Updated: April 12, 2010 13:48 IST

Endless flow of beats in an eternal quest

Ranjani Govind
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Do you know of a ghatam player who packs in a fleet of varied rhythm for Carnatic, Hindustani, Jugalbandi, fusion and jazz? Bangalore-born Giridhar Udupa has a hand in a multitude of genres.

The 29-year-old, after his Ramothsava concert at Seshadripuram on April 11, will be off to Switzerland representing India at the Jazz Festival.

He would be playing alongside global musicians Airto Moreira (drummer) and Reggie Hamilton (Bass) who have accompanied legends such as Miles Davis and Michael Jackson.

Giridhar is particularly admired in the Carnatic circles for his style of laya play on the Manamadurai ghatam.

“It weighs 10 to 12 kg and is made of special mud from Manamadurai, a small town, 40 km from Madurai. We also have people using the local Devanahalli ghatam and the Madras ghatam that have restrained tones due to low weight and not-so-heavy structure. I follow the Vikku Vinayakram school where the singularly different thumps with robust beats are best heard only on the Manamadurai pots,” he says.

Son of the legendary mridanga vidwan U. Nagendra Udupa, Giridhar's lessons on the laya began when he was barely three. At 10 he made his appearance at the N.R. Colony Ramothsava that marked the beginning of Giridhar's beats gaining recognition. And after hearing Vikku's signature approach on the melodic earthen pot, he made up his mind to follow the same style.

“I joined Sukkanya Ramgopal, Vikku's senior most student in Bangalore in 1998, and follow the inimitable Vikku school since then. With extra lessons from vidwan V. Suresh in Chennai, 2001 saw me getting a break when I accompanied violin masters Mysore Nagaraj and Manjunath and then the renowned L. Subramaniam,” he says.

From then on it has been an endless flow of percussion from Giridhar not just for the reigning Carnatic stars but also Hindustani stalwarts such as Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, Pt. Jasraj and Vishwamohan Bhat who are taking pleasure in an amalgam of Hindustani-Carnatic laya in their classical offerings.

Commerce graduate Giridhar also regales audiences with his “Laya Tharanga”. He says, “Music is an eternal quest, the process of learning goes on and on.”

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