Board of Trustees
Fine Arts Committee
Ms Ponniah Jeyaalaki
Ms Ponniah Jeyaalaki Arunagirinathan BA, MA, MPhil
Ms Jeyaalaki has obtained Music diplomas; Sangeetha Ratnam from Ramanathan Music Academy, and SangeethaVidwan from Central College of Carnatic Music, Madras. Later she continued her Music studies in the United Kingdom at School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She has done B.A, M.A, &M.Phil in Music and Philosophy.
She has been the Chief Examiner for OFAAL’s International Examinations since 2000, where she is responsible for setting and monitoring both, theory and practical examination procedures and of quality assurance.
She is also the principal examiner for our Post Diploma Examinations and in charge for organising seminars and conferences for OFAAL.
Furthermore, her research projects Entitled ‘Tevaram Contribution to Indian Music and Śaivism’ and ‘Devotional and Classical Music Approaches in Tiruppukal’ gained first class honours and been published. In addition, she focussed on a thesis entitled The Eleventh Compilation of theŚaiva Canon from its Literary, Devotional and Musical Standpoints and her articles written for conferences are published on the net.
Moreover, she has taught Music and Philosophy in several institutions, including at University of London and currently works as a lecturer, teaching English at New City College, London and the Learning Zone, Transport for London.
Head of Bharathanatyam
Natya Kala Vidushi
Mrs Menaka Raviraj
Mrs Menaka Raviraj began her dance training at the age of 6 under the tutelage of SmtLeela Narayan. After completing her Arangetram in 1972, she entered Ramanathan Academy of Fine Arts and completed four-year degree in Bharathanatyam and attained the title” NatyaKalaiMamani”. She taught Bharathanatiyam at the Vembadi Girls High School “and Jaffna College prior to her Scholarship to South India to enhance her knowledge. She was appointed as an examiner for the North Ceylon Oriental Music Society and examined hundreds of students. After migrating to the UK, Mrs Menaka Raviraj began teaching at the South London Tamil School ( CAEA) and then later at Sangeetha of the UK.
Over the years, Mrs Menaka Raviraj has choreographed and staged numerous dance recitals, dance dramas and charity shows. A number of her students have completed their Diploma and completed their Arangetram under her tutelage.
Mrs Menaka Raviraj is the Head of BharathaNatyam at the Oriental Fine Arts Academy of London and one of the senior Bharathanatyam teacher in UK and Europe. She formulated the syllabus and devised the marking scheme for OFAAL International examination. She sets the standard and responsible for the Bharathanatyam Theory and Practical examination process. Mrs Menaka Raviraj regularly runs workshops for other dance teachers in UK and Europe. She is the Senior examiner for the Post Diploma examination and travels to various countries in Europe to conduct practical examination.
Mrs Menaka Raviraj
Mrs Thushyanthy Thiyagarajah
Head of Vocal & Instruments
Sangeetha Kala Vidushi
Mrs ThushyanthyThiyagarajah is one of the most talented Fine Arts Teachers in UK. She began her journey in Fine Arts at the tender age of six and completed her Bharathanatya Arangetram at the age of fifteen. She attained the prestigious title of “NatiyaKalai Mani” after completing her under graduate studies in Bharathanatiyam at the University of Jaffna Srilanka. Whilst she was at the University of Jaffna, she also mastered Veena and Carnatic Vocal. She completed her teacher’s grade in Veena with North Ceylon Oriental Music Society. Mrs. Thushyanthy Thiyagarajah has been involved with OFAAL from its inception. She is the Head of Instruments for OFAAL. She has trained a large number of students to Diploma and Post Diploma level. She is one of the very few teachers in UK who can teach Veena, Bharathanatyam and Carnatic Vocal.
She is the senior examiner for the Diploma and Post Diploma Bharathanatyam, Vocal and Instruments Students. In fact, she is the pillar for OFAAL and her in depth knowledge in Bharathanatiyam and Vocal & Instruments permitted her to publish the very first Theory books for Vocal & Instruments. Her books are now widely used in UK & Europe.She currently teaches, Bharthanatyam, Veena and Vocal in England.
Mrs. Thushyanthy Thiyagarajah sets Vocal and Instruments Theory Examination papers. she is monitoring both, theory and practical examination procedures and of quality assurance. She runs regular workshops and give presentation to Fine Arts Examiners specialising in Instruments. She is an inspiration to all young teachers in UK and Europe.She has developed Vocal & Instruments practical instructions for students to understand the technical aspect of the examination. She helped to develop Kuchipudi syllabus for OFAAL.
Head of Percussion
Laya Kala Vidwan
Sri Somasundara Desigar
MridangaVidwan Sri Somasundara Desigar is one of the leading Carnatic musicians in Europe. He is the son of the late Sri Ayyakkannu Desigar (Former Principle of Ramanathan Academy) and hails from a family dedicated to music. He commenced his tutelage under the Late Shri A.S.Ramanathan at the Ramanathan Academy in Sri Lanka and he underwent advance training under the renowned Mridanga Maestro, Guru Kaaraikkudi R Mani. He was given the rare opportunity of being present at the inauguration of SruthiLayaSeva in 1986 which was founded by his Guru Kaaraikkudi R Mani. He subsequently became the first teacher in this school promoting Carnatic percussion. Sri Somasundara Desigar is the Head of percussion for OFAAL. He has trained several hundreds students and a number of his students have completed Diploma and Post Diploma with OFAAL.
He regularly runs seminars and workshop for young Percussion players and other percussion instruments teachers.
Sri Somasundara Desigar
Sri Somasundara Desigar has performed in many reputed Sabhas in India including Music Academy, Krishnagana, “Sabha, SruthiLaya Kendra Mandras” and Tamil Sangam. He has also performed in many concerts and festivals in Europe, Australia, Canada and India.
Apart from being one of the UK’s most talented and versatile musicians, Sri Somasundara Desigar is revered and much acclaimed as a successful and gifted teacher, He has nurtured and encouraged several students who are all regular performers in the London, UK, Carnatic circuit.
Smt Chitra Suresh
Chitra was brought up in a environment steeped in rich and vibrant South Indian culture. She has immense appreciation of all nuances of arts, music and dance. Her talent was nurtured from a young age by her supportive family.Her mother continues to encourage her to strive for excellence and is her pillar of support. Chitra has blossomed in to a skilled and accomplished dancer due to her untiring efforts. She has carved a niche in the field of Kuchipudi dance.
Chitra started her dance training from a tender age of 8 years. She is a disciple of Guru Smt P.B Krishna Bharathi. She has continued her passion for Kuchipudi and obtained her Masters and M Phil degrees in dance from Central University of Hyderabad, India.
She is an acknowledged Kuchipudi dancer and a “Graded Artist” in the dance artist panel of Doordarshan Kendra,Hyderabad,India.
Chitra has perfected Kuchipudi dance with her experience, knowledge and dedication. She has mastered the technique of emoting very fine expressions, with the perfect rhythm while maintaining the necessary grace, gaiety and poise. The art of choreographing very difficult “keerthanas” (songs) and ballets with the masterly speed of motions with grace is her forte.
Chitra has performed at events organised by various prestigious organisations in India, Dubai Europe and UK. Her solo and group performances have held the audiences enthralled and won her appreciation and critical acclaim.
Chitra runs Pranamya Arts a Kuchipudi dance academy in Leicester, East Midlands. She is passionate about teaching and disseminating this beautiful dance form to interested students. She and her students have performed at numerous venues in the UK at events organised by various organisations. All the performances have been appreciated and well received. She conducts Dance workshops at school and other cultural events. She has received very good feedback and has been asked to teach/perform again.
Chitra took the lead initiative and introduced Kuchipudi dance to OFAAL board. She along with her colleagues have compiled the syllabus and contributed a major role in curating and refining the whole Kuchipudi syllabus for OFAAL. She has been involved in setting Kuchipudi theory and practical question papers for all Grades.right from the inception of examinations for Kuchipudi from the very beginning. She is a faculty member on the panel of examiners in OFAAL board.
OFAAL was formed in 1990 begining with a mere 3xx number of candidates sitting examinations in bharathanatyam, vocal, veena, flute, miruthangam and violin. Since then, the examinations have grown, with ever increasing candidates taking exams in new centres each year.
OFAAL was registered as a charity organisation in May 2004 and expanded into Europe where we opened our first European centre in Germany. By 2001, the number of candidates sitting OFAAL examinations in the UK had become so large, over 2000, that it became necessary to conduct the examinations on two different days, in order to maintain the professionalism and smooth-running efficiency that characterises OFAAL so uniquely. That year the theory examinations were held a month before the practical examinations, which had added benefits for students too, in that they were able to be better prepared for their respective examinations. By 2005, OFAAL had grown even more, and the decision was made to offer two examination sessions. The exam board now offers students the opportunity to sit their exams in either April or September, thus alleviating pressure off students due to sit GCSE or A Level exams in May. Despite other examination boards emerging around London, OFAAL has retained its position as the premier exam board throughout its two decades. At the time of writing, some x number of candidates have been entered for the 2008 exams, which is shaping up to be OFAALs most successful year so far.
OFAAL offers fine-arts students the opportunity to take both practical and theory examinations in their respective subjects, a product of the belief that practical instruction in the fine arts is enriched with, (and arguably, is somewhat worthless without) an appreciation of the theoretical side of ones subject. Practical examinations start at a very basic level, allowing new students to ease themselves in to their first examinations; by the time a student reaches Grade 8 (Diploma) standard, she is expected to be completely versatile and fluent with her instrument / dance. A typical grade one syllabus for instruments requires knowledge of rudimentary musical exercises, such as the swara varasaikal; for the diploma examination, however, candidates are expected to, amongst other things, play Pancharatna Krithis, perform improvisations and to demonstrate their abilities in teaching young pupils.
OFAAL has remained at the forefront of its field, maintaining high standards by having only qualified examiners. In line with this commitment to maintaining professional and high standards, OFAAL introduced a new qualification in 2006, the Post-Diploma, which serves as a higher qualification than the previous highest qualification, the Diploma. Only a handful of candidates have sat this demanding exam, the practical of which is examined by a panel including the Chief Examiner, and the theoretical side of which requires candidates to research, submit and present before an audience a 5,000 word dissertation on a subject related to their chosen fine-art.
By the turn of the millennium, in line with technological advancements around the globe, OFAAL too had updated its services. Currently, the exam board has a fully interactive website at www.ofaal.org. The site allows students across Europe to download their admissions cards, syllabuses and exam materials from the ease of their own home. The site also enables students to access their results as soon as they are available. Moreover, the site allows OFAAL to keep up with the universal interest in cutting down on wasteful use of paper in a bid to save the environment.
As OFAAL looks to the future, it will strive to continue to meet the needs of fine-arts pupils and teachers alike. Through constantly evaluating and renewing their needs, OFAAL shall hopefully remain successful in years to come.