Author & Photo Courtesy: Lalitha Sri

When Arunprakash Krishnan was announced as the Winner of the Music Academy Award as the Best senior Mrdangam artist at the sadas on Jan 01, 2014, it was an endorsement of a widespread expectation. As a thinker-analyst on music, composer, friend-philosopher-guide to fellow artistes, Arunprakash’s contribution goes beyond playing accompaniment on the carnatic stage. Here the percussionist par excellence shares his views on the multiple dimensions of music, his passion, and his greatest blessing.

Read on…

Music in his genes

“My father Shri L Krishnan was a great musician, a disciple of the legendary GNB. He was a Senior Composer at AIR between 1976 and 1993.  He also assisted a Telugu Music Director Shri Rajeswara Rao. So that’s my music lineage… I listen to different genres of music, and when you and I listen to the same music, my ears pick up a lot more of different sounds.”

Gurukulam tradition… almost

The first brush with music started with singing. “As a 9-year old I accompanied my father to AIR one day, and wandering into a room where mrdangam instruments were arrayed, I banged one with my left hand. My guru (Shri Ramanathapuram MN Kandaswamy)  spotted me and asked if I was learning. I started lessons the very next day, and my journey continues… My school worked on shift timings, and right after, I would go to my Guru’s house, happily to do seva, and the learning sessions. I used to go by bus and return home at 8 in the night!

First concert experience

“Actually, I don’t remember my first concert! In one of my first five, I played for U Srinivas, then a youngster like me. The major turning point for me was the concert in Krishna Gana Sabha, accompanying Shri KR Subramaniam in the Gokulashtami series. This was one of my first Sabha concerts.” Nervous?  “No never  nervous, ever. Excited, yes!”

YACM, the next milestone

“YACM started in Aug 1985. I joined in December, at the behest of J Balaji.  I was with like-minded friends Sanjay (Subrahmanian), Shriramkumar, TM Krishna, and together we explored a whole new world. Our young group discussed and breathed music. … A lot depends on the way the doors of music opens to YOU, and who opens the doors…  And my daily routine was to be with music and musicians 6-9 pm every day, absorbing all – vocal, violin, and percussion. YACM of yester years was a ‘satsang’ that gave us  the enhanced learning experience, which is so important, as music can never be fully taught, but has to be self-realized”

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How to play — Percussion to perfection

“Playing cannot be merely to the taala or to rhythmic patterns. Those should be there, but the essence is to play for the nuances of the raga in tune with the melody and the lyrical components. I play for the vocalist-violin-ghatam combo, creating a space, a comfort zone for them to excel.  An accompanying percussionist should know the power of silence. I know my entry and exit points to highlight the singing.  End of the day, if the artistes perform well, that I think is the measure of success for me.”

To the young musicians and wannabes

“Listen to the great masters. Your Guru should tell you who to listen to. I would any day recommend listening to the legends Semmangudi, MS, Madurai Mani Iyer. Get your basics straight, and stick to your basics. Your goals should be separate and individual, not comparative or competitive.  Every musician has a mass element and a class element. One can strike the balance between bhakti sangeet and art music. And it is possible to make people listen to what you want to give them. Here I won’t hesitate to quote the example of Ilayaraja, who gave class to the mass(es)”

Breaking news!

“Music is the greatest blessing in my life. I compose. I have done a number of pallavis. I have set Bharathiyar songs to music. Among the latest is ‘Pinnor iravinile’ in Sindhu bhairavi. There is an album in the making, a project I am currently working on. I am tuning Bharathiyar songs, for vocalization, conscious it is a conversation between myself and the notes. The trick is getting the right raga to match the emotions attached to the lyric and the music. I would also like to conduct workshops on how to listen, to feel the multi-layered experience of music.”

( Lalitha Sri is a journalist and writer of significant experience and many of you may have read many of her articles in one of Chennai’s leading newspapers. She has come on board as content crew member for this season as a rasika who loves to soak in soulful music and who enjoys learning every single day. )