Saturday, 7 December 2013

Friendly and fun-loving

Sudha has had a long and consistent career in Carnatic music. She has come up to this high level by dint of her hard work and discipline. She is sincere and serious about her music, and very punctual too. She puts in as much effort for a kalyana kutcheri as for a sabha concert, whether she is singing for free or receiving more than a lakh for an event. I started accompanying her on the mridangam in 1989 and our latest tour was in May this year to U.S.A. I am indeed proud to have played the mridangam in her concerts for so many years. It has given me an insight into her music and helped develop a sound musical rapport with her. It was Sudha who suggested the name ‘Vibrations’ for my percussion ensemble. In 2006, she even sang for my student’s arangetram in Toronto.

Sudha is a religious person and does a lot of meditation and dhyanam. She has enviable stamina and most of her marathon four-hour concerts are a success. She takes good care of her voice which traverses the three octaves with ease. She is one musician who continues to draw full houses over the decades – from the 1990s to now! You get to see more of the friendly, fun-loving side of her personality when you travel with her. She is an excellent cook too and loves to share some of the delicious items she makes. The journey by train from Boston to Washington this summer for the Morning Ragas series was a memorable experience.

Sudha is not one to make undue fuss about acoustics; she will manage with the existing mike facilities in any hall. She does not grudge giving time to her accompanists in a concert; I remember an instance when we played a 40-minute tani avartanam during her concert in Muscat and she enjoyed it.

I am very fond of the GNB style because my guru Tiruvarur Nagarajan provided mridangam accompaniment for the maestro. I have had the good fortune of playing for vidushi MLV, for Trichur Ramachandran, and for Sudha Ragunathan. Initially, Sudha’s music resembled that of her guru MLV a great deal. It has always been briga laden, bright and joyous. Sudha also attempts sruti bhedam like her guru. She is fond of exploring prati madhyama ragas. I still remember the Shanmukhapriya raga she sang at Sastri Hall in the mid 1990s. Over the years, Sudha has gradually added her own dimension to the style. She has kalapramana suddham and a good grip over tala. Of late she has been playing with tala changes in her RTPs. For example, starting with Misra Jhampa in a pallavi, she will shift to Khanda Chapu; or from Tisra Triputa to Misra Chapu. Her breezy style has now moved towards saukhyam as she handles more of slow 2-kalai compositions. Her stage presence and music reflect her confidence and success.

Mridanga vidwan

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