Who Founded Yakshamitra and When?
Yakshamitra was founded and is lead by a group of individuals their families and volunteers. After some informal discussion in December 2008 a meeting was held in Vinayak Hegde's basement on 10th January 2009 evening in Newmarket, Ontario. The meeting was attended by Vinayak Hegde, Ragu Kattinakere, Naveen Hegde and Param Bhat. Vinayak Hegde and Ragu Kattinakere proposed that they form a live Himmela and Naveen Hegde along with Shrikanth Hegde play Mummela. A trial was run. Vinayak Hegde sung, Ragu Kattinakere played Chande and Naveen Hegde danced. Trial went reasonably well enough to agree to form a mela and prepare for a show later that year. Shrikanth Hegde's confirmation for participation was secured that week. Naveen Hegde arranged two Veshas (costumes) and Ragu Kattinakere arranged Chande, Maddale and eventually Yakshagana Tala and Shruti Box. Vinayak Hegde arranged Harmonium Shruti and trained Uday Shastri for Maddale. Vishnu Bhat helped on Shruti. Param Bhat was unanimously chosen as Director of the troupe. He took the responsibility of organizing the first and later shows. In subsequent meetings Sharada Bhat and Nagabhushana Madhyastha were chosen the treasurers and all members contributed a seed fund of $20 each to the troupe. Thus came to being Yakshamitra the first full pledged Yakshagana Mela out side India. All the volunteers listed on About Us page together with artists and sponsors are responsible for the success of Yakshamitra.
Yakshamitra gave its first performance on 11th April 2009 at Toronto Kannada Association: Jambavati Kalyana. The team came together more naturally and unexpectedly than dance drama troupes usually will! A would be team member brought his Chande drum to Toronto without realizing that another in Waterloo had brought Yakshagana costumes. Neither knew each other at the time. The other two would be members who could sing Yakshagana, play Maddale and dance did not know about this either. The 2009 new year party in Richmond Hill however had a Chande drum for dance. That and a meeting later we realized we had everything for a Yakshagana troupe: musicians, instruments, actors and costumes. But, we did not have a Maddale drum which could now be arranged since all of us agreed that we should perform. Param Bhat sensing that a Yakshagana troupe is an immediate possibility, lead our activities to organise our first production. The team now had a mentor or a leader with lot of experience in organisational skills. He continues to be the Director of the Mela (troupe).
Yakshagana artists from India, Chande Mahabaleshwara Mudugodu, Sanjay Belyur had already helped us gather Chande drum and costumes. Now Raghavendra Acharya agreed to arrange a Maddale drum. Friends and relatives helped us in shipping the items to Toronto with lot of effort. Later we also received help from professional artists Amruth Kattinakere in Mundasa tying, Nagabhushan and Bharghav from Kedalesara in acquiring a new Chande and another high pitch Maddale. More costumes were arranged by Sanjay Beleyur again.
Our practices started in Newmarket in Vinayak Hegde's house. Most members lent their basements for our weekly practices. After the successful show in Toronto to more than 500 audience and many more grand shows in Montreal Canada, Chicago, Fords-New Jersey, Albany, Cleveland, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington DC area in the USA Yakshamitra is stronger than ever. Yakshamitra members performed in Oct 2nd and 3rd 2013 along with visiting Poornachandra Yakshagana Troupe in Washington DC. More members have come to be part of the team and made Yakshamitra richer.
Many guest artists have joined to help us produce better shows. Rajendra Kedlaya joined us in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Shashidhar Somayaji joined is in our first ticketed show on 3rd October 2010 in Toronto. We continue to learn and perform while we are grateful for the support and encouragement we have been receiving.
After the first show on 11th April 2009 Toronto
Yakshamitra Team (may not include all members)