Discernment. Online


The awards, set up in memory of Ustad Inayat Khan, will in all likelihood go to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Kishen Maharaj next year
Britney is positioning herself as a sexy, swinging teenager. She will soon be a pop sensation who also writes fiction

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Bhimsen, Bismillah get awards from Vilayat

Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Ustad Bismillah Khan received the Ustad Inayat Khan Memorial Awards on 23 March at Kolkata.

The man who presented the awards, instituted this year, was Ustad Vilayat Khan, sitar legend and son of the great sitarist in whose name the awards have been set up.

For Bhimsen Joshi, hailing from Gadag in Karnataka and perhaps the most famous resident of Pune, it was a happy day. ''It means more than the Bharat Ratna to me. It is not only an honour to me but to my guru and the Kirana gharana,'' he said at the Kala Mandir ceremony.

Bismillah Khan, suffering from a leg ailment, called up Vilayat Khan and apologised for not being able to receive the award in person.

Each awardee receives a cheque of Rs 1 lakh and a silver plaque from the Ustad Inayat Khan Music Foundation (UIKMF), set up earlier this year to promote Hindustani classical music. Vilayat Khan is one of the founders of the foundation. ''I wish to confer this award only on Indian classical musicians who have never compromised on its purity,'' he said.

''I wish to honour Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Kishen Maharaj
next year,'' a news agency reported him as saying.

The foundation plans to train students in a gurukul. It says it will look for new talent, and also extend financial help to ailing artists

A harp-inspired veena from Vishwamohan Bhatt

Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt demonstrated his latest innovation in Delhi in mid-March. It's called the vishwaveena, and is the 2001 edition of a modified guitar that he calls the mohanveena.

The inspiration for his new instrument is the Western harp. He heard the harp at a concert in Europe two years ago, and set his heart on creating its cascading resonance on an instrument capable of playing Indian music.

The Jaipur musician played the 35-string magenta-coloured instrument in Delhi, where his guru Pandit Ravi Shankar lives these days. 

''If my mohan veena could blend the sound of the Hawaiian guitar with the sounds of the sitar, sarod and the veena, the vishwaveena adds to it the sound of one more instrument, the surmandal,'' Bhatt claims. The surmandal is a harp used by Hindustani vocalists, and less frequently by instrumentalists, to create an ambience. When strummed, it produces multiple octaves of a raga's notes.

Bhatt played "koel music" in a composition in raga Basant, associated with spring. That was a minor part of the concert. 

Bhatt said it had only been a fortnight since he had tried the instrument. In
1994, Bhatt shot to fame after he collaborated with Los Angeles-based guitarist Ry Cooder for the album A Meeting By The River, and won a Grammy. He says his interaction with foreign instrumentalists sparked off a desire to innovate.

The mohanveena and the vishwaveena vary in timbre. Last time, he entrusted the instrument-making to a Kolkata group, and this time it was Rikhi Ram in Delhi, who he says had the "patience and skill" to create what he wanted.

Found by MTV

The channel touted its singing contest for nearly half a year, and if you're wondering who won finally, this bit of news is for you. Sreekant and Harshdeep have won the MTV Ga Ga contest.

Eight singers took part in the finals in Mumbai. Sreekant works in the human resources department of a private firm in Mumbai, while Harshdeep, 14, studies in a Delhi school. They posed for pictures with VJs Cyrus and Rageshwari after the results were announced.

Part of the prize is a recording contract with Sony Music. Each winner gets to do an Indipop album. They also get two weeks' training at the Paul McCartney School of Performing Arts in the United Kingdom, thanks to the British Council.

Chitra from Chennai and Arnab from Calcutta also won recording contracts. MTV conducted a four-month contract to

Teach me mommy
one more time

Britney Spears's novel A Mother's Gift, which she is writing with her mother Lynne, will be published in May.

The 19-year-old pop star was paid one million dollars by Random House for a two-book contract, and British publisher Boxtree reportedly bought up the rights for half a million pounds. What's the novel all about? Initial reports say it's about her spectacular career, and how a mother's encouragement can take a girl to celebrityhood. Just the kind of feel-good book you'd expect from a success.

Britney's first album Hit me baby one more time came out when she was 16, and stayed long on the top of countdown charts across the world. Three years on, she positions herself as a sexy, swinging teenager. Faced with stiff competition from other teen singers like Christina Aguilera, this could add to her positioning, and make her look like a sensation who also thinks and writes books.

Writing an autobiography at her age may look ridiculous to the literary world, but fans bought 150,000 copies of her Heart to Heart. Louisiana-born Britney, with a worldwide audience of teenyboppers, is a natural choice for brands like Pepsi, which has signed her up for an undisclosed amount. She is soon to act in her first feature film, where she plays a high school student who enters a music contest with her friends.

A Boxtree spokeswoman was reported as saying, "The manuscript is finished and will come out here and in America in May. I think it will be sweet. It's the kind of novel that mothers will buy for their teenage daughters..." 

Spears, whose last album Oops!... I did it again sold eight million copies, ranks alongside golfer Tiger Woods and tennis star Venus Williams in promoting international brands.

Woods reportedly is earning 100 million dollars over five years to promote Nike sports apparel, and Williams has signed a five-year contract with Reebok for a reported 40 million dollars.

Sukhbir may do a song on the defence scam

It is Defencegate everywhere, and the world of music isn't spared either. Sukhbir of Nachle fame came on Star News on 14 March, the day after the defence bribery scandal broke, and was prompted by the hosts to say he would do a song on the events of the last two days.

Sukhbir's latest song is a single called Girls girls girls, and predictably, he raved about Indian girls. Footage from the music video showed Indian girls winning events like Miss World, and the bhangra-rapper said he had done the number in English because he wanted the world to know about the beauty of Indian girls! He also sang a couple of his old songs.

Tehelka's expose of the murky route to the Indian defence bureaucracy is shaking the central government, and could lead to political developments of the most unexpected kind. Bangaru Laxman, president of the ruling BJP, has already resigned.

This is said to be the first time ever in the history of the Indian army that so many senior officers have been suspended together. Inquiries and court martials will follow, and one report, quoting senior officers, said punishment could mean dismissal from service, and possible death sentences. Operation West End, planned and executed by a two-member team of Tehalka reporters, offered bribes to many people in the defence establishment, and used a spy camera to record what they had to say.

Visit the tehelka website to read more about  Operation West End

Grants for art projects

The India Foundation for the Arts is looking for projects it can fund.

IFA, based in Bangalore, offers grants for a broad spectrum of arts projects, covering music, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, cinema and literature.

Scholars and practising artists can apply for support "to strengthen or interrogate their art". Projects can include research leading to a novel, film or stage production. The project should not take more than two years. IFA grants up to Rs 5 lakh for each project.

The last date for receipt of applications is April 30, 2001. IFA announces grant recepients on or before November 30, 2001.

Among the music-related projects IFA has funded is a study of the evolution and structure of ragas in the Hindustani tradition. "The resulting book enables the development of new compositions in different ragas, and encourages a revaluation of distortions that have crept into their formation and execution," says the IFA's brochure.

Another project compiles the songs of workers from eastern India. It studies music emerging from plantations, mines and factories, and looks at the possibility of treating "this aspect of folk culture as an independent form".

For more details write to: The Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts, Tharangini, 12th Cross, Rajmahal Vilas Extension, Bangalore 560 080. Tel/fax: 080 331 0584/ 331 0583.

E-mail India Foundation for the Arts