Going places with the morsing

Payyannur Govindaprasad.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Payyannur T. Govindaprasad is one of the leading morsing artistes in India. An A-grade artiste of All India Radio, Govindaprasad has carved a niche for himself on the classical music concert circuit with his musical acumen and skill. This wind percussion instrument, mainly played in Carnatic music concerts in South India, is found in different parts of India. However, in many places in North India it is used as an accompaniment for folk music. Govindaprasad, who also plays the mridangam, admits that playing this instrument has helped him go places and given him the opportunity to accompany stars of the Carnatic music firmament. Excerpts from an interview with the musician…

Innate interest in rhythm

I belong to a family that performs a ritual called ‘Thidambu thullal’ that is common in North Malabar. This is something my father, T. Krishnan Namboodiri, and male members of his family have been doing for years. At our family temple, this ritual is still performed to the beat of the chenda. I have also done this. So, rhythm must have been innate in me. However, in those days, facilities for learning music was almost nil in Payyannur. I hail from Mathil, near Payyannur in Kannur district. Although I was keen on learning music and participating in youth festivals and so on, our family circumstances did not permit me to pursue music then.

Initiation into music

Finally, at the age of 16 or 17, I began learning the mridangam from Kaithapram Viswanathan Namboodiri who runs a school called Shrutilayam School of Music at Payyannur. He was my first guru. Those classes opened a new world for me. I must also mention the names of K. Jayakrishnan (who is now with AIR, Thrissur)and Chertala S. Dinesh, whom I consider as my gurus in music. After my pre-degree, I joined Chembai College of Music in Palakkad. I did my ganabhooshanam with a first class in mridangam. We had a great circle of friends, all students of music, like Palakkad Mahesh Kumar, Ajith Namboothiri and so on, who used to get together and practise for hours. During those jamming sessions, I began playing the ghatam, the ganjira and, eventually, the morsing too. Intuitively, I felt that I had found my instrument when I began playing the morsing. I consider it a blessing of Mookambika Devi. I am self-taught when it comes to the morsing. In those days, there were not too many musicians who were into this instrument and so I was able to get noticed. Knowing how to play the mridangam was a huge advantage as the chollus are the same for both the mridangam and the morsing. In the meantime, I did my post-graduation, again in mridangam, from RLV College in Tripunithura. But becoming a mridangam player would have meant waiting for years to accompany the maestros because there are plenty of eminent mridagam players today. Switching to the morsing gave me the space to hone my skills and move on to accompanying senior musicians in South India.

Team player

Playing for classical concerts is team work. My work, I believe, is to support the vocalist and the mridangam player. Instead of competition, there has to be harmony in a concert. In a two- or three-hour concert, a morsing player gets the opportunity to occupy centre stage for about 10 minutes during the tani avaratam. That is when I get the chance to highlight what I have practised for hours every day.

Fusion and classical concerts

Fusion music was a new area that I ventured into, courtesy violinist Balabhaskar. I used to accompany him for his classical music concerts and we became good friends. So when he began Big Band, comprising musicians who played different instruments, I was also a part of it and we concentrated on fusion music. It was a new experience wherein one has to improvise within a set pattern. But one should take care to see that playing for fusion concerts does not influence your playing for a classical concert.

Accompanying maestros

Thanks to my decision to become a morsing player, I was quickly able to accompany giants on the stage. I have accompanied musicians like K.J. Yesudas, M. Balamuralikrishna, T.N. Seshagopalan, T.V. Sankaranarayan, O.S. Thygarajan, Sreevalsan J. Menon, T.M. Krishna, Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma, P. Unnikrishnan, Sanjay Subramnayam and so on. I consider myself singularly blessed to have had this chance to accompany legends so early in my career.

The opportunity to interact, accompany and practise with them is a huge learning experience I cherish. I have performed all over India, and in Europe and the UAE. ‘Thalavadyam’ and ‘Kshetranjali’ are two of the CDs in which I accompany leading artistes like Dr. Karthick and Changanassery B. Harikumar.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2020 7:02:06 AM |

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