It was rhythm divine when ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram and his team presented ‘Sapthaakshara.’

Ghatam maestro T.H. ‘Vikku’ Vinayakram was on stage to make a conceptual laya presentation ‘Sapthaakshara,’ which had rhythmic structures of a high quality. This was conceived and inspired by the thoughts of his father and guru, T.R. Harihara Sharma. It was a rhythmic ensemble that had seven performing artists representing the seven syllables and the seven swaras. The Bhagawan Yogamoorthy Sri Sri Maha Periyava Meela Adimai Trust, which had organised this event, plans to conduct a series of such concerts. This was held at the Chettinad Vidyashram, Raja Annamalai Puram.

The ensemble was headed by Vinayakram on the ghatam and had Sarvashri Ramakrishnan on the mridangam, Selvaganesh on the ganjira, Swaminathan on the konnakkol/ganjira, T.H. Gurumurthy on the violin, Ganesan on the morsing and Rajaram on the gethu vaadhyam. Umashankar gave vocal, percussion support.

The team began with the recitation of Thotakashtakam and followed it with Siva Thandavam in Hamsadhwani. What came next was Chathur Ghatam. .

In a chat after the concert, Vinayakram explained the concept, “The word Chathur has been picked up from the Vedas. While it is true that the seven main swarasthanams exist, the use of the seven ghatams can become unmanageable. Moreover, unlike the mridangam, one cannot try to alter the sruthi of the ghatam. It is almost always ‘fixed’ at the manufacturing stage itself. In this concert, we used ghatams with sruthi (pitch) of 1.5, 2.5, 4.5 and 5.5, respectively, in the order in which they were placed on the stage. The instruments were of different sizes, though of the same shape. The aadhara (base) sruthi was fixed at 1.5.”

The vidwan said he had splits several slokas, and attempted to play them accordingly. He has about 15 to 20 such slokas in his bag. And the number is growing. He added, “The violin was used to enhance the melody aspect and also to give succinct phrases (raga chaayal) of a raga and express the exact swara position (sthanam).”

Back to the concert… Each of the percussionists showcased his talent and one could understand the hours of practice they had put in.

What was remarkable about this concert was the use of lyrics – they were slokas that matched the laya sollus. In fact, the mridangam artist Ramakrishnan and Selvaganesh (ganjira) suddenly indulged in a ‘konnakol conversation’ that took everyone by surprise. Later they took time off to explain that the konnakol helps you to “say” intelligibly whatever you are about to play.

For most rasikas, the thani comes as a welcome break. On many occasions, the ‘thani time’ witnesses an exodus of listeners from the concert hall. Vinayakram and his team have tried to usher in a change and have gathered enough courage to present a ‘laya only’ concert. Their success will depend on the response of the rasikas. Only time will tell!

(sivakumar2004@gmail.com)