Delectable designs with mridangam, The Hindu

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MRIDANGAM Tiruchi Sankaran demonstrated the mesmerising style of his guru, Palani Subramania Pillai. 

Lec-dem: Tiruchi Sankaran.
Tiruchi Sankaran delivered the keynote address in connection with the centenary celebrations of Sri Palani Subramania Pillai conducted by Sri Krishnagana Sabha and thereafter gave a lec-dem on the style of the percussion legend. He dedicated these two to the memory of his Guru.

In his address, Sankaran said that Palani assimilated the Pudukkottai style and enriched it with his own inimitable touch and that mridangam playing perhaps reached its aesthetic heights in the hands of his guru. “My Gurunathar was meticulous and distinctly original as an accompanist and while playing sollus. While manipulations of nadai patterns were so complex as to be beyond the easy grasp of talented musicians in the audience, his sarvalaghu patterns and rich syllables were so precise and poised that however complex they were, he could keep the listener feel quite at home.” His combo performances with another legendary maestro Palakkad Mani Iyer, where Palani played the ganjira drew large gatherings. Their exchanges seemed like combats, but were really brilliant musical conversations between the two masters of laya. Palani also teamed up with leading vocalists of that period “exemplified the greatest friendship and collaboration in Carnatic music history.”

Though steeped in tradition Palani had an open mind to allow himself to jam with jazz musicians from the U.S. and AIR broadcast a special session of this in 1959. Palani’s gumuki remains unsurpassed to this day and Sankaran said that rasikas would be in raptures as he gave his gumuki effects when Madurai Mani Iyer rendered the songs like ‘Eppa Varuvaro,’ ‘Vellai Thamarai’ and ‘Kandhan Karunai’ during the thukkada phase of a concert.

Interesting combo
Sankaran’s lecdem began with the statement that like vocal music, laya vaadhyam also has its established and accepted patanthara. His playing on the mridangam during the lecdem was a combination of Gana Nadham and Ghambeera Nadham. He started with a few typical examples in Kanda Chapu and his melkalam had the same pressure in strokes as in the normal gait and the change itself was mesmerising for its spontaneity. He cited the links each segment of his playing had with his Guru and added that he was judiciously giving some of his own embellishments as dictated by his own creativity.

The mishra kuraippu in Khanda nadai was made popular by Palani and Sankaran demonstratively played many such variations that were imaginative and had the marked quality that compressed sollus within small spaces with clarity of sound and perfection. He played keezh kala thisram and remembered M.D. Ramanathan’s singing at this point, which demanded a challengingly slow-paced kalapramanam and even said that once he totally lost himself while playing for this maha vidwan.

One could also see the less obvious as one listened to Sankaran. The tabla’s gentle influence could be seen in the sheer sugam of the nadais and the thavils grandness in the multiple level calculations that came forth with unmatched precision. Neyveli Venkatesh on the ganjira joined during the korvais and kuraippus and their brief avarthanams gave Azhagu Nadais and explored many possibilities and carved a few delectable designs.

January 23, 2009