Karnataka

He was a rare left hander!

B.K. Chandramouli at a lecture demonstration on “Laya in Mrudanga and Konnakool Specialities and Similarities” at Chowdaiah Memorial Hall.   | Photo Credit: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Amongst the gamut of mridangists in the country, why our own man from Karnataka, B.K. Chandramouli, stood out was for his ability to showcase the rain of beats from his left-handed domination. Where one would miss him is not just accompaniments on the Carnatic stage; the world of laya would be denied of his ‘percussive library,’ that had revived several aspects after his extensive research in sounds and thumps for mridanga and Konakkol (verbal percussion).

“Amongst the living legends in Karnataka, he was the most experienced. His seniority is one side of the coin, that he understood his instrument and the grammar of percussion to be a valid teacher was another side to his creative intellect and persona,” says senior vocalist R.K. Padmanabha. “He will be totally missed on stage as he was a superb organiser during collective gatherings for musical renderings. Bengaluru will never forget how much he strived for the formation of the Karnataka Ganakala Parishath as a committee member,” he added.

Just as RKP’s feelings of a musical world that would suddenly feel the void, especially because he was one of the leading teachers in laya in Bengaluru, “his passion for presenting laya in every format is what people loved and waited for in larger music lec-dems and seminars,” says violinist Mysore M. Nagaraj.

Referred to as the ‘Hero of Laya’ in Karnataka, a host of young percussionists trained by him recollect the master strokes the vidwan wielded. His classical beats with pronounced stylistic thumps was one of the rarest, as the ‘left-handed mridangist’ spoke a ‘beat language’ where the diversity of tone and texture stood out. “His quiet and spirited zeal to share his knowledge stood out more during larger tala-vadhya ensembles that I have observed,” says M.R.V. Prasad President, Bangalore Gayana Samaja.

Speaking of his multi-faceted personality, violinist Venkatesh, who has played with the senior vidwan, says, “If musicians wanted two mridangists, Chandramouli was a natural choice for seeing a balance from his left-hand thumps. If some preferred a senior Konakkol artiste, Chandramouli was zeroed in. If there was a a huge musical gathering for Tyagaraja or Purandara Aradhane, it would be Chandramouli taking main stage for the percussive segment. This was the kind of multi-talents he was known for.”

“Chandramouli not just travelled widely, he has trained nearly 500 percussionists. His lec-dems are veritable classes that both the music lovers and the uninitiated look forward to,” Venkatesh had said after one of the concerts at the Chamarajpet Rama Seva Mandali.

The mridanga vidwan was known for his organisational capabilities especially as he was associated with the Tyagaraja Gana Sabha and the Malleswaram Sangeeta Sabha. And percussionists in Bengaluru are familiar with the training that Chandramouli imparted in his Mukambika Tala Vadhya Kala Kendra. “He could get back any mridanga to life with the point-shruti tone required, as he meticulously did this and demonstrated the skill and art at workshops,” adds Venkatesh.

Child prodigy

Known to be a child prodigy, Chandramouli was initiated into music by his mother Rajamma Keshavamurthy even as a toddler. By eight, the little boy had started accompanying well-known musicians on stage, according to members of his family. Even before Chandramouli’s graduation, he had his mridanga pakkavadhya for most of the leading musicians of the 1960s and 70s, including R.K. Sriantan and T.V. Shankaranarayanan.

Recalls mridangist and Chandramouli’s son B.C. Manjunath, “My father was trained under veterans such as Gopal Rao, Palghat Raghu and Ayyamani Iyer. He always told me that it was rewarding that he was gradually nurtured retaining his left-handed approach. Even when his gurus came to know of his dominant left-hand, the three teachers never tried changing this as ‘the internalised natural style had to be encouraged.’” The veteran gurus had subtly helped him sculpt and fashion newer methodologies for gaining a ‘style’ that would become prodigious.

Chandramouli was a rare percussionist who has lapped up the art of Konakkol too. “He had accompanied four different generations of artistes, and was renowned for following the main artiste,” says flautist Amith Nadig, nephew of Chandramouli. “This gave my uncle an edge to proceed on parallel lines with the main artiste, while his stylised accompanying never over-shadowed the leading musician or the melodic flow,” says Amith, son of flautist B.K. Ananthram, Chandramouli’s brother. “Manjunath and me were initially trained by my uncle who has six decades of musical performances and a rich legacy for all of us to cherish,” adds Amith.

Amith is happy that amidst a handful in India who are responsible in popularising Konakkol, his uncle stands out as a crusader. “He was a pioneer of the present tradition of Konakkol vocabulary. He has researched into the 400-year old art and brought in aspects and revived some specific syllables as ‘Rumm’ and made them popular to the vocal thumps. Percussive knowledge also saw him widening his repertoire, as his prolific composing stretched to include ‘on the spot’ Pallavis and Muktayis, even as his Tisra Nade came in for a lot of praise” says Amith.

Chandramouli has been honoured with several national and international awards, including Karnataka Kalashri and Ganakala Bhushana.

Chandramouli no more

B.K. Chandramouli, 70, died in Bengaluru on July 20, at his residence in Rajajinagar. Chandramouli, who had captured every leading musician’s heart with his classical beats, had suffered from liver cancer for the last few months. He is survived by his wife Jayanthi, son B.C. Manjunath and daughter B.C. Harini.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 8:53:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/he-was-a-rare-left-hander/article24482751.ece

Next Story