I started playing mridangam for concerts in and around Bangalore and Mysore. One day during classes I was casually playing the ganjira that was available there. Impressed, my guru gave a lot of tips and encouraged me to take up the ganjira too. Thereafter, my guru took me as his upa pakkavadhyam for many of his concerts. Later I learnt from his son and mridanga vidwan Bangalore V. Praveen.

I owe my success to my father, guru and all senior vidwans…

A very young vidwan who lets his instrument do the talking, never getting overawed yet making a mark as a player…B.S. Purushotham has been a preferred upa pakkavadhyara for all these qualities. The demise of his father has made an impact on the artist, who dedicates everything to him. It was an emotional reminiscence during a drive down the Marina.

The beginning...

My father was a student of M.L.Veerabhadraya, a disciple of Palghat Mani Iyer. We are a musical family. M.J. Srinivasa Iyengar, my uncle, is a vainika and a contemporary to Mysore Doreswamy Iyengar. It was my father who initiated me into music at a tender age of six by teaching me the basics of mridangam. Later I attended classes conducted by my father’s guru. And it went on for almost 16 years. I started playing mridangam for concerts in and around Bangalore and Mysore. One day during classes I was casually playing the ganjira that was available there. Impressed, my guru gave a lot of tips and encouraged me to take up the ganjira too. Thereafter, my guru took me as his upa pakkavadhyam for many of his concerts. Later I learnt from his son and mridanga vidwan Bangalore V. Praveen. In fact I was selected by Tamil Nadu’s Iyal Isai and Nataka Mandram only as a mridangam player. Thanks to my guru I had the opportunity to play the ganjira for stalwarts of Karnataka such as Honnappa Bhagavathar.

Turning point...

I was selected as a ganjira player from Karnataka to take part in a musical feature titled ‘Vadhya Jayankar,’ conceived and conducted by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. We had to perform in the presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and also for DD. It received wide acclaim and the exposure I got at the age of 15 was something unimaginable. I started accompanying many senior vidwans in their concerts at Bangalore.

My father, a constant motivator and his loss...

My father was working in the Karnataka PWD and often he had to move out on transfer. Since he felt that his absence would impede my growth, he resigned his job to promote me in a big way. After I finished college in 1995 it was his decision to shift to Chennai for he strongly believed that it was the ultimate destination for any musician who wanted to make it big in music. At this point of time I had to take a vital decision whether to take to mridangam or ganjira. It was again my father who encouraged me to take the ganjira. This decision had the blessing of guru Veerabhadrayya too. I feel that this determined approach of my father was one important factor in putting me on to the right road of success. But the rudest shock of my life was his passing away within a year of our shifting to Madras. I really miss him though my mother and my wife have been a great support in furthering my career.

Concerts in Chennai....

My first major ganjira concert in Chennai was for Sanjay Subramaniam at Narada Gana Sabha during the December season afternoon concert. I have to thank Guruvayur Durai for it was he who recommended my name to Srimushnam Raja Rao who in turn put me on stage that day. J. Vaidyanathan who played the mridangam that day took to me and spoke in my favour to vidwans and sabha secretaries. Thanks to his efforts, I am one of the preferred upa pakkavadhyams in the field. He also took me to his guru Vidwan T.K. Murthy who helped me update my knowledge.

Approach to concerts...

On stage first I am a rasika and the player in me comes only next. Right from childhood I have learnt to enjoy others’ music and this inspires me to play joyfully and establish immediate rapport with the artists on the stage. In fact it is this quality of mine that is helping me play for senior vocalist and mridanga vidwans. Having had an extensive training in mridangam, I am able to give good support to doyens such as Umayalpuram Sivaraman, Tiruchi Sankaran and Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam to name a few. They are extremely supportive.

Tours abroad...

Karaikkudi Mani took me with him on my maiden foreign trip and that was to Australia to participate in the Adelaide music festival. Similarly my maiden trip to the U.S. was with T.M. Krishna.

Awards...

I have been chosen for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award of the Sangeet Natak Academy, New Delhi. I will be the first recipient of this award as a ganijra player. I dedicate the award to my father and my guru. I must also thank all those vidwans — vocal, violin or mridangam — who have been a great source of strength and support, both on and off the stage. It is all these that have helped me get this national recognition.

Other forays...

I am involved in an innovative attempt to present our music, collaborating with Sikkil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan.