FRIDAY REVIEW

‘I always had a liking for teaching’

Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan.  



Playing for niraval and sarvalaghu swaras are my strengths apart from embellishing tukkadas with myriad patterns.



Yet another musician from the Thanjavur belt, Tiruvarur to be precise. Having played for numerous namasankirtanam programmes at a very young age that made him a familiar figure on the concert platform, mridanga vidwan Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan has carved a niche for himself as an accompanist. Excerpts from a conversation...

Tiruvarur days...

I was initiated into mridangam when I was six years old by my grandfather Tiruvarur Kunju Iyer and within six months of training, I started playing for local concerts at Tiruvarur. He passed away after the mahadeepa aradhana at Sri Radha Kalyana Mahotsavam on a Vaikunta Ekadesi day. Thereafter my lessons continued with my maternal uncle Tiruvarur Nagaraja Iyer who was a graded artist of AIR in Konnakkol, mridangam and ganjira.

My first major concert was at Sirkazhi when I played for Sattur A.G. Subramania Iyer. Immediately after the concert I fell seriously ill. The doctor, who treated me, presented a mridangam which I still treasure. I took part in several bhajan festivals in and around Tiruvarur. Participating regularly at Tiruvisainallur Ayyaval Utsavam and Pudukottai Sri Narasimha Jayanthi as a child is still etched in my memory. Wherever namasankirtanam happened, I was there, playing the mridangam. The experience gained in accompanying eminent bhagavatars during bhajan festivals helped me improve my style.

Karaikkudi Mani...

My first concert in Chennai was in 1987 when I played for Sri Krishna Gana Sabha and won a prize too. Even while I was in Tiruvarur, I had a special liking for Karaikkudi Mani’s style. Once I shifted to Madras [Chennai] permanently, I joined him for advanced training. He helped me get a slot at The Music Academy during that season for which I won a prize. It was his shirt that I wore for the concert and his mridangam that I played.

He was a very good teacher and classes would go on for several hours, which I always looked forward to. The greatest moment in my life was when I won the first prize in the AIR competition for which I received the prize from none other than M.S. Having shifted to Madras, I started playing for concerts in and around the city.

Into concert playing...

Many senior artistes offered enough opportunities to accompany them, after watching me play for KVN during the 60th birthday celebrations of MLV. S.V. Krishnan played a major role in my career after Karaikkudi Mani. He promoted me in a big way and gave me the much needed openings, but for which, I could not have reached this far. My maiden tour abroad was with Trichur V. Ramachandran.

Soon, I started playing for Sudha Ragunathan for her concerts in India and abroad. I was almost a regular in her team. Playing alongside seniors such as Raja Rao and Easwaran in the vadya lahari concerts of Kanyakumari honed my skills further. Playing for niraval and sarvalaghu swaras are my strengths apart from embellishing tukkadas with myriad patterns.

Shift to teaching...

I taught mridangam at Singapore Indian Fine Arts for about three years. It was indeed a very difficult decision for I was doing very well in the concert circuit. But I always had a liking for teaching, a trait probably imbibed from my grandfather and Karaikkudi Mani. Further I feel teaching helps sharpen one’s skills. Even though I was away in Singapore, I managed to participate in the December season all the three years. I have devised lessons to help students learn the mridangam faster than the traditional methods and have done a lot of research in this regard.

One of my students living in Canada had all his lessons only through the net for about two years. I just had to spend a month with him at Canada polishing his skills before arangetram at Sudha’s performance. I am also embarking on a project to teach poor students free of cost through a trust. Amudham Audio has released my DVDs comprising practice lessons for mridangam.

Accolades...

I have been bestowed with a lot of awards and titles and the most recent one was a letter of appreciation and a special recognition I received from an MP from the House of Commons, Canada, when I accompanied Aruna Sairam at the Varasiddhi Vinayagar temple there.

Unforgettable concert...

Accompanying M. Balamuralikrishna at the Kennedy centre, United States, when he sang with Ajoy Chakravarthy, was an experience of a kind. He was a veteran, yet the encouragement he gave me on stage was something unbelievable.

V. BALASUBRAMANIAN