and indulge themselves in the joy of performing classical music. Coupled with her efforts in putting together beautiful sets, narrative, theme, good sound system, fresh format, and the very vibe she creates, every concert she curates is an experience. “These kids must be encouraged to sing more, to perform more. Otherwise, they will lose the drive to do it and will be forced to fit in to this world. We must not lose such young talents,” she said. “The idea is to bring together as many young talents as possible and create a platform for them to showcase their talent. Once they see the beauty of it, they will hold on,” she justified.
Owing to her theatre and art management background, Krishna understands the talent she is working with, and really knows what to do with them. The context in which each talent is placed, the narrative that supports this context, and the flawless execution that happens behind each concert she puts up, is what makes every Bhoomija concert so special and unique. She says, “If on one side my objective is to get the normal classical concert goers, on the other side, I’m more interested in bringing together younger audiences, parents, and fresher talents.” Her expertise and vision as a curator clearly echoes with every concert she does. We would like to add that every aspect of theirs is marketed very well with so much care and in a meticulous manner.
Whats next ?
South Bangalore can become an international hub for entertainment she says. “We already have Ranga Shankara which is doing theatre. We also have Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy that caters to films. And then, you have some iconic organizations like Rama Seva Mandali, Gayana Samaja, and us in a small way which cater to music and dance.” Krishna also shared her grand vision of setting up a state of the art performing arts centre in South Bangalore. “We want to call it MS Performing Arts Centre, named after the legendary MS Subbulakshmi. It will be built to host a lot of Indian music with the right acoustics and atmosphere. Besides our own music, we intend to curate a lot of world music as well,” she passionately went on. “The space will be open for people to hire it and we will also host our own shows. That is the future. That is the dream we are working towards besides our lineup of concerts,” she signs off.