BANGALORE: Many young and talented artistes in the city have popularised the elaborate and exclusive form of Indian classical music on the arena of global music. Collaboration with musicians from different parts of the world has made our classical music more familiar with people across the globe.
One such artiste is Giridhar Udupa, a Bangalore-based ghatam maestro who has collaborated with musicians across the globe. When City Express interacted with the artiste, he spoke at length about his journey in the field of music, his collaboration with musicians of other countries, support from his teachers and also about his future projects.
Giridhar, initially started learning Mridangam at the age of four from his father, Ullur Nagendra Udupa. “My father later taught me the fingering techniques on Ghatam that helped me to take up the new instrument. After watching Vikku Vinayakram’s performance on television, I decided to take up ghatam seriously,” he said. Later, he started pursuing his career under Sukanya Ramgopal, who fondly took him under her wings. She prepared him to play on the Manamadurai Ghatam, the toughest and the hardest mud instrument in the world of percussion. Now, he uses Manamadurai Ghatam for all of his concerts. He added, "As they say, nature’s beauty is often encased in the toughest shells, the resonating sounds of Manamadurai Ghatams can rarely be matched by any other type of Ghatam.” He then experimented with different kinds of Ghatams, various styles, strokes and sounds.
Udupa, received the Central Government Scholarship to continue his learning under V Suresh, a Ghatam master. This gave a start to yet another exciting journey with Ghatam, as he began exploring distinct styles of playing on the instrument. It was in this phase that he started picking up the skills of accompanying various musicians on the stage who invariably brought their own styles and perspectives in a concert. “The challenge was to understand these nuances perfectly on the stage and respond to them spontaneously. He (Ghatam V Suresh) initiated me into this fine manoeuvring and graceful improvisations for live concerts. Learning under him has been the most memorable and valuable experience of my musical journey,” explained Udupa.
It is apparent from his style of playing that he has adopted the styles of both his teachers. While he was striving to bring these styles in creative combinations, he also tried to adopt different techniques of hand percussions across the world to create his own style. "It was a great challenge to be innovative and create new sounds in a seemingly simple instrument like Ghatam,” he added. With his innovative style, he has also performed with Hindustani musical maestros including Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Ustad Shahid Parvez, to name a few.
Apart from playing traditional Carnatic Classical Music, he has also performed for many genres around the globe. He said, “I would like to call it as world music. In Europe, I collaborated with two bands, Indialucia (Flamenco Music) and Nasha (Irish music). Apart from this, I had the honour of performing with great maestros including Trilok Gurtu, Ernie Watts, Larry Coryell, George Brooks, Kai Eckhardt, Hubert Laws and others.” Recently, Giridhar also performed for Bollywood music directors, Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan and Loy in Bangalore and Delhi. When asked about the qualities, a musician needs to have when collaborating with different musicians around the globe, he said that a musician needs to have in-depth knowledge of both forms of music. “Just bringing different instruments from east and west on one platform and playing them together does not create fusion music. For instance, I perform regularly with Flamenco musicians. But before playing with them, I listen to it for hours to get a grip of their fundamentals. Being a Carnatic musician, it makes my job easier to adapt to any form of music, because Carnatic music has a highly evolved and sophisticated structure,” added he.
Many concerts remain fresh in his mind. He shared that his first concert with his father is still fresh, as it was this which initiated him into the world of music. He also recalls that concerts with Mysore Brothers and Dr L Subramaniam are mesmerising. Besides the carnatic classical music, Giridhar enjoys listening to all genres of music especially Jazz, Country and Flamenco. Police is one of his favourite bands, he admits. He added, “There is beauty in all kinds of music and the beauty lies precisely in this diversity.”
Udupa, who is graduate in commerce, said that even during his school and college days his passion was clearly for music. “I still remember giving performances even a day before my examination. I took challenges, and also took my examination in the same spirit.” Speaking about his future projects, he said that he would collaborate with different world musicians on various projects. “I am now expanding several of my international projects in the coming years, including the Indialucia band in Poland. I will soon start working on my music album,” concluded the Ghatam maestro.