The purity of sound that booms from the thavil of child artiste R.G.A. Sivarama Ganesan
R.G.A. Sivarama Ganesan is rather reserved and reticent. At 12, he surprises you with his calm and maturity. After much prodding, he breaks into a coy smile to say, “I speak only with my thavil.”
His eyes constantly follow the fingers of percussionists, wherever he finds them. Ganesan grew up being part and parcel of a music parampara. His grandfather R. Govindaraj and father R.G. Aladi Aruna are thavil artistes and his mother Krishnaveni plays the nadaswaram. Used in temple, folk and Carnatic music, thavil is a barrel-shaped drum from South India always accompanying the nadaswaram.
Ganesan's profile highlights his every performance as a “different dream”. For someone who gave an hour's arangetram at the age of three in front of an audience of 500, who accompanied his mother from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. at a temple function in Thiruvananthapuram when he was just four, who at the age of five performed in front of former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in Kanyakumari, it is obviously sheer love and interest, practice and dedication that hold the key to success.
“We were not well off but as a family we have tried to follow our dreams,” says the young artiste. His father put him into the habit of rigorous training fairly early and before he was six, he had mastered the art and given many confidence performances on stage.
Even today Aladi Aruna spares no pains to initiate his son into the intricacies of the art of playing the thavil. “Ganesan is a far better player than me,” he says with pride. “He picks up fast and is an eager learner. He falls into concert pattern with ease and flair.”
“There is a beautiful combination of melody and rhythm in thavil. The intensive training from childhood has taught me discipline,” says Ganesan, also revealing how much attention he lavishes on the maintenance of the instrument. He instantly takes out the thumb caps, made of hardened glue from refined flour, and wears them carefully on his left hand. In the other hand, he holds a short, thick wooden stick and gives a spontaneous performance.
And then adds, “My father doesn't want me to be identified as a thavil artiste alone. Everyone in my family has an ear for all kinds of music and my affinity too is natural. I can also play the keyboard, saxophone, violin and the tabla.”
For the class VIII boy, one hour's practice daily is a must. “Actually one hour is enough. Thavil requires lot of force and energy and we have to use all the five fingers equally,” adds Ganesan. When his father used to practise at home, Ganesan would sit next to him. One day, he started beating the thavil playfully when he was left alone in the room. His father quietly heard him play the instrument with absolute clarity and no mistakes in the talas. It did not take him long to understand his son's talent and he opened him to the wide vistas of laya.
“A percussion artiste's first and foremost quality is adaptation,” says Aladi Aruna. “The better he adapts the more will be the demand. He sometimes astonishes audiences by weaving patterns of breezy rhythmic variations. He can play 72 traditional ragas, both common and the difficult ones with equal ease. “
But young Ganesan nurtures another dream -- to work as a computer engineer in a foreign land, so smitten was he by Paris where he went six years ago as part of a delegation for a series of private and public performances.
Popular for his performances at weddings and upanayanam ceremonies, temple functions and kutcheris, TV programmes and stage performances in other cities, Ganesan often finds it strenuous to juggle academics and art. There have been several occasions when he has had to rush in or out of examination centres for a performance. “He retains his cool and is also confident of what he is playing,” says the father.
With all his confidence on the stage, Ganesan shies away from games and sports and hardly mingles with people. “I am always thinking music and what new can be done in our next performance,” he says.
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