Melody and rhythm are an integral part of music as they both go hand-in-hand. Even the most melodious piece has rhythm attached to it. Recently, Bangalore witnessed some remarkable musicians performing just percussion instruments. Karaikkudi Mani and Ghatam V Suresh created sheer magic at Talavadya Kacheri held at Chowdiah Memorial Hall along with city-based Kanjira artiste N Amrith. The artistes spoke in length about their early stages, interest in music and the importance of percussion instruments in Carnatic classical music.
Recalling his early days when he started learning music at the age of six, V Suresh said, “I first began learning vocal music and then developed an interest in learning percussion instruments especially Ghatam.” A disciple of T R Harihara Sharma, music legends T V Gopalakrishnan, Umayalapuram Narayana Swamy Iyer and Vikku Vinayakaram, he imbibed their styles and developed his style of playing the Ghatam. Today many Djembe and Darbuka players across the world are trying to imbibe his style.
Speaking about one of his memorable concerts, Suresh said, “Well, it was my first concert and I had to perform with Karaikudi Mani, I was extremely nervous. I have been performing with him for over two decades now. At the end of that performance, D K Jayaraman, the stalwart of Carnatic music appreciated the way I performed.” Stressing on the importance of rhythm in music, Karaikkudi Mani said, “Melody is enhanced with the addition of percussion instruments. As it is said in Sanskrit ‘Shrutir Matha, Laya Pithah’. Rhythm is very important for any music belonging to any genre.”
However, both musicians opined that percussion music concerts are setting new trends in classical music. At the same time, they also expressed the fear of decreasing number of students learning gottu vadyam and morsing. Kaaraikkudi Mani, who has held several concerts in Bangalore, feels that the city has an audience that is highly appreciative on art. He said, “During the festive season like Ganesh Chathurti, we have classical music concerts being hosted in every nook and corner of the city.”
Karaikudi Mani who has collaborated with musicians from Japan, Australia, Finland and England said that it is most important for a musician to comprehend both Western and Indian music to perform a fusion concert. “However, there are some musicians, who do not do justice to both forms of music. Fusion has become quite confusing today,” he added.
When asked about the status of Carnatic musicians, who are increasingly influenced by western music, V Suresh said, “Today, classical musicians are gaining ‘celebrity status’ and music academies are extending support by providing scholarships to the students in order to encourage them. Overall, I feel it is a good sign.” Mani who considers every concert as an examination, is working on an album titled Mridangam Sings, commemorating the birth centenary of musician Palghat Mani Iyer.