On a home pitch

Sunaad Anoor Photo : Sudhakara Jain   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

If their reverence for the illustrious musical lineage that they are part of is heart-warming, the youthful candour with which they talk about their own personal stories is even more earnest. In fact, I would argue that it is the sincerity and innocence with which they speak about their music and their family that makes the cousins, Anoor Vinod Shyam and Sunaad Anoor stand apart from the crowd.

Anoor Vinod Shyam, who is the son of the mridangam master, Anoor Ananthakrishna Sharma (Shivu) plays the mridangam, among many other instruments and Sunaad Anoor, who is the son of Anoor Dattatreya Sharma, plays the khanjira. They are part of the fifth generation of a family whose musical heritage dates back to the time of the distinguished Anoor Subbaraya Shastry, who, it is believed, ran away from his house in order to learn the veena. His sons, Shamanna and Suri, learnt to play the veena and sing and were well-known artists of their time too. Ramakrishna, Shamanna’s son was a violin maestro and Shivu and Dattatreya Sharma are his sons. So, Vinod and Sunaad’s affinity for music would only be natural and even expected of them. And, recently, both of them won awards for the Best Mridangam Accompanist and the Best Khanjira Accompanist, respectively, at Kalavanta, 2015.

“Both of us were introduced to music at a very young age. My first teachers were Rudrapatnam Satyakumar and my father, of course. I learnt the tabla for a while from my father and was introduced to almost all percussion instruments. Gradually, I picked up the mridangam as my main instrument. I even began performing at a very young age,” explains Vinod, who is a graduate.

Sunaad’s musical trajectory is slightly different and it is in his narration, that extreme candour makes its first appearance. “I was sent for violin classes right from my childhood. But I wasn’t as interested in music as Vinod was when I was a child. Once, when I was in the tenth standard, Vinod was preparing for a concert and needed a khanjira artist. He came to me and told me that there would be pulav served after the concert. That was enough of an incentive for me. It promped me to pick up the instrument and learn it! Vinod is the first to teach me how to play the khanjira,” describes Sunaad, who has a Masters in Media.

They may joke about how it all began but both of them are deeply aware of how much work and dedication it takes to master an instrument. To add to this, the love they have for the percussion instruments they play is something they can hardly disguise.

“Being born into an illustrious musical lineage is a blessing of course, but ultimately what matters is how you perform,” says Vinod. Sunaad agrees. “To give you an example of how much strength and skill goes into the instrument, if the mridangam artist uses two hands to play the instrument, the khanjira artist has to infuse so much power into one hand that it sounds like one is playing with two hands. This is not easy,” he describes.

In their beginning years, both Vinod and Sunaad, who are now barely twenty, listened to stalwarts perform, watched videos of their performances, heard their own peers play and gradually, developed their own style. “Listening to concerts is crucial when it comes to learning. Sometimes, without your active knowledge, you absorb some aspects that then enter your technique,” they elaborate.

“Accompanying a vocalist is a skill,” the cousins continue. “The pakka vadya and the upa-pakka vadya have to be consistent in their support and even have to compensate during certain occasions. It is a team effort and being a team player is not easy - which is why it is strange when people designate the vocalist as the main artist. Every artist in the team is the main artist and they all support and accompany each other,” they argue.

Apart from playing at traditional Carnatic concerts, both Vinod and Sunaad are part of two musical groups — Laya Lavanya, that plays the more traditional kind of music and Kalarava, which believes in experimenting with the different styles. “There are plenty of opportunities for concerts in Karnataka today. Along with that there are corporate groups that are interested in listening to good music and even encourage young artists,” says Vinod.

That said, is it easy to pursue a career in music today? “One would need to support concerts with Skype classes and corporate performances. Otherwise, it might be difficult to survive. But it is also true that today’s generation likes to support music and encourage all kinds of artists,” they explain.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 1:26:39 PM |

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