Mumbai Shankaranarayanan and his bonhomie with mridamgam (Thodupuzha K Shankar Mumbai)

INTRODUCTION:-

As we all know, in a concert, whether it is Carnatic or Hindustani, all musical instruments are of equal importance and each one of them plays a predominant, but a vivid role and occupies a majestic place in the music world. Any concert, sans instruments will not be able to impress the audience nor the musician, as it will not produce the desired impact or result. Therefore, the quality/type of the instrument, the timbre(quality of voice)of the singer and the overall sound system employed in the concert are of paramount importance. If anything fails, it will affect the whole team work and spoil the charm of the musical event. The combination of instruments differs or varies with the type of concert. The set of instruments employed in a classical concert especially a vocal, is different from those in a Hindustani concert or a common public concert in which maximum number of instruments, sometimes in duplication, are employedto give a tremendous effect. Every instrument whether it is Mridangam or violin or Veena or Tabla, leaves an incredible impact on the listeners. The generic term used for those who play the instruments is called instrumentalists/accompaniments, accompanying the singer!

MUMBAI SHANKARANARAYANAN

Now, the protagonist in this feature article is the renowned instrumentalist Shri Mumbai Shankaranarayanan, who has specialised in Mridangam, one of the most essential instruments in a classical concert or Natwangam in a Bharat Natyam recital. Without Mridangam, any Bharat Natyam recital or concert is totally incomplete. Now, let us peep into the trajectory of his musical life and see how hard it is to emerge successful in this rollercoaster experience as a dedicated artiste. The journey of such a dedicated artiste is not a cake walk, but, a hazardous journey, making many sacrifices of likes and comforts, confronting many challenges, hurdles and hassles as well as trials and tribulations, with the sole intention of carving a niche in the artistes' world! Challenges make an artiste Confident to weather all hurdles and become weather-beaten and successful in life.

Mastery over any musical instrument demands thorough knowledge of the various Carnatic and Hindustani ragas or established/accepted traditional melodic patterns in India. In this article, the author, therefore, envisages to showcase his unremitting zeal and determinationto earn the coveted title of 'MUMBAI SHANKARANARAYANAN', endearingly called Shankar in the Music circles.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MRIDANGAM

Mridangam also known as Thannumai in Tamil or Percussion instrument in English, owes its ancient origin to South India, at least 2000 years ago, probably in the Tanjore district of Chennai, according to history. It's considered as the most essential primary musical rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble or Hindustani classical music or a Bharat Natyam recital.

It is a double-sided drum whose body is made, using a hollowed piece of jack-fruit wood with about an inch thickness. The two mouths of the apertures or open ends on either side are covered with a goat's skinand laced to each other with leather straps around the surface of the drum. It is the stretched membrane on the instrument which vibrates on tapping on both sides in a rhythmic manner.

The combination of two inhomogeneous circular membranes allows for the production of harmonics or amalgam of sounds. Pioneering work on the mathematics of these harmonics or amalgam of sounds was done by the renowned Nobel Prize winning physicist C V Raman, whose theory of Raman Effect is quite famous in the scientific world.

SOME OF THE WELL- KNOWN MRIDANGISTS OR PERCUSSIONISTS:-

Karaikudi Mani, Guruvayur Dorai, Umayalapuram K Sivaraman, Patri Satish Kumar, Trichy Sankaran, Palghat Mani Iyer and Palghat Raghu respectively.

A THUMBNAIL SKETCH OF HIS PROFESSIONAL LIFE:-

Born and brought up in Mumbai and a banker by profession, Shri Shankaranarayanan (M.Sc. Physics from Mumbai University) was initiated into this aesthetic art of MRIDANGAM at a very young age, by his parents. His late mother had acquired the skill in Violin. His Dharmapatni, Meera, is adept in Veena, the instrument of Goddess Saraswati.

(In Hindu mythology, many deities have some musical instrument. For example, goddess Saraswati or Minerva, the goddess of wisdom has Veena, Lord Krishna has flute, Lord Shiva has Udukku and Deva-rishiNarada(one of the Saptha Chiranjeevis) has Veena called Mahathi. Even Ravana, an ardentdevotee of Lord Shiva was a passionate lover of VEENA and his favourite raga was SAMA VEDAM).

Vignesh, the only son to the Shankar-Meeracouple, doing his Pharmacy degree in Mumbai, is currently into classical music under the tutelage of Guru Shri Delhi P Sunder-rajan in Mumbai. It is apt to mention here, that he was initiated into vocal music at a tender age of five under GuruSmt. Vidya Harikrishna, a music teacher in Mumbai.

AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS

An unassuming Shri Shankaranarayanan began his musical journey, as an aspiring disciple, with the blessings of Guru Shri Ramanathan, followed by Karaikudi Shri R Chandramouli of Shri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeeta Sabha in Mumbai. He went on bagging many awards, recognitions and scholarships a few of which are mentioned hereunder:

1)Tal Mani from Sur Singer Samsad Mumbai

2)Soundarya Sangeet Sitara from Soundarya Natya Kalalaya Mumbai

3)The title Tal Rathna from Nateshwar Kala Mandir, Mumbai

4)Shivali Sangeeta Shiromani by Shivali Cultural Society of India

5)Mridanga Ratna from Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Garodia Nagar, Mumbai from the hands of Padmabhushan Sangeeta Kalanidhi Smt. Sudha Raghunathan Chennai in February 2015

6)Tarang Sangeeta Shiromani from Takshashila Academy and

7)Nadakousthubham from Antara Nritya Niketan, Pune

With sheer diligence and alacrity, coupled with perseverance Shri Shankaranarayanan was focussed on attaining perfection in his field of specialization, by undertaking more and more performances not only in India but abroad as well before the Indian diaspora along with many eminent musicians.

To add a few more colourful feathers to his cap, Sri Shankaranarayanan was privileged to perform at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan in the presence of His Excellency President Sri R. Venkataraman and also at the Raj Bhavan Mumbai in the presence of His Excellency Governor Sri C Subramaniam by accompanying Smt.Aruna Sairam, eminent musician. In addition, he had the opportunity to accompany many other renowned musicians like S/Shri Chitravina, Shankar Mahadevan, Sangeeta Kalanidhi Shri Sanjay Subramanyam, Bombay Jayashree, flute maestro Dr. N Ramani, Prince Shri Rama Varma, Bombay Sisters Smt. Saroja and smt. Lalitha, Ra Ga sisters Ranjani and Gayatri, violin Vidwan Shri M. Chandrashekhar respectively.

The unremitting journey of a steadfast musician always witnesses the seamless inflow of opportunities.

Close on the heels of these successful events, he had the honour of performing with Shri Sikkil Gurucharan and Shri Saketha Raman at Shri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha at the National Eminence Award Function.

Another important achievement is the privileged opportunity he had was to perform with Kalaimamani Smt. Nityashree Mahadevan, eminent singer of Chennai. An unforgettable event to mention on this occasion is the discussion he and his son Vignesh had featured in the Radio F M, about Konnakol &Percussion in relation to melody. Again, he chanced to perform a Tala Vadya Kacheri with Pandit Mukundraj Deo &Pandit Bhavani Shankar, nay, he had the honour of performing in a Jugalbandi Concert with flute Maestro Padmashree Dr.N Ramani &Violin Vidhushree Padmabhushan Dr. N Rajam.

Well, in close sequence, he had the gifted opportunity to perform in another Jugalbandi concert with Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna and Shri Ajoy Chakraborthy at N C P A, Mumbai. Again, he had the honour of performing in a jugalbandhi concert with Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna and flutist Shri Ronu Mazumdar at Shanmukhananda Hall Mumbai on another occasion.

He also performed with Cine fame Smt. Hema Malini, Smt. Meenakshi Sheshadri Smt. Vani Ganapathy and Ms.Gracy Singh (Lagaan fame)

Inspiteof his heavy responsibilities as an official, Sri Shankaranarayanan finds time to impart training in Mridangam-percussion- to many students in the field of percussion and they are also making stage performances of this divine art form.

MUMBAISHAKNARANARAYANAN AS A FACULTY

With his vast expertise and exemplary professionalism, he is in the faculty of some of the Sabhas in Mumbai as follows:

1)Rasika Ranjani Sabha Garodia Nagar Mumbai

2)Mulund Fine Arts Mumbai

3)Powai Fine Arts Mumbai.

TRAINING, ACADEMY, ORCHESTRATION, Etc.

It is admirable that many of his students, by dint of their hard work and scintillating performances,have been awarded the C C R T Government scholarship. Besides, he is also training many aspiring students outside Mumbai as well as abroad, through Face Time(face to face internet interaction).Shri Shankaranarayanan has, vis a vis composed and orchestrated a unique group, comprising of both Carnatic and Hindustani musicians, which is a blend of rhythm with melody and which is popular by the name SRI SOUNDRYA LAYA. This ensemble has performed widely in India. In addition, He has also orchestrated percussion ensemble which performs under the name THE RHYTHMIC BEATS.

With a view to promoting and inculcating the traditional South Indian percussion culture among the younger generation, he set up an academy namely MUMBAI SHANKARANARAYANAN ACADEMY(MSN ACADEMY)where the aspirants get intensive training in all kinds of South Indian mridangam or percussion instruments.

Another innovative aspect of his enterprising skill in this direction is the establishment of 'Mridangam Shankaranarayanan Academy of Fine Arts Foundation- MSNAFAF-by him with the active support of a group of enthusiastic and like-minded individuals which includes his wife Meera and son Vignesh Shankaranarayanan with the prime intention of providing a suitable platform for theaspiring, budding /artistes, musicians in Mumbai as well as in other parts of India. Definitely, anew milestone in his tireless musical journey! A unique achievement!

CONCLUSION:-

It is an undeniable fact that to reach the pinnacle of perfection in any domain is sometimes possible, through consistent perseverance, but so difficult to maintain that position without any impairment over the years. This demands regular exercise and constant attention to survive in any field of activity because the maxim, 'survival of the fittest' always rules. Judging from the sterling quality of his performance and enviable achievements, let us infer with confidence that Shri Shankaranarayanan,being one of the most talented and dedicated artistes par excellence in our country, has been showing full justice to his art with absolute 'professionalism' which is an integral part of any profession.Mastery in any branch of art especially classical, should cover the entire gamut of specialization. Nevertheless, however perfect, everyone continues to be a student in pursuit of highest degree ofperfection and the journey never ends because,'Perfection walks slowly, it requires the hand of time'!

Let us wish SHRI MUMBAI SHANKARANARAYANAN all success and many more laurels and accolades, awards and recognitions in the years to come! And, a very happy family life too!