The Bhavan’s regular faculty members impart training to students of all ages throughout the academic year. These full-time teachers are also involved in organising concerts of the highest calibre showcasing students as well as bringing to the stage some of the most well-known names in their own field. Their years of dedication and passion for their art has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on The Bhavan’s aims to promote and propagate traditional art and culture.
Balu Raguraman - Karnatic Violin
Balu Raguraman is an immensely gifted and unique musician. He is a talented performer, teacher and composer. He is arguably one of the most professional solo violin artistes and accompanist in the UK. His bowing and fingering techniques are consistently met with excitement, interest and approval. He continues to teach and nurture budding artistes, and is passionate about educating and inspiring aspiring violinists in the UK.
Balu Raguraman started learning the violin at the age of six, going on to win a number of prestigious awards and accolades, such as Best Violinist. He has not only learnt from the most eminent gurus but has, and continues to regularly perform with them.
The list of leading artistes he has played with is vast and includes greats legends like M Balamurali Krishna, Professor T.V. Gopalakrishnan and Dr N Ramani. Balu Raguraman also regularly performs in harmony with musicians from other genres too, particularly those representing Western classical, Jazz and African. Balu Raguraman an integral part of Bhavan’s experimental music series Bhinna Abhinna, which is a collaboration between artistes of various musical genres and styles. Balu Raguraman is also a fellow of Trinity College London.
M.Balachandar - Mridangam
M.Balachandar or Bala as he is popularly known is a brilliant Mridangam artiste. His intuitive playing of the Mridangam is unmatched. He is equally at home accompanying Karnatic music, as he is with Bharatanatyam dance. He is an extremely talented teacher, composer, and accompanist. When asked which one he prefers, he says: “Teaching and performing are like my two eyes, how can I like one more than the other?” Bala has also accompanied all the top musicians and dancers of the South and North.
Bala comes from an illustrious family of musicians, with both his grandfather and father expert Mridangam players. He started learning this enchanting instrument at the age of nine and was a fully-fledged professional artiste by the age of sixteen. He received his expert training from Guru Coimbatore N.Ramaswami Pillai and Ramanathanpuram M.N Khandaswami Pillai. Bala is a fellow of Trinity College London.
Bhavan and his students have richly benefited from his services, as can be seen by his production line of outstandingly versatile young percussionists. He has trained almost thirty students (and counting) to a professional standard. Many of them perform and accompany well-known artistes already.
For him, the Mridangam is everything and admits he would not go anywhere without it. He prides himself over the versatility of the Mridangam and says: “It goes with any art medium, violin, vina and dance, as well as North Indian instruments.” He regularly performs with musicians belonging to both the North and South Indian disciplines.
Mridangam is like meditation to him, he says it gives him inner happiness. It also keeps him energised, and is perhaps the secret to his contagiously jolly nature. He says: “Energy comes from rhythm, and so I love injecting energy into people and connecting with them during a performance.”
Bala is a regular performer in Bhavan’s experimental music series Bhinna Abhinna. Translated from Sanskrit, this concert series title means “Separate Yet One”, and it gives Indian musicians based at the Bhavan like Bala, to perform and experiment alongside different musical genres from African to Chinese, to Western and Latin American and is something Bala relishes and shines in without exception.
According to Bala, one of his biggest achievements is the next generation of musicians he is helping to nurture and create and second, the blessing he has received from legends and greats from the world of North and South Indian music and dance. He has played with most of the top most artistes in the field and knows many of them personally.
Pandit Rajkumar Misra - Tabla
Pandit Rajkumar Misra is a highly acclaimed tabla artiste and dynamic teacher. He hails from an illustrious family of some of the most distinguished musicians and Kathak dancers. The atmosphere he grew up in was full of music, all twenty four hours of the day. The language spoken at home was music, and he initially learnt just by listening, and before he knew it, he was reciting complex compositions and pieces. He believes this is all down to complete immersion into music and rhythm. It was only later, that he recounts learning the principle, theory and structure. He recounts: “I can’t remember, when I learnt each composition, or when I started playing them, the Tabla just took over. It is because of this I don’t feel limited in my musical expression. This way of learning has given me spontaneity and freedom. It gives me freeness and helps to enhance my individuality.”He learned music under Pandit Ram Gopal Mishra and Pandit Gnan Prakash Ghosh. He is also very proficient at accompanying Kathak dance, an art he perfected with his mother Sushmita Misra. He has toured extensively in India and abroad and has accompanied many of India’s most renowned musicians and Kathak dancers. Pandit Rajkumar Misra is also a fellow of Trinity College London.
He attributes a strict regime of practice to his success, and very much cherishes the time he dedicated to honing this very demanding instrument. “I spent a year and a half doing riyaaz (practice) for nine hours a day, after which I practised six hours a day for six years. There is no alternative to practice, no matter how talented you are. Riyaaz is 95 % of your training, while learning only makes up the remaining 5 per cent,” according to him. “I only learnt through repetition, nor did I ever write anything down. I never relied on anything but listening and my, he says.”
So why the Tabla, why does he love this instrument so much? He says: “it’s widely acknowledged that it is one of a handful of percussion instrument which also has melody, it has lots of possibilities, and it is this quality which makes it unlimited. I also believe the Tabla is an intelligent instrument and it makes an intelligent human being, even sharper”.
Pandit Rajkumar Misra is a very prolific tabla player, continually performing throughout the year. He has worked with all the greats in Indian classical music and dance. So what does he say is his biggest achievement? Well the answer to that is clear and concise. He says: “It is when I like my own Tabla playing! There are many times when people have been full of praise, but it hasn’t satisfied me. I would say my biggest achievements are those moments when I’m at home, or when I am on stage and I have played something that has stood out for me. Of course, times when I have played with people like Durga Lal or Amjad Ali Khan are up there too, but for me, there is nothing more important than self-satisfaction.” The names of personalities he’s performed with is extensive and impressive and include the likes of, Rashid Khan, Budhaditya Mukherjee, Shahid Parvez, Rajan and Sajan Mishra and V.G Jog, to name a few.
As a busy teacher and performer he says he used to prefer performing at first, but loves teaching more at the moment. He also humbly admits that if a student plays better than him, there is no one that is happier than he. He says: “There’s no end to teaching, the same thing is taught to everyone but each person brings something new to it, their own character and perspective. I feel there is no creative end to the teaching, but there is a pressure associated with boundless improvisation and performance on stage, and not many people are willing to take the risk.” He believes teaching is a great platform for expansion and progression, which is what makes its possibilities infinite.
Sanjay Guha - Sitar
Sanjay Guha is one of the most established Sitar artistes in the arena of Indian classical music. He belongs to the Maihar-Senia gharana tradition. His musical tutelage began at an early age under the guidance of his uncle, Sri Satyabrata Guha (disciple of the late Pandit Balram Pathak). He later received training from the Sarod maestro, the late Radhika Mohan Maitra. For the last 24 years he has been taking taaleem (training) from Pandit Deepak Chowdhury, disciple of the great Sitar maestro the late Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar. Sanjay Guha also received special guidance from the late Pandit Ravi Shankar from 2004. He is also learning South Indian music from Vidwan Padma Vibhushan M.Balamurali Krishna. Sanjay Guha is a fellow of Trinity College London.
Sanjay Guha has been described as a soulful sitarist who brings peace and solace to the minds of connoisseurs and commoners alike. According to Indian broadsheets like the Hindu, “Sanjay Guha is a sitarist with a fine musical sensibility. He evolves a sparkling, rich tone from his instrument.” Commenting on a two-day festival organised by the London Sitar Ensemble, the paper said: “The first day’s session came to its pinnacle with a masterly sitar recital by Pandit Sanjay Guha, who is known for reviving old traditional bandishes with a blend of his imagination. With instrumentalist like Sanjay Guha performing frequently one can hope that great traditional repertoires will be preserved.”
Others have also commented on his stage appearances, saying they never fail to demonstrate his expert virtuosity and innovative creativity. It is widely noted that time and time again he enthralls audiences with his exquisite playing.
Chandrima Misra - Hindustani vocal
Chandrima Misra is an incredibly gifted and emotive singer, known for her soulful and skilful style. She is a charismatic performer whose expert command over her art is hard to miss. Her immense knowledge and understanding of Indian classical music, as well as rich and unique tone, make every performance engrossing and entertaining. Chandrima Misra is an integral part of the Bhavan’s music department, training singers from beginner’s level through to a professional standard. She has established herself as a teacher who exudes the utmost passion for her art, working tirelessly and with uncompromising dedication.
Her training in Hindustani vocal music has been rigorous and unwavering, right from the tender age of five. Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Chandrima Misra counts herself extremely fortunate and blessed to have received training from one of the most sought-after gurus of his generation, Ustad Munawar Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana.
Her fondest memories come from the period she spent training under him, which began in earnest at the age of nine. She recalls: “He even performed at the occasion where I was officially accepted as his student – known in the Indian classical tradition as Gandabandhan”.
She describes this period in her life as the most memorable, being surrounded by sublime music and legendary musicians. “I was so privileged to have an insider’s view of the inner lives of these maestros from a tender age. The stories and the memories that I have are forever locked in front of my eyes, it was such an incredible time,” she recalls. Chandrima Misra feels that these experiences and interactions have not only shaped her as an artiste but as a person too. She received training under Munawar Ali Khan until his death.
She then continued her training under well-known and much-respected vocalist Mrs Sanjukta Ghosh, who has been her Guru for the last twenty years. Chandrima Misra is a fellow of Trinity College London.
Music and singing have always had a spiritual connection for her. She is thankful to her parents and says she is eternally grateful to them for recognising her inclination and passion for music.
She says: “Music touches part of the soul that rarely anything else does. I knew that no matter what, music was going to be my life. Just practising and performing, it became a profession, it was a smooth transition.”
So what would she count as her biggest achievement? She says: “Seeing the transition young students go through is always very satisfying. Witnessing their progression from young untrained raw voices to well-groomed polished performers, gives me a lot of happiness.” For her there’s nothing like hearing her students sing tunefully and in rhythm.
One of her biggest career achievements was working with the late Pandit Ravi Shankar. They collaborated together on a project at Dartington Hall in Devon in 2003, to create a new work involving Western and Indian musicians. “That was such a special time for me, I learnt so much from him,” she recalls.
She says: “I love performing, I like the freedom that performing gives. I believe everyone has their style and emotion, you teach a class full of people the same thing but everyone always renders something distinctive according to their perceptions, their tone, their emotion and personality. The way I unfold the raag is based on my own understanding and ability. Performing gives me that platform to present my thoughts, my style and ideas.”
It is hard for someone so dedicated to choose between performing and teaching as she loves them both equally. “I love teaching because this is my way of working on and trying to make easier for others, things I have found challenging but have worked through. I like passing my knowledge and wisdom on, as well and the insights I’ve gained from my own training. At the same time, the biggest lesson I can give my students is the importance of riyaaz and practising regularly.”
Sivasakti Sivanesan - Karnatic vocal and Vina
Sivasakti Sivanesan is a revered and well-respected personality in the world of Karnatic music. She is a Karnatic vocalist and vina player par excellence. She grew up in a household where melody was a way of life, with her father a source of guidance, inspiration and dedication. Right from the age of 5, when she commenced her education in the arts, it was clear she would carve out a niche in this vibrant field.
Her first guru was Yazpanam N Veeramani Iyer, a composer, choreographer and dancer. She also continued her music education with stalwarts like Chitoor Umbra Pillai and Kalyani Krishna Bhagawathar. It was during the early eighties that she was introduced to legendary vocalist Professor T.V. Gopalakrishnan. She continues to learn from him, and, says observing him has helped her immensely in all aspects of her music. Sivasakti Sivanesan is a fellow of Trinity College London.
Her commitment towards teaching and preparing students to a professional standard is very special because she is compassionate yet disciplined. She has, and continues to train several students to a professional standard and relishes the opportunity to provide a performing platform for budding artistes.
Being based in London, Sivasakti Sivanesan’s musical quests continue, as she performs for audiences with many tastes and backgrounds. She believes music is a melody of life itself, and her vision remains to collaborate with other schools and musical traditions, always trying to expand.
Sajali Roy - Bengali vocal
Sajali Roy is a talented and accomplished singer of the Bengali music tradition, which includes Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul geeti, and repertoire from many other schools. After qualifying with a Distinction as a Sangeet Prabhakar, she started her career as an artiste on All India Radio (Kolkata) and also performed on Doordarshan Television. She has participated in various concerts as a director, artiste and a judge in music shows and competitions in India, East and West Africa, as well as Bangladesh and the UK. Since taking over the teaching at the Bhavan Centre she has seen her student base increase immensely, with a real enthusiasm by the younger generation to learn their traditional music.
The training she provides to her students is heavily influenced by Indian classical music, while she also places great importance on voice tuning. She says: “It’s very important for a student to develop their understanding of the full grammar of music. I put a lot of emphasis on this.”
Sajali Roy also likes to encourage her students to perform professionally. She says: “Voice training and tuning is most important, but I also work towards developing the confidence of students so that they can perform well on stage.” She has a-hands on approach to teaching, she encourages her students to maintain a diary, of any complications they face during their practise, so they can discuss with others and get help.
Sajali Roy trained in Classical music for over a decade under the guidance of Late Dr. Jamini Nath Ganguly and Mrs. Jharna Banerjee. She continues to learn from renowned Gurus like Dr. Biman Mukhopadhay, Ajoy Chakraborty and Maya
Nahid Siddiqui - Kathak
Nahid Siddiqui is one of the finest Kathak dancers and choreographers in the world. Her work has been recognised and acclaimed internationally. She has personally contributed to the growth and accessibility to Kathak through efforts such as starting classes at The Bhavan and introducing Kathak into the curriculum at the University of Surrey. Nahid's creations are original and ground-breaking, blending traditional and contemporary techniques extending Kathak's repertory and developing it as a universal vocabulary. Nahid has lived in the West Midlands for almost twenty years fostering countless students, performing for major venues, festivals and television world-wide. Her work has received numerous accolades in Britain and around the world.
Nahid has acquired her artistry in the formal tradition of seena baseena (one-on-one training) by two renowned Gurus: Maharaj Ghulam Hussain Kathak and Pandit Birju Maharaj. During the course of her career she has evolved her artistic practice into what can be described as Sufianic in its narrative ventures, yet precise in its embodiment of tradition.
The Bhavan is pleased to announce new Kathak classes led by Nahid Siddiqui. World renowned Kathak dancer, acclaimed choreographer and esteemed guru, Nahid Siddiqui will commence classes from 10 September 2016. 36 years ago she founded the original Kathak classes at The Bhavan, London.
We are pleased to re-establish a working relationship with her and are certain this collaboration will result in countless brilliant Kathak artists to join the South Asian Dance community in the UK.
More info here http://www.nahidsiddiqui.com/
Prakash Yadagudde - Bharatanatyam
He is arguably the most committed, creative and affectionate teacher of Bharatnatyam in this part of the world. When one traces the development of Bharatnatyam in the UK, the role played by Prakash Yadagudde in popularising this art will be most significant. As a teacher, performer, and as choreographer, his contribution to the Bhavan Centre is unique. He has single-handedly trained and inspired a record number of students who have attained the highest level in dance, with many of them taking a leading role in the field today. Many of his past students are established professional artistes, choreographers and teachers, some of those include Nina Rajrani MBE, Subathra Subramanium and Mayuri Boonham.
As a performer he is extremely majestic and graceful, making every move look effortless. He is an exceptionally devoted and hard-working teacher. He is extremely humble, caring and very approachable, which never fails to bring out the best in his students.
Many of his senior students consistently recount his ability to foster their individuality, allowing them to have creative input into their own repertoire with close guidance and mentoring. Sita Nandakumara who now runs her own dance school in Bangalore says she practically grew up in front of him. She says: “I've had such a close association with Guruji from birth and I’ve spent so much time learning from, watching, and working with him, so it is no surprise that I have imbibed a lot of his style.”
She is thankful to her Guru for giving her the freedom to develop and explore her own ideas. She recalls: “He would ask me to choreograph dances on my own and then correct me and give me advice on how to improve on what I had attempted. He made sure that I was comfortable with whatever I did. He realised that every dancer is different and what suits him may not necessarily suit me.”
Another one of Prakash Yadagudde’s talented students is Lakshmi Kuhendran who has been learning from him since the late nineties. Lakhsmi says: “As a performer, his deep knowledge and mastery at articulating this divine art form is unparalleled, and for which he has been recognized for with various awards and prizes. As a teacher, Guruji is exceptionally hard-working, with a meticulous eye for detail. He is known for going above and beyond to develop those with a genuine passion and love for Bharatanatyam. He not only teaches the nuances of the art form but also instills in his students the right values of an honest individual. As a choreographer, he is innovative and creative and his productions communicate successfully and effectively with a diverse range of audiences.
His unwavering patience and dedication to teaching is incomparable and has shown me the elegance, vibrancy and power that dance holds. Guruji is a true inspiration to all of his students; words will never do enough justice in expressing my appreciation for having imparted his vast knowledge with such loving care.”
Urbi Basu - Odissi
Watching the renowned Odissi dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi, Urbi succumbed to the charms of Odissi at an early age and started her training under Guru Poushali Mukherjee at Padatik School of Music and Dance in Kolkata. Right from the beginning she was noticed by her teacher who started including her at various performances.
Thus she gained exposure and experience and was chosen to perform at very prestigious venues by the legendary Odissi maestro, Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra. Urbi says his encouragement and teaching was invaluable to her progress.
After moving to London she kept in touch with her trainer Guru Poushali Mukherjee and attended regular workshops and continued to teach, compose and choreograph. When Swapnokalpa Dasgupta, a very capable exponent of the same Gharana, started teaching Odissi in London Urbi renewed regular training. Then in April 2011, she was handed over the responsibility to teach Odissi at the Bhavan.
Urbi Basu’s students come from a very multi-cultural and multinational background, her classes comprise of people from Latvia, Albania, Canada, and of course students of Indian origin. She says: “I am very humbled that people from all corners of the world seem to be interested in this beautiful dance form, while a number of them are very accomplished dancers themselves too, who are learning Odissi to enrich their own styles.”
So what is it about Odissi that fascinates people? Urbi says: “I think they find it a very unusual dance form. It is quite distinctive, with body movements bending at the neck, torso and knees. Also people find the round wavy movement as well the statuesque pose very attractive.” Urbi is mindful of the fact that awareness of Odissi is not as great as the other Indian classical dance forms like Kathak and Bharatanatyam. However she recognises that: “Even though Odissi is the lesser known of the three best known sisters from the sub-continent, consciousness is definitely growing.”
Urbi has been teaching the Diploma classes at the Bhavan Centre since 2012. She believes standardising the training has helped to make the dance more accessible and open to all. She says: “When you’re delivering something like this you have to set certain benchmarks, certain levels people need to reach. With this in mind we established a course which would give performers a structured syllabus, with a theory of the dance and different forms of assessment.” The Odissi diploma course is the only such course in the UK that is examined by external examiners.
Along with the assessed element of the course, imparting skills to allow students to perform with confidence is also integral to their coaching. She says: “We train students in such a way that at the end of the three year diploma they are able give mini-performances on their own. Talented and dedicated students are always prepared and encouraged to take part in high-profile events at the Bhavan and at other prestigious venues. We just want to encourage them to share their art with everyone.”
Urbi Basu has performed at a number of venues in India and abroad. She was chosen by Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra to perform at Sangeet Natak Academy's Tagore Festival in Delhi in 1987. The following year at Padatik International Festival of Dance she was one of a chosen few who performed as Guruji accompanied them on pakhawaj. Only a couple of years ago she performed with her current Guru Swapnokalpa Dasgupta at MilapFest in Manchester in front of a star-studded audience which included famous performers and trainers like Madhvi Mudgal, Kumudini Lakhia and Dhananjayan. She has also performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the early nineties when Odissi was a little known dance form in that part of the world.
Urbi is passionate about identifying and developing talent. Having worked as a Broadcast Journalist at BBC World Service for sixteen years, she is now a Director at Angel Media Productions, a social enterprise dedicated to promoting diversity in British media and music.