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Mridangam creates new note at Arangetram

The Mridangam Arangetram of a teenager Seran Sailavan Ramanathan held last fortnight was an extravagant spectacle.

An Arangetram is usually confined to South Indian dances and vocal music and hence this was the first of its kind to be held in New Zealand.

The event, held at Dorothy Winstone Centre of Auckland Girls Grammar School on May 3, left the audience of more than 700 people in awe and reverence.

Mridangam is a South Indian percussion instrument and the lifeblood of Carnatic music.

Achieving perfection in playing this barrel-shaped drum entails years of dedicated practice. It also requires presence of mind as the complex rhythmic structures executed through this instrument are often improvised at the performance on stage.

Seran, a Year 12 student of Auckland Grammar School has been learning Mridangam for the past eight years and his Arangetram was an event to remember.

Aesthetic settings

The stage settings were equally aesthetic and professional. Comprising pillars that served to support a beautifully painted Nandi (the Patron Demigod of Percussive Arts) and photographs of Palghat Mani Iyer and Palani Subramanium Pillai, the great Mridangam Maestros of the contemporary era, the stage embellished the value of the concert.

Ranjani Santhanagopalan, daughter and disciple of legendary musician Neyveli Santhanagopalan was the vocalist.

Vibrant beats

The programme began with a Varnam set in a complex rhythmic cycle of 14 beats, followed by ‘Vatapi Ganapathim Bhajeham,’ a popular composition of Muthuswami Dikshitar set in a cycle of eight beats.

Seran started steadily, but his true colours were manifest in the ensuing ‘Soga Suga Mridanga Thalamu,’ in which he played the first of four solo passages to an unusual and challenging starting point at 11 micro-beats in a 12 micro-beat cycle showcasing superb nadam (tonal quality) and manordharma (improvisational ability).

From then on, the audience watched as Seran amazed them with his tremendous speed and more subtle accompaniment when the song dictated such playing.

Superb artistes

Ranjani and her fellow artistes Easwar Ramakrishnan (Violin), Trichy Murali (Ghatam) and Anirudh Arthreya (Kanjira) played their part in what was collectively a Carnatic music master class.

These artistes superbly displayed their skills and it was a creditable achievement for Seran to keep pace with their level of expertise.

The repertoire was conceived carefully incorporating varied rhythmic structures, which require great skill and knowledge.

The performance reached its climax during the main percussion solo in the main song ‘Chakkani Raja,’ set to a rhythmic cycle of 64 micro-beats with the starting point of six micro-beats from the initial beat.

Seran, Anirudh and Murali took turns to exhibit their different instruments and styles until they reached the closing sections, when jointly concluded a mesmerising display of percussion artistry.

Seran played two further solo passages, one in a rhythmic cycle of 72 micro-beats (Khanda Jathi Thiruputa Thala- two kalai) and another in a rhythmic cycle of seven beats (Misra Chappu Thala).

Apart from achieving proficiency in the Eastern music forms, Seran is also adept in Western music, with his record of excellence in academic and sports enhancing his multi-talented personality.

The Arangetram was a testament to professional and pedagogic profile of his Guru Dr Suresh Ramachandra and his parents.

Bhavan Sri Kumar is a Mridangam student and was the Master of Ceremonies at the above reported programme.

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