03 March 2009

Mridangam – as defined by Umayalpuram K Sivaraman

Not everyone gets to learn from the master. But today, thanks to technology, one of the greatest living mridangam vidwans, Sangita Kalanidhi Umayalpuram K Sivaraman, is accessible to all people passionate about Carnatic music.

The incredible genius of Umayalpuram has been distilled into Mridanga Cintamanih, a pack of 7 DVDs, with the intention of preserving something invaluable for the generations to come. The DVDs, divided into four levels, are instructional and cover the entire spectrum of playing the mridangam - from the beginner level to the nuances of accompaniment to vocal music. This DVD pack has great value as reference material to students at universities and the like.

The Level I DVD, begins from the beginning and instructs the novice mridangam player on the placement of fingers, posture, and introduces him/her to Adhi, Roopaka Chappu, Misra Chappu and Kanda Chappu talas.

The rest of the levels are broken up into two DVDs each. The Level II DVD showcases advanced sequences along with demonstrations of Gathi Bedham (change of speed), aruthis (short endings), moras, and korvais. They seem easy and simple when Umayalpuram handles them masterfully, but can be a challenge to learners.

The undeterred student of percussion music will find more treasures waiting to be explored in Levels 3 and 4. The former hands out more insider knowledge, normally acquired only after years of learning from the master, like intricate patterns and techniques like Pecking, Gumki, Arai Chapu followed by detailed Taniavarthanams in the 4 basic talas. The art of tuning the Mridangam is a bonus with this DVD.

In Level 4, the student learns about what it takes to play mridangam for concerts, both vocal and instrumental, where the mridangam player has to not only hold his/her own, but also play in harmony with the vocalist or other instrument players and contribute to the unified beauty of the music. Light classical music, from folk to bhajans, is also packed in.

The mridangam lessons enunciated in the DVDs are also available in .pdf format and includes an excerpt from Umayalpuram’s book, too.
The total length of the 7-pack instructional music series is 22 hours at the end of which, the mridangam learner is many musical miles ahead from where he/she started. Of course, the journey is never complete but one is definitely well equipped for it.

And, it’s not just the mridangam enthusiast, but the world of classical music at large, that profits from this presentation, which can rightly be called Umayalpuram Sivaraman’s magnum opus. This marriage of musical genius and the best of technology is to be treasured.

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