Creative spaces Society

With music all around

Ghatam exponent Udupi S. Sreedhar Photo: S. Gopakumar  

Soulful strains of music flowing from a television in the living-cum-drawing room set the mood for a chat. We are on the first floor of the nondescript house of ghatam maestro Udupi S. Sreedhar at Vazhuthacaud.

I look around wondering where exactly is his creative space and he answers with a smile, “There is no creative space as such!” Space constraints? “Not really. I have never felt the need for a special room. Music has been a constant of my life,” says the exponent with a four-decade career behind him.

He doesn’t practise regularly and, if at all he needs to, he does it in a room adjacent to the living room. Ghatams neatly arranged on a loft catch your attention in the room. I start counting them and he stops me saying, “Wait, there are more,” and takes me back to the living room where ghatams are neatly arranged on a loft. “There must be 70-75 ghatams in the collection,” says Sreedhar with a chuckle.

Each of the ghatams has a different pitch/sruthi. There are more than one ghatams with the same sruthi as well. Then there are separate ghatams for male and female performers. “I usually get ghatams from Maanamadurai in Tamil Nadu. Ghatams from Chennai, Bengaluru, Thozukkal near Neyyattinkara and Ambasamudram are also in there in my collection,” he says.

Time is sparse for this musician with a packed schedule as he accompanies musicians at stages across Kerala and outside and also juggles it with his job with Union Bank of India. But practice is important, he says. “The instrument has limitations. For example, you can’t increase the pitch. I have to be prepared for a change in the pitch when it gets exposed to change in climatic conditions, especially when I travel abroad. I also have to keep in mind the singer I would be accompanying. Some of them are so uncompromising about the pitch that I do get nervous prior to the concert. So I ensure everything is in place before a concert,” he says.

Silence is a must for him to concentrate. “Thankfully this room is quiet. Now at times my one-year-old grand son, Saketh Krishna, gives me company. He sits on my lap when I play. However I needn’t sit here to get inspired. I go for a daily morning walk. After I recite a few slokams, all I think about during the 45-minute walk is music, especially the laya patterns. Music occupies my mind when I ride my two-wheeler as well. Listening is another form of creativity. Before going to sleep, I make it a point to listen to a concert. One gets to learn a lot by listening. Even when I travel I enjoy listening to music,” he says.

And he doesn’t have to look elsewhere for inspiration with his family totally immersed in music. His sons and siblings are all musicians.

Meanwhile, he plays the mridangam as well and practices it in the pooja room on the ground floor of the house. He shows me a custom-made shelf to keep the mridangam. “I saw such a shelf at my guru, Mavelikara Krishnankutty Nair’s house and so made one for me as well,” says Sreedhar who started training in mridangam under the late Karamana Krishnankutty Nair before switching over to ghatam. “Although my concentration is on the ghatam, if I get a mridangam concert I definitely opt for that because mridangam is a main instrument,” he says.

Before taking leave, he tells us about a few other things that spurs his creativity- a framed photo of Lord Ganesha and a brass coin with figures of Lord Hanuman engraved on one side and Lord Ram on the other given to him by his father....

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 3:18:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/With-music-all-around/article16442827.ece

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