Musician Anandan Sivamani loves to experiment. That, in fact, has always been the hallmark of this ace drummer, whose creativity finds expression even in mundane objects like utensils, thengai moodi, water bottle, box, suitcases or even shells. His magic fingers make music out of almost anything and everything. Who can forget his foot-tapping drumming in Roja, Rang De Basanti, Taal, Lagaan and Dil Se?
Perhaps, his turning music director was always on the cards. And Sivamani debuts with the Vikram Prabhu-Priya Anand-starrer Arima Nambi. He has another film Kanithan in his kitty, starring Atharvaa and Catherine Tresa. Both the films are produced by Kalaipuli S Thanu. So, how did this happen?
“Thanu and I met at the Adyar Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple. I accepted his offer to do the film. I think that happened at the right place and at the right time,” says the self-taught artiste, who has performed with star musicians like Noel Grant, Vikku Vinayakram, Freddy Santiago, Louis Banks, Billy Cobham, Myanta, Ranjit Barot, Zakir Hussain, John McLaughlin and L Subramaniam.
Sivamani recalls how he used to sneak into his father’s studios as a young boy. “I have always had the burning desire to do something unique and creative. When I was 12, I got the chance to be a part of K V Mahadevan’s team. I remember standing there for hours, listening to those legendary musicians play. At the beginning, my dad wasn’t happy with what I was doing, but then he realised my passion for music and encouraged me,” recalls the 54-year-old. Talking about his inspiration, Sivamani says, “Though I stay in Mumbai, I am a pucca Chennaiite at heart and I was fortunate to be around maestros like M S Viswanathan, Illayaraja, A R Rahman and S P Balasubramaniam.
What I am today is because of my schooling at Kodambakkam. A few years ago, I had an option to move to New York. I didn’t want to because I love this place so much,” he says. When it comes to films, Sivamani says it’s important to go by the directors’ words. “As a music director, I am here to give what my director asks for,” he says, adding Arima Nambi, which is slated for release this month, has four songs. Interestingly, Sivamani says how he had to rope in new voices for the film besides Javed Ali, who has sung Idhayam in the film, which has nearly 13,600 views on YouTube. “I am open to new voices and the film is a combination of melody and high percussion,” he says. Talking about Kanithan, Sivamani says he has finished recording four out
of five songs. Now, would he mind playing drums for other musicians being a music director himself? “Why should I mind? After all, I need pocket money to look after other expenses,” he laughs. Sivamani also practices a form of sound-based yoga. “When I perform on stage, I make sure I give a spiritual experience to my audience. I never leave them unsatisfied. I perform what comes to my mind, which is spontaneous,” he says. Having been on several world tours, Sivamani, a recipient of Tamil Nadu Kalaimamani award, has a band called Asia Electrik and also plays at another band, Silk & Shrada, besides many Indian bands and fusion groups. Looking back on his journey, the artiste says he neither had money nor influence, but only passion that made him come up in life. “The first beat I was exposed to was my mom’s heartbeat. I am nothing without my parents and god’s grace,” he says. Future plans? “I need to take music to the grassroots. When I was young, I didn’t have anyone to guide me properly. So I want to open a typical gurukul set-up for percussion and instrumentals with thatched roof, garden, accessible masters and make it easy for the talented youngsters. I am looking for a convenient place in Chennai now,” signs off Sivamani.