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Accompanying Percussionists & Voilinist- Wake Up! Let Rasika’s Want You! Be the change you want to see in this world.

Submitted by on December 24, 2011 – 10:46 pmNo Comment

I seldom comment or cover on the percussionists that accompany main artists. Really no reason for that, except maybe, when I listen to music I get deeply engrossed over the main artist, even though I know that a success of a concert very largely depends on both the violinists and the percussionists accompanying them.

Anyway, there is something to be commented here on the concerts that I attended over the last two days. One was during the concert of Priya Sisters, where a young but extremely talented Neyveli Skandasubramaniam played the Mridangam, another where Srimushnam Raja Rao who accompanied the Carnatica Brothers and finally Arun Prakash (Mridangam) and Trichy Murali (Ghatam) who accompanied Ranjini & Gayathri. All of them superb talent at their levels.

What was different I observed was the way Skanaasubramaniam tuned himself with the artist and played so well. In fact, I also think there was a observatin that could be a lesson in is Thani. It was extremely short, sweet and very effective. When he finished, people were longing for more, and possibly even surprised at the shortness of his Thani.

Well, there is something to get out of this, I hate to see people getting up and walking away when the percussionists play their solo’s, and I feel they lack maturity, sensitivity and respect for the art and artists.

But, I observed what Skandasubramaniam brought to light something interesting. By playing just enough to keep the audience interactive, he became effective and wanted, enough to have people craving for more. In fact, I later went to him and said it was too short. Maybe, the time was running out, and he had to shorten his Thani, but the result was very conclusive. People want more, when you give less.

On the other hand the mridangam in the hands of veteran Srimushnam Raja Rao during the concert of Carnatica Brothers at Narada Gana Sabha, was simply sweetness. He made the instrument literally talk. The softness that he could bring out was simply outstanding. Again, to me it is a pity to see people walking away and missing a performance, nothing short of excellence.

TM Krishna in his music academy concert started his concert with a plea and request to the audience, ‘to please not leave the auditorium during the violinist solo or percussionist Thani’.
Did the audience heed? Not to my eyes, still saw quite a few leaving or taking a break. While some of those who heeded, headed to their smartphones possibly to read emails.

However, in the concert of Ranjini & Gayathri at Narada Gana Sabha, the percussion mix was just correct and mixed within the concert, keeping the audience together and applauding the percussionists.

It is at these times, I think Carnatic music needs a change in format. If you take a similar concert in Himdusthani, the tabla player, shows his competence throughout the concert, and his solo’s are spread throughout in 30 sec or so short thani’s. In fact in any concert the expertise of percussionists is well seen during their engagements with the artists, so is there really a need for a solo, when audiences don’t seem to want it?

This is in fact true for violinists too. Is it really needed that they have to show their competence after every raga alapana? Because, one glance around, and I see that every time a violinist starts his solo, people start fidgeting, getting bored, and either talking to each other, sms’ing or reading emails on their phones, I believe it is time to cut their solo’s to just one alapana. This will help preserve the respect of percussionists, as well as have audiences craving for more.

I am sure this remark, will be scorned by purists and traditionalists, but hey… many of them hardly sit for thani’s either, and while it’s nice to bask the concepts of preservation of traditions etc, in the interest of music longevity and to be tuned with the present generations, we need to make a change.

This change needs to come from each and every percussionists, and no appeals be it from the press, the media, the top artists like TM Krishna will help. You percussionists need to Insist on a format that follows something like this;

1. For violinists, solo’s restricted to one alapana and also during the RTP rendition
2. For percussionists, get 30 secs of opportunities over the concert, restrict to about 3 or 4 max

Change can only come if you see the need, you percussionist are a treasured gift to art, make it count, let people respect you. Make them want you.

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