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  • Writer's pictureNirmalaRajasekar

Honoured to Receive the "Kalaimamani" Award

On February 17, 2021, I was watching the premiere of my concert dedicated to the Gurus. My cell phone was turned off. Suddenly, our landline rang at 8:30 PM central standard time. It was a number I didn't recognize, and the voice at the other end said, "Congratulations. We are very happy to let you know that you have been awarded the Kalaimamani, the highest civilian award of the Government of Tamil Nadu, India in recognition of your years of service in music."

While this was an unexpected surprise, I knew that this happened because of the blessing of my gurus and my parents. In the Indian culture, it is believed that your parents are your first gurus.

Here is a picture of the award that now resides in our condo in Chennai:

Translation: "The Tamil Nadu Government bestows the award of Kalaimamani to 'Sirindha veenai Isai kalaingyar' ('the greatly distinguished veena artiste') Nirmala Rajasekar"

The award was given in India three days after the phone call. I couldn't make the journey in time to receive the award, but my dear parents traveled from Coimbatore to Chennai to receive it on my behalf from the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in a televised, glittering ceremony. As I watched the livestream of the event, and saw my mother and all of the other awardees from various fields and professions, I could not have felt more blessed and grateful.

I enjoyed speaking with Panippookkal Magazine about my journey and this award in Spring 2021. Many thanks to Panippookkal, my friends, my well wishers and students who they interviewed as part of this three-part feature.

Part 2 and Part 3 are on YouTube.

My scheduled visit to India in the spring of 2021 was filled with lectures, concerts, demonstrations, and different avenues to showcase the Saraswathi Veena and its many facets. In April, I presented a virtual lecture for Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego called "Journeying with the Saraswathi Veena"; you can watch it here.

While in lockdown in India, I virtually performed for Durga Jasraj's Utsaah, the Dakota County Library system, the University of San Antonio, Texas, and created a residency for the St. Paul Public Schools with COMPAS among other events.

Looking forward to the summer and fall activities, which include performing for the national New Music Gathering in St. Paul, MN, beginning the year-long celebrations of the centenary of my dear guru Smt. Kalapakam Swaminathan, and writing a new work for marimbas commissioned by Heartland Marimba!

Be well - Take care -

Love and peace,



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