The Gundecha and Malladi Brothers came together to raise funds for cancer care

Ramakanth and Umakanth (Gundecha Brothers), Ravikumar and Sriramprasad (Malladi Brothers) were excited as they were to sing at Hotel Taj Coramandel, Chennai, shortly. It seemed like net-practice as one peeped into their joint concert-planning session.

Their manifesto like pallavi said everything, quintessentially. ‘Bharathiya Sangeethame Madhuram Swararagalaya,' had as its components the swara, the raga and the laya.

Embar Kannan was suggesting some small strategies in its execution, together with mridangist Mahadevu Lakshmi Narayana Raju. The brothers (Gundecha and Malladi) were happy to talk. Excerpts:

The Gundecha brothers are no strangers to Chennai and have performed here as early as 1985 at The Music Academy. Disciples of the incomparable Dagar brothers (Fariddudin and Mohiuddin), the Gundechas have held the dhrupad-flag aloft.

Is dhrupad burdened with songs on Lord Siva? “Our gurus were Jains. Muslims have sung dhrupads without hesitation. Religion, nationality or other beliefs were never an issue. What mattered most was the musical element in them,” they explain.

The brothers were destined to be duet performers and their preparatory work from childhood was towards this end. Living and singing together was of prime importance, as the understanding and mindset had to be formed and maintained. They have a Dhrupad Institute in Bhopal, functioning in the formal gurukula format, where students live in a hostel. They are provided with a library that includes (apart from books) audio and video too. There are 25 students there. “We have targeted the lower-middle class, who cannot afford to take up this art and provide scholarships for the needy.”

“The very form of dhrupad makes it easier to blend (with Carnatic music) and will serve as a bridge between these two great vistas of music. We have known the Malladi Brothers for a long time and it is thrilling to be singing with them,” the duo said.

On form of dhrupad

Incidentally, the Gundecha brothers have bagged the Rajat Kamal award for composing music for the non-feature film, ‘Raga of River Narmadha.' The brothers are not a twosome, but a trio. Akilesh Gundecha provides accompaniment on the pakhwaj

The Malladi Brothers, for whom Chennai is a familiar terrain, learnt music from Sripada Pinakapani, Nedunuri, Voleti, their grandfather Srirama Murthy, their father (Suri Babu) and uncle Narayana Sharma. “A parampara that has endowed us with Gurubalam,” they observed.

The Malladi Brothers have been singing from age six, “We are two years apart in age,” they inform. They became aware of renowned combinations such as Alathur Brothers or Raman and Lakshmanan, only after they started performing. Their kucheries are planned to cover all composers, Swati Tirunal, The Trinity and Sivan. When it comes to alapana sharing, it “depends on the mood.”

How do they plan an alapana? “It depends on the mood and manodharma,” is the reply. “What wavelength you are tuned to, is the deciding factor.” Singing in India is a rewarding experience though they also feel that the European tours are of great significance.

If you have not listened to the brothers' learning sessions with their guru Nedunuri (on SVBC channel every Tuesday), you have missed two things - education and enjoyment.

The brothers share this as the interview winds up: “The Sangeetha Ratnakaram of Sharanga Deva was written in Kashmir; we, here in South India, are the ones using it most.”

The Gundecha and Malladi Brothers are in perfect unison when they say, “Chennai welcomes experiments like this and we have come together for a great cause, as this is a fund-raising event for cancer. We are happy to contribute our mite.”

(This talk took place a day before their jugalbandhi) (sivakumar2004@gmail.com)