Bhubaneswar: The reason why young Odias living in the US have not lost touch with their culture is Lata Mishra. She has been instrumental in popularizing Odissi music among the younger generations of Odias in USA since the 1970s. She brings together all the cultural activities held under Odisha Society of Americas (OSA).
“Though not trained, I have learnt the nuances of Champu, Chhanda and Odissi vocal by following my father and brother while they were practicing. Later, I was greatly influenced by the doyen of Odissi music, Shyamamani Pattnaik. I started singing to popularise the rich culture of Odisha during cultural events. My husband Saradendu Mishra and I have are also one of the founding members of OSA,” said Lata, 69, who is suffering from Parkinson for the last five years.
She has directed and enacted many plays, including Fakir Mohan Senapati’s popular ‘Patent Medicine’ at OSA. That was the time when her talent of drama and music got recognition. In 2009, she gave a proposal to OSA to include Chhanda and Chapmu in the cultural events. She began with teaching Odissi vocals to 10 students and also made CDs to be available for those interested staying different parts of US.
“Few Chhanda and Champu were recorded in the voice of well known singer, Nazia Alam and I made it available for those interested to learn the music. In the last 10 years, many families have shown interest and Odissi music performance has been a regular part of OSA cultural events,” said Lata, on her recent visit to Bhubaneswar.
Her husband Saradendu Mishra had been constantly supporting her passion and effort. “My husband also loves Odia music and drama. He stood by me and encouraged me at every step. Surrounded with the love and care of several Odia families and being engaged with several cultural activities, we feel there is so much more we can do,” said Lata, who spent from her own pocket to encourage children to learn Odissi vocal.
Despite difficulties in speech and walking, she tries to co-ordinate the cultural events, which keeps her occupied too, says her husband, Saradendu Mishra. The disease may have affected her physically but has not diminished her passion.