Society

Drumming is his heart beat

SPONTANEOUS: Percussionist Sivamani.Photo: R. Ashok  

Percussionist Sivamani has an ear for beats. He does not need any sophisticated electronic gadget to produce music. From pillow to empty water can, photo copier machine to suitcase, kitchen utensils to stationery items he can literally transform anything into a source of music and create new gamut of rhythms with his fingers.

“I started practising in my mother’s womb. In fact, her heart beat was my first click track,” laughs Sivamani. “I did not go to any music school to learn drums. I record in my mind and experiment with what all I hear and see before incorporating it into my music,” he adds.

For Sivamani, music is a passion and self-learnt. It runs in his blood as his father S.M. Anandan was a leading percussionist in music composer K.V. Mahadevan’s group. “Becoming a drummer is more of a choice than chance for me. I always wanted to make it to the top,” he says.

As a child, Sivamani spent hours listening to the music performances of ace drummer Noel Grant. “Whenever a musician came to town for a performance, I volunteered to clean their drum kit. I even fixed mike stands and gadgets for them and got a chance to feel the instrument,” he says.

He remembers how along with his friends he would perform with worn out conga and age-old drum kit sitting atop a bullock cart on the Wall Tax Basin Bridge Road in Chennai during Aadi. He believed in his hand techniques and that fetched him good results. Hours of practice helped him perfect his art. Sivamani credits his success to inspiration derived from stalwarts Noel Grant, Billy Cobham, Trilok Gurtu, Louis Banks and Prakasam. “But for singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam, I would not have come this far. He introduced me to the world,” he says.

Sivamani says music maestro Ilayaraja is his spiritual guru. “Initially, I was just a substitute in Ilayaraja’s group. But after realising my potential, he took me in,” he says. The opening he got helped him to forge fruitful relationships with a lot of music composers in both Tamil and Malayalam film industry including T. Rajendhar, Sam Joseph and Sankar Ganesh.

Wherever Sivamani met classical musicians Vikku Vinayakram, Umaiyalpuram Sivaraman and T.K. Moorthy, he used to get tips in classical music which he would immediately apply. Impressed by his dedication, tabla stalwart Ustad Zakir Hussain invited Sivamani to join him for a concert and that was a big leap.

He relishes the experience of sharing the stage with Billy Cobham for a concert in Mumbai’s Rang Bhavan. From then on there was no looking back, as he collaborated with renowned musicians of the country and continued with his experimentations.

Sivamani got closer to A.R. Rahman when the latter began his musical journey and played for some of the popular film scores including ‘Mustafa..Mustafa,,’ of Kadhal Desam, ‘Humma..Humma..’ of Bombay and ‘Chaiya..Chaiya..’ of Uyire.

Sivamani was also part of the successful team of Bollywood-themed musical Bombay Dreams. His collaboration with singer Hariharan for the ghazal album Kaash was much appreciated for his experimentation with beats in ghazals. His first individual album was Mahaleela.

He turned music composer when film producer Kalipuli S. Thanu chose him for Arima Nambi. “Lyricist Na. Muthukumar was amazingly quick when he wrote for the melody ‘Idhayame…’ I was shocked to hear the sad news of his sudden demise,” he says.

Sivamani has also composed music for Kanithan. He feels fortunate to have performed before former Presidents Nelson Mandela (South Africa) and Dr. A.P. J. Abdul Kalam. “After the concert, Kalam sir came on the stage as he wanted to play the drums,” he says.

Sivamani loves children. Wherever he goes he never fails to interact with them. He has planned to start a Gurukul (music school) for children who are needy. “I have identified a place near Aliyar Dam in Pollachi to start the school. I am planning to handpick boys and girls who are interested in drums and would like to transform them into international drummers of repute,” he says.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:17:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/Drumming-is-his-heart-beat/article14587011.ece

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