Sunday, 12 June 2016

Ajit Ashok's mridangam debut

By S. Janaki

On 29 May 2016, during his mridangam debut, 13-year old Ajit Ashok proved he is a chip off the old block –  following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. For the past six years he has been a diligent sishya of his grandfather-guru K.S. Kalidas who has been faithfully propagating the Palani Subramania Pillai bani. Ajit's father Dr. K. Ashok is an A-grade  mridangam artist with All India Radio and also plays for music concerts; his mother Radhika is a student of Western classical music and his elder brother Rohit is an up-and-coming mridangist.

As part of the accompanying team of R. Raghul (violin) and B.S. Purushothaman (khanjira) for Carnatic vocalist Brindha Manickavasakan, Ajit displayed his percussion skills with poise and precision. Though his wrist and fingers seemed slender, his mridangam playing was marked by power, punch and clarity. The intelligent choice of compositions for the concert gave the youngster a chance to showcase his skill in handling different talas -- from the impressive start for the Ata tala varnam Nera nammiti  in  Kanada, followed by Misra Chapu for Sree Mahaganapati (Gaula), Roopakam for Ananda Natesa (Todi), Khanda Chapu for Amma ravamma (Kalyani), and Adi tala for Nenarunchinanu (Malavi). Brinda took up Kambhoji for elaboration and sang Muthuswami Dikshitar's grand kriti Sree Subramanyaya namaste (Roopakam 2 kalai/ Tisra Eka tala) . Ajit put up a spirited display with B.S. Purushotham during the tani avartanam, eliciting appreciation from several vidwans in the audience.

The debutant was fortunate to receive the blessings of three Sangita Kalanidhis -- vidwan M. Chandrasekharan, and vidushis  Saroja and Lalitha (Bombay Sisters) who were the chief guests. They applauded the lad for his mature approach, as well as for the suddham and melodious stroke-play. His guru K.S. Kalidas, known for his frank and forthright comments, said that this grandson of his had an adventurous streak and revelled in experimenting. Under the watchful eyes and mentorship of his grandfather, this talented youngster should blossom into a full fledged mridangam artist. Or may be transform into an ace creative percussionist experimenting with different genres! 

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