Guru Karaikkudi Mani and Sivamani. Two musicians for whom rhythm translates into contrasting sounds. One approaches music through Carnatic beats while the other seeks rhythm even in a bi-cycle chain. One is classical, the other, contemporary.

Yet they share plenty in common. Both are passionate about their music, they have collaborated with world musicians, they prefer not to touch any other percussion instrument except their own, even for a photo shoot, and share the name ‘Mani’ (as Karaikkudi Mani puts it, they are numerologically connected!)

Karaikkudi Mani and Sivamani come together for the first time in what the whiz drummer calls a ‘dream project.’ Titled ‘Tha-thi-thom-nam’, this musical exchange (with Amrit on the ganjira) will be presented as part of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha’s Yagnaraman July Fest 2010 from June 26 to July 4.

Rehearsing furiously at KGS are the master and his fellow musician. They play, then stop when Guru Mani makes a few suggestions (“Stop that rhythm, increase this sound...”) and continue where they left off, in one smooth flow.

Guru Mani is as enthusiastic about the current collaboration as he has been over his earlier successful ones. “The genesis for this project goes back to an interview we did together for your newspaper a few years ago. At that interview, Sivamani expressed his desire to work together. And I had agreed. When Prabhu (Yagnaraman’s son) asked me to play at the July fest, I saw a great opportunity to get together and contacted Sivamani. He was thrilled (Sivamani nods in assent). My only condition was that we rehearse for at least a week to understand and complement each other’s playing styles. So here we are…”

“The title is the first lesson one learns in mridangam. Our concert begins and ends on that note, interspersed with improvisations,” says the guru.

Showering praises on Sivamani, the mridangam vidwan says, “I have come up with new compositions, and special korvais to suit his playing style. He has tremendous gnanam and can grasp intricate nuances instantly and improvise on them in a beautiful manner.”

“As for the concert, it has two parts -- the first 40 minutes will see Sivamani play his typical grooves and beats. The second half will see the mridangam and drums meld, without any pre-recorded sound. Just handspeak,” says Guru Mani, who is awaiting the release of Paul Simon’s (of Simon and Garfunkel fame) next album on which he has recorded a piece.

Sivamani, who is giving finishing touches to his next album ‘Mahaleela 2,’ is excited about his latest acquisition. “I got myself the latest Yamaha DTX-Multi 12 Electronic Percussion Pad, which can produce the various effects such as the African piano. This is the first time I will be using it on stage. It is a blessing to share the stage with guruji.”

When two percussionists get together, the decibel levels can sometimes inadvertently reach unpleasant levels. How will the two ensure that does not happen in this concert? “That’s where years of experience and a good sound engineer come in. He has to strike that balance. As musicians, we too have to hit the note at the right pitch, but how it sounds depends on who’s controlling the panels.”

With that, the two Manis get back into practice mode, and the sounds from their instrument merge to create a new one, one that’s rhythmic and melodic, and most definitely, a pleasant aural experience.

‘Tha-thi-thom-nam’ with Guru Karaikudi Mani (mridangam), Sivamani (percussion - drums) and N. Amrit (ganjira) will be presented on June 27, 6.30 p.m. At Krishna Gana Sabha, T. Nagar.