Lifetime Arts Achievement Awards

2019 Recipients

Sri T. Angappen Pillai
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Srimatthi Rajeswary Rajaratnam
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Srimathi Radha Gopal Shetty
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Srimathi Kanagamani Vijayendra
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Srimathi Thavamalar Gunaratnam
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Sri Perambalam Arumugam
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Srimathi Indira Manikam
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Datuk Ramli Ibrahim
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Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan
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Srimathi Vijayalakshmi Arumugam
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Sri T. Angappen Pillai was introduced to the mridangam by his late father, Sri. R Thangavelu Pillai, a well-known musician during the 1920s. Sri Angappen continued to study mridangam under his guru, Sri Guruvayur Durai in India in the late 1960s.

​Sri Angappen is also adept at playing the Tabla which he picked up on his own. In 1971, he went to India to learn the theory and the proper techniques of playing the table under his guru, Sri Khan. Since then, Sri Angappen has not looked back. He knew drumming was in his blood and chose to make it his profession.

​In the last four decades, Sri Angappen has performed with numerous foreign artistes locally and abroad. He has accompanied renowned international artistes such as Dr. L Subramaniam. He has also played extensively for Bharata Natya Dance performances and Arangetrams locally and in Australia.

​Besides traditional Indian music, Sri Angappen has also lent his Tabla beats in Western and Malay music productions. He was a member of the RTM Orchestra for 3 decades. Some of the famous artistes that he has performed with are John Kaizan, the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee, Zainal Abidin, Sharifah Aini, Uji Rashid and Dato’ Mat Kilau, just to name a few. In 1991, he was a part of the Zainal Abidin entourage to Tokyo for the 1991 Tokyo Music Festival where the team won the prestigious Golden Music Award.

​Sri. T. Angappen still actively performs not only locally but also abroad.

Ms. Rajeswary Rajaratnam A.M.N. had her initiation in music at the age of six. Her enthusiasm was kindled by hearing her father play the violin as it was his hobby. Subsequently, he had taught her the basics. As a formal training is necessary for the performing arts, a music teacher was arranged. The late music teacher Sri Ramalinga Iyer was engaged as the guru and he taught her for six years, both vocal and violin. She had her maiden violin performance at the age of twelve.

​Along with her studies, she continued her music, giving solo performances and later as an accompanist to musicians from India and Sri Lanka.

As she wanted to pursue music, she left to Madras (now Chennai) for further coaching under D.K Pattammal for vocal and maestro T.N. Krishnan for violin. While there, she had participated n “Thyagaraja Aaradhana” held annually in Thiruvaiyar.

On her return, she had been propagating the Fine Arts through the teaching of Carnatic vocal and violin in Malaysia. Over the years of her teaching career, she had produced students who have assimilated into the music field. Some of her students currently pursue music as their chosen career. The teacher is also acclaimed as an accomplished violinist.

In appreciation of her violin play, she had received honorary awards, such as “Vaathiya-Vidvamani”, “Nathavarithi”. During the 41st Saint Thyagaraja Aaradhana Festival 2017 organised by Sangeethalayam, the teacher was feted for her 50 years of service in the Malaysian classical music and bestowed the title “Kalaaroopini”.

Her contribution to the local Indian Classical music industry was also recognized by the Government of Malaysia in 1999, when she was awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara (A.M.N.) by the then Yang-Di-Pertuan Agong. Vaathiya-Vadvamani Nathavarithi Kalaaroopini Ms. Rajeswary Rajaratnam is a founder member of Sangeethalayam. She had served as the president of the Sangeethalayam for eight years during which time she had organized numerous programmes for the propagation of Indian Classical Music in this country.

Pioneer and leading dance guru in the country in the late 1950-s was Sri Gopal Menon Shanker Shetty from Bombay, India, being a member of the Bharath Vidhya Bavan Bombay headed by Sri Yogendra Bai Besai. Shetty had his training in Bharathanatyam, Kathakali, Folk and other styles of dance from gurus ‘Chandra Shekar Pillai’, ‘Chapuni Panikar’ and ‘K. K. Shetty’ respectively. He had performed in productions like ‘Jai Somanath’, ‘Gova Ki Azadi’, ‘Saugad’, ‘Bakta Prahalad’, ‘Jeevan Jothi’ and his own creative piece ‘The Dance of A Peacock’ which made him very famous.

​Sri Gopal Shetty was performing in a world tour and fortunately Malaysia was his ending country where the cultural aspirants who saw his performances encouraged him to stay behind and teach dance to the young ones in the country. He became a member of the KL Arts Council and started dance classes at the Sangeetha Sabha in Brickfields. Ms Radha graduated in Bharathanatyam under his tutelage and eventually became a member of the ‘Gopal Shetty Dance Company’. For seven years she performed intensively in cultural events in the country, in Shetty productions like ‘Sita Swayamvaram’, ‘Sita Haran’, ‘Sidhaartha’, Solidarity, television serials ‘Serbaneka’, ‘Diana’, ‘Pushpawanita’ and Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Show. Besides that, she also worked with RTM and learned Malay dance styles such as the Joget, Zapin, Inang and others. She has performed in front of dignitaries like Doland Macilvry, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanithi.

​After this era of her life, Ms Radha became the life partner of Sri Gopal Shetty and together, they were blessed with three lovely children, Sukhi Shetty, Ravindra Shetty and Umesh Shetty. With the blessings and urgings of Swami Shantanand Saraswathi, Shri Gopal Shetty, Srimathi Radha Gopal Shetty, Shri Sivadass and Srimathi Vatsala Sivadass set up the Temple of Fine Arts in 1981, for the growth of the performing arts and to create awareness of our rich heritage among the younger generation.

​Srimathi Radha Gopal Shetty has been teaching Bharathanatyam at the Temple of Fine Arts ever since and graduated over 12 students under her tutelage. Due to her undying passion in dance, she learnt Odissi at the age of 60 and has also performed few pieces during Navarathri and on her guru’s birthday celebration in Chennai. Her children and grandchildren continue the family tradition by being entrenched in the world of music and dance.

“Dance is a big ocean and I am still finding its depth.”

Srimathi Kanagamani Vijayendra has been a violinist - performing, teaching and composing music in the field of South Indian Carnatic traditions for almost 6 decades. She received her early education in music in Malaysia under the tutelage of Sri Ramalinga Iyer and Srimathi Yogeswari Nagalingam. This led to her music journey in India under the tutelage of the pre-eminent violin maestro Padmashree Shri Lalgudi G. Jeyaraman. Under his direct tutelage, she acquired a whole new technique of violin playing, invented and established by her master that is known as the Lalgudi Bani. Srimathi Kanagamani’s  inate discipline, focus, passion and commitment to this art form saw her rise very quickly and become an artist and performer of distinguished calibre and repute.

​Upon her return to Malaysia, she performed solo recitals regularly in Malaysia and Singapore on stage, radio and television. She also performed regularly at concerts organised by the Sangeetha Abhiviruthy Sabha and Sangeethaalayam both as a solo artist, ensembles and in orchestral settings. She also taught private lessons to young students.

In 1991, her talent and artistry caught the attention of His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswathi, the founder of the Temple of Fine Arts. Swamiji was instrumental in getting her involved in both teaching and performing capacity at the TFA. She also began to explore her talent for composing for orchestral performances as well as for dance. She has an affinity to composing music for Bharathanatyam which draw on her own knowledge of the dance form having been a dancer in her youth. She has the imaginative capacity that she is able to translate to music that compellingly communicates the story and emotion that a performer requires to reach successfully engage an audience. She has composed Jathiswarams and orchestrated works in multiple ragas. All her compositions bear her distinct musical signature – a signature that bears the unmistakable imprint of her master, Lalgudi Jeyaraman.

​Among the major concerts & dance programmes that she has participated in as a performer, music composer and/or producer are Nadopasanaa, Naadbrahma, Krishnaarpanam, Krishnaarpanam II, Sivan Paamalai, Krishnayanam and Rama Nadagham. Whilst performing and composing has taken her throughout South Asia & Australia, she has maintained her commitment to teaching at the Temple of Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur.

Srimathi Malar’s dance career commenced with Hari Ayer Dance School in 1948 and later with Sivadas-Vatsala Dance Troupe in 1952. When Swamiji’s dream of creating Temple of Fine Arts was mooted, Srimathi Malar was one of the pioneers and founding members of this remarkable institution. Her dance career spanned over 5 decades of actively performing nationally and internationally namely Perth, Sydney, Melbourne (Australia), London (UK), Helsinki (Finland), Chicago (U.S.), Dublin (Ireland), India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Singapore. She had also performed at significant national functions and arts festivals for several decades that enriched her repertoire of performance experience.

Srimathi Malar had two parallel careers running concurrently, for several decades: as a Nurse Educator with the Ministry of Health and later as a Corporate Training Manager at Kumpulan Perubatan Johor, the largest private health care leader in Malaysia. Her second career was that of a dance teacher of Bharatanatyam and a dance performer with Sivadas Vatsala dance troupe and later at The Temple of Fine Arts since its inception in 1981. Srimathi Malar credits her success in both careers to the support and motivation of her husband Mr. Gunaratnam. Additionally, her son Sivaseelan’s love of dance and music made Srimathi Malar’s divine pursuit a family affair.

Currently Srimathi Malar continues to serve The Temple of Fine Arts as a full-time senior Dance Director, involved in the teaching of dance theory/practical and in several multi-faceted activities of the institution: including medical and other health care services that TFA provides. Srimathi Malar attributes achievements in the service of the arts, to her most revered Guru Swami Shantanand Saraswati, the founder of Temple of Fine Arts and her late Masters Sivadas and Gopal Shetty.

Ultimately, her greatest desire is to see the continuation of the rich legacy left behind by our predecessors and to do full justice to the tasks entrusted upon her.

Sri Perambalam music career started at the tender age of ten with the Honey Moon band in Kampung Pandan. Subsequently, he has been a member of many other local musical groups in Kuala Lumpur. He first studied music under the guidance of Mr. Arokiasamy, Mr. Perumal and Mr. Sunderaj. He was a part of the RTM musical team for many years, performing the flute for many shows under their wing, including for Datuk Sharifah Aini, M Shariff, Datuk DJ Dave and many more.

He has played for many Carnatic music programmes backing some local and foreign singers on dance programmes namely Adyar K Letchumanan, Sudha Raghunathan, O.S. Arun, Kalaimamani Swarana Mughi and many others.  He has performed not only in Malaysia but abroad as well, in Singapore, India, Brunei, Sabah, Australia and France. His contributions also lie in recording studios where he has lent his melodious flute sounds to several albums. He has also produced his own instrumental album entitled “Perambalam Priya Ganangal”.

Besides playing the flute, he also plays the Nadaswaram. Over his years of service, he has been awarded with several titles, including “Kulal Venthan” by Tun Samy Vellu, “Venu Gana Mani” by Sangeethalayam and Pingat Pangkuan Negara (P.P.N) title by His Majesty Tuanku Jaafar.

Founder & Director of Tanjai Kamalaa Indira Dance School Founder & Past President of Malaysia Barathanatya Dance Association Srimathi Indira Manikam had her Bharathanatyam training from Tanjore Pichaiya Pillai Bharathanatya Vidyalaya which led her to eventually establish the Tanjai Kamalaa Indira (TKI) Bharathanatya Vidyalaya in 1966 which has now become one of the leading dance schools in Malaysia. TKI Dance School is undoubtedly the first Indian classical dance school in Malaysia to introduce and emphasize the importance of Salangai Poojai, to motivate students and encourage more people to pursue this divine art during the 1960s. To date, the school has conducted more than 1000 Salangai Poojais, 58 Arangetrams, 21 thematic productions and numerous dance recitals. The school continues to generate excellent dancers and choreographers. Some graduates from the school are now conducting their own dance classes successfully all over the country and overseas.

The school has carved a niche in the annals of Indian classical dance institutions in Malaysia by being the longest established Indian classical dance academy spanning 53 years in propagating this ancient form of dance. TKI Dance School received the Malaysia Book of Records award for “Longest Operating Dance School in Malaysia” during its Golden Jubilee Celebration on 10th of June 2016. Besides being actively involved in the world of Bharatanatyam, Srimathi Indira was also active in other leadership roles in the community.  She was the Chairperson of the Women Section of the Silambam Organisation (Indian Martial Arts) from 1995–1998. She was also the cultural leader for Wilayah Persekutuan state and Selangor state (MIC) branch in 1976. Srimathi Indira held a prominent position the Council of Yasi Cultural Association under the distinguished Chairmanship of Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu. She is also a council member of the Tamil Artist Association.

In 2009, Srimathi Indira Manikam founded the Malaysia Bharathanatya Dance Association, with its main aim to congregate all the Malaysian dance teachers and students under one roof for their development in the dance field.  Throughout her long years of service in the arts field, Srimathi Indira Manikam has received many accolades over the years.  Among the awards under her belt are ‘Natya Kalai Arasi’ (1965, Prince of Tanjavur), ‘Nattuva Thilagam’ (1990, Bavu Pillai Bharathanatya Academy, Tanjavur), Narthana Peroli’ (2007, Sangeethalayam), ‘Natya Sudaroli’ (2008, Mr.V.K.Sundarasegaran), ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (2011, Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin), ‘Kalaimamani’ (2012, Thamilar Thirunaal), ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (2012, Astro Vaanavil), ‘Natya Nadaga Thilagam’ (2014, Tan Sri KR Soma Arts & Culture Foundation), ‘Thanjai Kala Rathna’ (2016, Thanjavur Heritage Arts & Cultural Academy), Tan Sri P.Ramlee Award (2019, Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association)and  ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ (2019, Indian Cultural Society of University Malaya).

Described by international dance connoisseurs as one of the finest artistes of his generation, Ramli Ibrahim is a cultural icon who has performed internationally for more than four decades. His rigorous training in ballet, modern, and Indian classical dance reflects not only his diverse technical accomplishment, but also his multifaceted approach to the performing arts.

​As artistic director of Sutra Dance Theatre, Ramli has choreographed stunning works and nurtured some of the brightest dance talents from Malaysia, many of whom have won international acclaim in both traditional and contemporary scenes. Ramli has been instrumental in transforming the dance scenario in Malaysia to greater heights. Today, he is known for singlehandedly establishing Odissi as a recognisable and widely appreciated dance form in the country, while creating a distinctively Malaysian interpretation of this ancient tradition.

​As a pioneer, Ramli is recognised internationally within the arts scene, evident in the numerous accolades conferred upon him. He is acknowledged as a ‘Living Heritage’ by the Government of Malaysia as the United Nations declared him to be UNESCO Living Treasure in 2012. The President of India awarded Ramli the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award 2011, the first ever for a Malaysian. The award is recognised as the highest national honour conferred on performing artists, gurus and scholars of the performing arts. In April 2018, he was conferred the Padma Shri Award, from the Government of India, one of the country’s top civilian honours.

​The Chairman of Sutra Foundation is now focused on Sutra Dance Outreach Program.  He called the outreach programme Ground Zero, as the students did not have any experience in dance, and the challenge was to empower them through a dance discipline that was attractive and challenging to unleash their creative potential.  Simultaneously, Sutra is also keen to discover new dance talents outside Kuala Lumpur to continue the legacy of our next generation of dancers.

Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan was interested in Bharatanatyam from a very young age. This interest was nurtured by S. Saraswathy of Rawang and Rani Williams of K.L., and she later became one of Tanjai Kamala Indra Dance School’s pioneer students when Ms. Kamala Ramachandran started her classes in Rawang in 1966.

In pursuit of excellence, she enhanced her skills by training under Nattuvanar K. Kalyana Sundram Pillai of Chennai on nattuvangam and dance, and later had advanced training under the guidance of three dedicated Gurus of Kalakshetra namely Mrs. Ambika Buch (Chennai), Ms. Uma Rao (Mysore) and Ms. Shanta Ponnudurai (presently in Canada).

She was a student of the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society’s academy for 7 years and was awarded a Certificate of Merit after successfully completing the examination conducted by the society. She then did her post-graduate course in Bharatanatyam. She honed her skills in dance drama choreography and production under the tutelage of renowned Guru Kalaimamani S. K. Kameshwaran of Chennai. The Jeya Nritha Kalalayam Dance Academy was initiated by Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan in Cheras with 2 students on 12 December 1982 and was officially established in January 1983 in Kuala Lumpur. The Academy has since grown in strength and has spread its wings with classes being conducted in Bangsar, Cheras, Kajang, Semenyih & Klang.

In the last 37 years, Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan has conducted 350 Salangai Poojas and 49 of her students have completed their Arangetram. The Academy has produced various dance programmes and dramas to raise funds for charities and temples. On 30 January 2000, Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan was bestowed with the title ‘Nadana Sironmani’ by the Sangeethalayam in recognition of her contributions in the field of art. On 2 September 2007, she was honoured by the Kannathasan Aravariam for her outstanding services in Bharata Natyam. On 15 December 2010, she was honoured by Puteri MIC for her dedication and commitment in the upliftment, development and continuity of Indian arts and culture in Malaysia. On 22 January 2011, yet another title, ‘Naatya Shrestha’ was bestowed upon her by Sruthi Laya Ghana Vidyalaya. She was also conferred the title ‘Sangeetha Natya Chakravarthini’ by the Pengarah Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara Ipoh and Sapthaswara Sangeethalaya on 7 June 2013 for her extensive involvement in the fine arts.

Jeya Nritha Kalalayam has been invited to perform in Singapore, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Australia and France. In addition, Srimathi Kumudhini Sivanathan had the privilege to lead the members of Malaysian Bharathanatyam Association, representing Malaysia to participate in the Ramayana Festival in Delhi, in 2018. Srimathi Kumudhini's dedication in continuing to nurture budding talents in showcasing a part of the rich Indian culture and heritage is highly commendable, and has paved the way for many young talents to blossom in the arena of Indian classical dance. Several of her students now have their own dance schools and are continuing to impart the knowledge gained under the tutelage of Srimathi Kumudhini.

Srimathi Vijayalakshmi Arumugam was born in Chennai was introduced to the Veena at an early age by her mother and began learning the Veena as a child under the tutelage of Guru Srimathi Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, who belongs to the Guru Sishya Parampara of Shri Thyagaraja Swamy, and sister of the famed violin maestro, the late Guru Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman. The finer intricacies of playing the Veena were later imparted to her by Guru Srimathi Dr. R.S. Jayalakshmi, a retired music professor of Madras University. Srimathi Vijayalakshmi Arumugam holds a BA in Indian Music from Madras University.

She embarked on her music career as a teacher in the late 1970s and had the privilege of being one of the pioneer Veena teachers in Malaysia. Over the years Smt. Vijayalakshmi Arumugam has contributed much to the development of Carnatic Music in Malaysia. Her teaching tenure began at the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) in 1984, when its founder, His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswathi handpicked her to teach Veena at the institution. She conducted Veena lessons in TFA until 1991. Since then, she has been teaching under the banner of her school, Sruthi Music Academy. She returned to teach in TFA in 2006, where she served as a senior member of the teaching faculty. She was also a lecturer in the National Art, Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA) in 2007, where she taught the Veena.

Over the years, Srimathi Vijayalakshmi has groomed many students, both that of TFA and her music school, guiding some of them through to their Veena and vocal Arangetrams. Known for her gentle, encouraging ways of teaching, she strives to inspire her students to reach subliminal musical heights. She has also participated in numerous musical productions organised by TFA over the years in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, amongst others, Nadopasana, Krishnaparnam, Sivan Paamalai and Gurukulam. The first programme that she participated in was called ‘The Veena Recital’, an event organised by the Malaysian-British Society in association with Yayasan Seni in 1985 in honour of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher’s visit to Malaysia in 1985. It was a very well received event, ending with a standing ovation.

Srimathi Vijayalakshmi has also put up large-scale orchestras under the banner of her school. The first was Bharathiyin Kanavugal, a 48-piece orchestra that showcased the works of the Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi staged in 1996 in both Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru in aid of the Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF). It was staged again in Kuala Lumpur in 2000, in aid of Kelab Amal Wanita Sri Sruthi (KAWAN). In 2012 she presented Sangeethamrutham, an orchestral presentation of Carnatic music with an ensemble of 47 members. The proceeds from the show were channelled to a temple trust. She had also released two albums on devotional music in 1995. Srimathi Vijayalakshmi was conferred the title “Veena-Gaanaa Mirthini” by Sangeethalayam for her contribution to Carnatic music at their annual Thyagaraja Aaradhana festival in 2015. She is noted for her mastery over the subtle nuances of playing the Veena and is famed for her style of playing the Veena coming from the Gayaki Bani, a style of playing that most resembles the human voice. Her involvement and achievements in Carnatic music is attributable to her Gurus, her parents, and her husband Mr. Arumugam.

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