Monday, 28 August 2017

The new RR Sabha

By S. Sivaramakrishnan

The overcast evening of 26 August 2017 was special  as I was attending a programme in the renovated, multistoreyed, state-of-the art Rasika Ranjani Sabha, once the landmark
RR Sabha on Sundareswarar Street, Mylapore, Chennai.

The Rudrapatnam Brothers in concert
The programme was a traditional Carnatic music concert by the  Rudrapatnam Brothers R.N. Tyagarajan and R.N. Taranathan. The enjoyable event at the cosy auditorium on the third floor attracted a decent-sized audience. While the varnam in Darbar  raga seemed to endorse the very good ambience, the kriti in and on Saraswati was invocative of the goddess glorified in  the mascot of the sabha. Etavunara in Kalyani, the main raga too was suggestive of RR Sabha's golden era.

When I clicked a photograph of the artists on the stage, I realised that I had  forgotten to take a picture of the new building earlier in daylight.  It was raining when I stepped out,  but  my humble mobile phone helped me to 'document' the new structure drenched in rain and light.

 The RR Sabha
RR Sabha and the music of the Rudrapatnam Brothers provided a 'sukham-sukhataram' experience.


Ustad Vilayat Khan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Vilayat Khan’s was a personality shaped by the conviction that it was destined to leave its mark on the world. He would not have been happy with just being the greatest sitarist; he had to be amongst the all-time greats of Hindustani music. This set him on a path of passionate absorption of the tradition, unrelenting innovation and the pursuit of superhuman standards of perfection in the execution of his musical vision.

The burning ambition that powered Vilayat Khan’s sense of destiny was, partially, a reaction to the humiliations and privations suffered early in life. He had a very comfortable early childhood as the elder son of Ustad Enayet Khan, court musician at Gauripur (now in Bangladesh). After he lost his father at the age of eleven, the most prosperous and eminent amongst his father’s disciples denied him the gharana’s training, and abandoned the family to virtual destitution. This experience re-activated— after five generations the Rajput genes of Thakur Srujan Singh—the founder of his lineage, and made Vilayat Khan a warrior determined to conquer the world and rule it. He left Calcutta in his early teens in search of training and a career, swearing not to return until he had become India’s foremost sitarist.  

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M.M. Dandapani Desigar

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Ahumble temple singer and teacher of religious hymns to children, he went on to become a celluloid hero, charismatic classical performer and university music professor. He not only set high standards of teaching but also carved a niche for himself in musical innovation and composition. Here is a tale of continuing re-invention by a man of poor resources who did not go beyond the pyol school in his village but eventually became an icon of the Tamil isai movement. He did well by himself too, securing the best of bargains in a status and wealth conscious society. 

M.M. Dandapani Desigar (1908-1973). Thirty-five years after his passing, his ringing voice and evocative Tamil song continue to inspire artists and activists in the cause of ethnic Tamil music in his birth centenary year. In a milieu where language and culture have become focal points of identity and politics, the resonant example of Dandapani Desigar is a continuing source of inspiration. Some mainstream musicians too recognise his musical worth and value his Tamil oeuvre.

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T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai

Birthdays & Anniversaries

T.N. Rajarathnam Pillai was a nagaswara wizard, a trailblazer and a legend. Rajarathnam was born in August in 1898 and breathed his last in December 1956 at the relatively young age of 58. He was popularly referred to as TNR. For nearly half a century he strode the world of Carnatic music like a colossus. By arduous and diligent practice over the years, he gained incredible mastery over music and his chosen instrument. His rendition of kriti-s were flawless and the swaraprastara sparkling. He  was popularly  associated  with  Todi  raga  –  his  name  became synonymous  with  it because of  his  brilliant  exposition  and  delineation  of  the  raga.  Even  so,  he  also played, in  equal degree  of  excellence,  many  other  rakti  raga-s.  Who  can  forget  his Simhendramadhyamam, Shanmukhapriya,  Ramapriya, Vachaspati, Pantuvarali and Kalyani?

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Saturday, 26 August 2017

M. S. Anantharaman


Birthdays & Anniversaries

M. S. Anantharaman (C- violin) Born in 1924 in Chennai, Anantharaman is the son and disciple of Parur A. Sundaram Iyer, a well-known violinist. He received training in playing the veena as well as the violin, and in Hindustani music. 

A long-time exponent, Anatharaman besides giving solo recitals and trio concerts with his two violin-playing sons, has ac- companied many renowned musicians in their performances in India and abroad. A teacher with a fine reputation, he served the Tamil Nadu Government Music College in Chennai as professor of violin from 1962 to 1983. Subsequently, he taught in Pittsburgh, U.S.A., for some time.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Sanjukta Panigrahi

Birthdays & Anniversaries
" Sanju took Odissi dance to its pinnacle of glory," observed her guru of a lifetime, Kelucharan Mohapatra, lamenting her death. "Her Moksha transcended the limits of aesthetics and became a spiritual experience. Now she has attained moksha." 

Moksha is perhaps the right word to describe her destination. For her dance was an offering to the Lord.'l am doing pooja with my dance," she told an interviewer five years ago.

That dance would become the medium for her moksha likely never crossed the minds of her orthodox brahmin parents when she was born, on 24 August 1944, in Berhampur, Orissa. But, whether they realised it or not, she was born to dance. Even as a little girl, she showed a natural aptitude for it and her mother, a trained singer, decided that she would encourage her to learn Odissi, which itself was struggling at that time to gain a distinct identity and acceptance as a classical dance-form. At the request of the mother, Kelucharan Mohapatra took Sanju, then five years young, under his wings and gave her intensive training. He recently recalled that even as Sanju "danced" for him when he first saw her at her parents' house, he realised she was something.

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Birthdays & Anniversaries

A devoted teacher of Carnatic music

Vidwan  B.  Krishnamoorthy  is  a  multifaceted  artist  – Carnatic vocalist, musicologist, researcher, and passionate teacher. He was born  on  24  August  1932  at  Padarakudi near  Karaikudi, where he lived with his maternal grandfather for a while. He had three brothers,  the  eldest being  the  late Sangita  Kalanidhi B.Rajam  Iyer. Krishnamoorthy’s biological mother gave him in adoption to her childless elder sister Ananthalakshmi. So it was that little Krishnamoorthy grew up in his ‘Periamma’s’ house at Paganeri. Fond of music, he liked to listen to the songs of S.G. Kittappa, Subbiah Bhagavatar and others. The Sri Rama Navami Utsavam was a grand annual celebration at home. Attracted to the bhajana paddhati, the child started learning the songs when he was five years old from Atmanatha Iyer and Tirukoshtiyur Iyengar. He knew all the songs by heart – from the Todayamangalam to the final Deepa Pradakshinam. He can remember most of it even now.

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

And then there was Kambhoji

A beautiful aural experience

By Priyanka C Prakash

As the sound of the tambura wafts through the air, a majestic Sankarabharanam sets the tone for what would be a truly memorable concert, and a cathartic listening experience. Vidushi Neela Ramgopal endows Swati Tirunal’s Ata tala varnam with playful touches (particularly in the third muktayi swaram, where every 4th beat is the swaram ‘pa’). How many times do we hear that a musician’s art is a mirror to her personality? On deeper listening to the artistry of our great musicians, I find this to be extremely accurate. Neela Ramgopal’s music reflects who she is as a person: open, deep and positive. Her music reflects this: it is honest, free, uncompromising in its classicism and true to the aesthetics that she holds dear to her heart.
I always miss listening to concerts live, particularly like this one organised by Naada Inbam in memory of Sri MK Jagannathan, an ardent connoisseur of art. However, due to innovations by streaming organizations such as Parivadini, I get to hear such treasures, while sitting in a different part of the world, in a different time zone.
After the grand Sankarabharanam comes ‘Tappagane’ in Suddha Bangala. Neela Mami’s Suddha Bangala is outstandingthe way she articulates the gamakas in the “dsddp” phrase, and adds an oscillation to the madhyama encapsulates the raga, and reminds me of the class where she taught me Rama bhakti samrajya. In that instance, she sings the “rGr” phrase extensively in her alapana. She offers a different interpretation from that of Madurai Mani Iyer’s (another stalwart who extensively sang Suddha Bangala), but both communicate a happy mood that I often associate with this raga. Violinist R Raghul provides impeccable repartees and Poongulam Subramaniam (mridangam) and KV Gopalakrishnan (khnajira) play with the core classical gait that this composition deserves.
What follows next is an exploration of Chakravakam, a raga I wish we got to hear more often. Mami’s rendition is succinct, and completewhich, as a student and listener, I often find the hardest to achieve. The raga alapana is full of music, even in the pauses. Mami often remarks that the pauses must be electric with the raga. To me, the key phrases of the raga are where she sings a phrase and breaks off at either the ‘Ri’ or the ‘Dha’. A particularly poignant portion is when she stands at the tara stayi gandhara, and then rests ever-so-softly at the shadjam for a few seconds. Etulabrotuvu-teliya is steeped in what seems indicative of old-world Carnatic charm, evoking the imagery of concerts at temples in the early 20th century.
A devotional trip via Panchashat peetha roopini, is followed by a grand Jayantasena. Neela Mami contrasts the restive, plain “Ma” against the aggressive gait of the “Ga”. Rahul responds with a short, vibrant rendition that is reflective of the inherently madhyama-kala gait of this raga, including a lovely point where he plays a flat gandharam for just a brief second, adding an additional nuance. What follows is Padasanidhi naaku, an emotive outcry by Mysore Sadasiva Rao, who mentions in one point of the composition – “Mataladu ma, inta kopama?” (why won’t you talk to me, are you so angry?). Mami makes this line her own, pleading and imploring. and showing the curiosity of a child who wants to know what she did wrong. Mami truly brings the range of emotions in her niraval. Raghul and Poongulam Subramaniam share a few ‘aha’ moments in the swara essay that follows.
And then, there was Kambhoji.
In Neela Mami’s Kambhoji, there is just the core essence. There isn’t one clichéd note, not one that seems laboured. There isn’t one phrase that seems hurried. In a perfect balance that only the great artistes seem to achieve, she rests at each vantage point, particularly in the tara sthayi. The crème de la crème is the niraval in Syama Sastri’s seldom-heard Devi nee pada. In Mami’s trademark approach, she sings the first speed in leisurely repose and with arithmetic nuances in the second speed.
Poongulam Subramaniam and KV Gopalakrishnan uplift and embellish the mini-korvai’s in the swara passages, playing with a sense of anticipation that is indicative of their deep experience in the field.
Following the mood of the kriti, the tani avartanam has majesty and grandeur.
Neela Mami ends the concert with a touching viruttam and a kriti in Jonpuri, and Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Karnaranjini tillana. Neela Mami sings Karnaranjini embodying it with a distinctive feel that must be heard and contrasted to experience.
The joy of listening to a concert live is a blessing, and an unparalleled experience to cherish. In the absence of that, a second best option is to embrace the technological connectivity that modern times have given us, and to experience art virtually – and surrender to the aural experience.
This concert is a memorable musical experience to relive and cherish for its depth, meditative quality and the blissful ‘escape’ that it provides.

Bipin Singh

Birthdays & Anniversaries

A person  of  firm principles and lofty ideals,he pursued  his goal, his search for  beauty, dedicatedly, diligently, scientificallyandwith passion. If he took the dance out of  Manipur, he never did take  Manipur out of the dance.  He transformed what was—  and still is in that State— a vehicle for religious expression and devotion to god, into an art-form that was eventually accepted as classical. He did not renounce the Manipuri idiom; he enriched it  and made it into a connoisseur's delight, not only in India but abroad as well. Crossing many a hurdle, he trained himself to be a  dancer, musician, composer and choreographer  who gave Manipuri dance a new face that reflected  the scholarsofthe  idiom. His legacy includes, as well and most importantly, the disciples he trained and the disciples of his disciples. Whether he so intended it or not, he founded and shaped a  gharana, the Bipin Singh gharana, of Manipuri dance. beauty of art and not just the ecstasy of devotion. In a land known  for  the dichotomy between scholar and artist, he brought the twain together by pursuing scholarship and art in tandem. The result: the music and dance of Manipur he presented to the world through his own enchanting prism of beauty early gained the stamp of authority,  as well as authenticity.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017



Birthdays & Anniversaries

Gopi Krishna was born into a family of kathak dancers. His maternal grandfather Pandit Sukhdev Maharaj was a teacher of Kathak and his aunt Sitara Devi was a Kathak dancer who has performed around the world. When he was 11 years old, Gopi Krishna began training under his grandfather. He also learned from Shambhu Maharaj. In addition to Kathak, Gopi Krishna learned Bharatanatyam from Mahalingam Pillai and Govind Raj Pillai. Receiving the title of "Nataraj" (King of Dancers) at the All Bengal Music Conference at the age of 15.

Renaissance man DR. V. RAGHAVAN


Birthdays & Anniversaries

The name of Raghavan is a legend in the revival of studies into ancient Indian culture. When our country had lost its memories of the past, Dr. Raghavan brought back the original thoughts. Those of us who had no identity, because of our English education, began to look into the Indian soul through the writings of this man who is more than a Professor of Sanskrit, but perhaps a doyen of renewed consciousness. What has he not taught us: classical music, the most ancient dances and some of the wisdom of the forest books….” This is an excerpt from the felicitation written by famous writer Mulk Raj Anand on the occasion of Dr. V. Raghavan’s 60th birthday in August 1968. It truly sums up the man and his mission whose birth centenary was celebrated for a year starting August 2008.

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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Not enough light on the bani

Random Notes

By V Ramnarayan

Writing in The Hindu, musician Lakshmi Sriram described the presentation on the Dhanammal bani during the recent 150th year celebration of the Carnatic music legend as 'hagiographical.' While there were at least two angry responses to the review from those involved in the celebration, it is difficult not to agree with the reviewer, as the voice-over and slides on the occasion were filled with adjectives and not enough insights into what was unique about the bani. (In fact, at least one disinterested member  of the audience found the whole programme including the panel discussion on the final day hagiographic, though in defence of the panel, it could be said that all of them belonged to the sishya parampara and therefore perhaps partisan). It was a weak defence (on Facebook, where the review was shared by the author) to claim that it was a tribute and not an 'expert analysis'. This claim was refuted by the critic as well as another commenter on Facebook, thus proving the efficacy of social media in providing instant feedback  to critic and reader alike.

The presentation could certainly have gained from a greater explanation of the Dhanammal school in terms of its artistic beliefs, preferences, and stylistics, and also from the presence of a live presenter on stage. I believe that Powerpoint presentations are better served by that rather than a recorded voiceover.

Be that as it may, the presentation, though a sincere effort, lacked in comprehensive coverage through audio and video samples, as for example those missing from T Viswanathan's flute playing, or more representative samples of Balasaraswati's dancing than clips from the well known Satyajit Ray documentary.

I missed the Hariharan-Tiruvarur Girish duet on the opening day. Going on till well  beyond the scheduled closing time, the concert is said to have cast a spell on the audience with its spontaneity and creativity. I have already mentioned the high quality of the other recitals I attended. Chitravina N Ravikiran was in his element and gave a perfect performance conforming to the great standards he has set himself. His disciple  Dr Sivakumar played the veena with commendable skill and dignity, while TM Krishna was in superb form. I must add another outstanding performance to this list: S Sowmya's concert on the final day, which was preceded by a thoughtful and witty valedictory address by Yadav Sankaran, son of the eminent T Sankaran. Sowmya presented the best of her learnings fom T Muktha in a beautifully modulated voice in the authentic style of her guru.

A more detailed post on the programme including the lec-dem by Sriram Parasuram and panel discussion involving him, Ravikiran, Anuradha Sriram, Girish and Aniruddha Knight will follow in the near future.

Rajee Narayan


Birthdays & Anniversaries

"It was a matter of pride for all South Indians that the government of Maharashtra had chosen to honour guru Rajee Narayan with the Maharashtra Rajya Samskrutik Puraskar for the field of dance for 1996-97.
"Rajee Narayan established her institution Nritya Geethanjali in 1965, when she migrated to Mumbai. Branches of the institution have since been established in Australia, Canada and the US, headed by her disciples. In recognition of her knowledge and experience, she was appointed a member of the dance faculty of the Mumbai University, a position she has held for over 20 years. She has also been a paper-setter and examiner for the BFA and MFA courses of the university through the years."

To learn more, go to and buy issue 170. Also issues 22 and 73.



Birthdays & Anniversaries

The veteran vocalist, Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan passed away on 18 February 2016, at the age of 107. He left behind a rich legacy of music, musings and memories.

When I first met him a few years ago at his residence in Kolkata, I was simply overwhelmed by the fact that he was more than a hundred years old. I wondered what it would be like to see eras pass by like changing seasons, which part of the last century was his heart anchored in, and what would the fading memory still hold dear. The tall expanse of a hundred years was cut short by the tiny stature of Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan as he was carried into the room by his disciples. It was my first brush with living history, infinite wisdom and incomparable experience.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

V D Paluskar

                                                                     Birthdays & Anniversaries

Vishnu Digambar Paluskar belonged to the fraternity of Haridasa-s, but he would likely have not turned to music seriously except for an accident which affected his eyesight adversely. But once he did, he worked at becoming an accomplished singer. In the event, what earned him undying fame was his missionary work to spread the glory of music and his contribution to the renaissance of Hindustani music. Despite heavy opposition to teaching music under institutional auspices, he established schools the graduates of which would, in his reckoning,  at best become Tansens or at least kaansen-s, that is sensitive rasika-s. He spearheaded the movement to propagate Hindustani music. He established the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, first  in Lahore in 1901, and later in Bombay in 1908. In course of time, the pick of students he himself had trained  established more centres under the same rubric and with the same missionary goals. His interest extended beyond classical music to devotional and patriotic songs;his aim was not merely a musical renaissance but a recovery of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the nation. Through personal example, he brought respect to the profession of music, even as he popularised the art.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A Tani By T.K. Murthy

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Mridangam maestro T.K. Murthy is a short man but he stands tall as a percussionist in  the arena ofCarnatic classicalmusic.Thecontrast washighlighted last yearby musicologistB.V.K. Sastry of Bangalore when hewrote,in the DeccanHerald:

"[Murthy] makes an interesting picture on thestage.Being  short,  he  has sometimes to overstretch his hands to play on themridangam,which gives an impression ofembracingthan playing the instrument. But his nimble fingers execute fascinatingrhythmicideas.His sense ofanticipationis highly impressive. The figures aresprightly,cleancut, setting off a  wide variety of sounds, and converting the whole into a tantalising structure of sound and rhythm. Naturally he has been a popular figure onthe concertstage,desired, welcomedandappreciatedby all musicians of consequence for  nearly halfa century."

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Number 13 is lucky for this lady. She was born on 13th August  1934.  She  performed  her  Bharata­-natyam arangetram on 13th April 1945 on Tamil New Year’s Day. It was also the date on which she signed
her  first  film  contract.  Thirteen  has  been  favourably associated with landmarks in Vyjayantimala’s life.

“Although  I  was  born  in  1934,  my  elders  entered  it  as 1933  in  my  school  records,  and  so  it  has  come  to  stay,” she tells you as she recalls the past. “I am proud of being  a Tiruvallikeni girl. I was born on Adi Kritikai day in a house opposite the Parthasarathy Swamikoil in Triplicane. I came into this world moving my toes not on my head”, she   chuckles. “You see, I was born with “dancing toes”.

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poochi srinivasa iyengar


Kalpagam Swaminathan

Kalpagam Swaminathan has been upholding traditional values in Carnatic music for the past five decades.Born in Setalapathi village in Tanjavur  in 1922, she belongs to a family of musicians. Her mother Abhayambal and  grandmother Dharmambal were considered good singers of their times.  Her  mother, who was also well-versed  in playing the veena and the harmonium, was  her  first veena teacher. Other guru-s were A. Anantakrishna  Iyer and T.L.  Venkatarama  Iyer from whom she acquired her enviable repertoire of Dikshitar kriti-s; and Budalur Krishnamurti Sastri, from whom she  learnt several Tyagaraja  kriti-s. In 1947, Kalpagam Swaminathan joined the music faculty of the Kalakshetra's College of Music and Fine Arts where she served for six years.She joined Central College of  Carnatic  Music in Madras  in 1964 as a veena teacher when Musiri Subrahmania Iyer was its Principal. After her retirement, she taught  veena  to students at Kala Peetham in Madras for a few years. Kalpagam Swaminathan has been  a regular  performer on AIR and Doordarshan. The Music Academy in Madras has honoured her  with a special certificate and the Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram with  the title of Kalaimamani in recognition of her services  in the field of Carnatic music.


Ustad Amir Khan

Ustad Amir Khan (1912-1974)

The late Ustad Amir Khan was one of the greatest Hindustani classical vocalists of all time, certainly among the most influential figures of the 20th century. His original contributions to vocal music and his mastery of the science and art of Hindustani music made him a musician’s musician, someone both vocalists and instrumentalists hold as a role model to this day. Raised in the Bhendibazaar gharana, he submitted himself to other influences, setting the highest standards of musicianship while integrating them.

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T Viswanathan

T Viswanathan (1927-2002)


The New York Times called him “one of the most influential south Indian musicians in the United States.” He was the third Sangita Kalanidhi in his family of extraordinary musicians and dancers, with his sister Balasaraswati the only dancer so far to have received what has come to be accepted as the highest accolade in Carnatic music.
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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Rajabhaiya Poochwale


Shanta Dhananjayan

Birthdays & Anniversaries

Shanta was born on 12 August 1943 into a well to do Indian family in Malaysia, her ancestors having migrated there from Kerala. A child prodigy, she showed enough promise even as a three-year-old for her parents to decide to send her to India for her education. She joined Kalakshetra in June 1952, when she was eight.

After a brief period in Kerala, her parents wanted to send her to Shantiniketan, which was then a great center for the arts. With the encouragement of her uncle Achuta Menon, they sent her to Kalakshetra. Shanta earned her Post Graduate Diploma with distinction in Bharatanatyam and also learned Kathakali and Carnatic music. She was a prominent dancer in Kalakshetra’s productions from 1955 to1968, the year she left the institution.

She was the first girl Dhananjayan was introduced to when he, a village boy, who knew nothing except Malayalam, arrived at Kalakshetra. Shanta was a serious girl totally devoted to her dance and she secretly made up her mind even at the age of 12 to partner Dhananjayan in life.

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Friday, 11 August 2017

Lalmani Misra

 Birthdays & Anniversaries
One of the great players of the vichitra veena was the late Pandit Lalmani Misra, was born in a middle class Kanyakubja Brahmin family. Even during his childhood, his parents could discern Lalmani’s fascination with music and his aspirations in that direction. He had a natural talent for music and was very hard working, and these qualities enabled him, over time, to attain recognition as a luminous personality in music.
Even at a young age, Lalmani learnt nearly 1500 dhrupad compositions from his guru, Swami Pramodananda Brahmachari.

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His pot of gold

 Birthdays & Anniversaries
Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram
B. 11.8.1942
Among the senior ghatam vidwans of southern India, Vinayakram has enjoyed a long and successful career as a professional musician. In playing the ghatam, he has evolved a style, which though rooted in the conventional technique, is highly individual in spirit. His is also a style that is responsive to other systems of music, accounting for his success with Western ensembles. He has exhibited his improvisatory genius playing complex rhythms for various fusion groups such as Shakti, and for J.G. Laya—an experimental group of musicians including pianists and percussionists.
Vinayakram received his training in playing the ghatam initially from his father T.R. Harihara Sarma, and later systematic instruction in the art at the Sri Jaya Ganesh Tala Vadya Vidyalaya, Chennai. He made his concert debut at the age of 13. As a ghatam accompanist, Vinayakram has performed with a host of eminent Carnatic musicians.
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