I have been blessed to be born in a family that is quite musically oriented. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers are good at vocal Carnatic music. So, both my parents are also musically inclined; my mom had some extensive training in vocal Carnatic music.
Although my parents say that they have taken me to Carnatic concerts since I was 3 years of age, the first concert I remember attending was when I was 5 years old. This was a house concert by some of Bay Area’s best musicians. I was intrigued by the sounds and rhythm of the mridangam. At the conclusion of the concert, when my dad went up to congratulate and wish all the musicians, I got a close look at the mridangam. The mridangist let me touch the instrument and get a feel for it. I think this was the beginning of my musical journey with the mridangam.
The following summer, when I was in India, my mom took to me a mridangist in Mysore, who thought I could and should play the mridangam. He formally introduced me to playing the mridangam that very day. With this teacher’s help, we purchased a new mridangam and brought it with us when we returned home to Pleasanton. I was very excited, I got a new toy, which was beyond my dreams.
As expected, my mom did her due diligence and enrolled me in Ravi uncle’s school. After the introductions, I still remember my first class. I was in a class with 3 other boys. They were all a year to two older and bigger than I. I was a little intimidated. However, Ravi uncle’s way of teaching made me very comfortable, and I soon found out that I can play as well as the bigger boys. From then my parents and I knew I found the right guru in Ravi uncle to teach me this ancient and divine art form. Until 2009, Ravi uncle used to conduct classes in Fremont during weekends.
Within a few years, Ravi uncle allowed me to play in a group for two songs during our school’s (NAFA's) Vijayadasami celebrations. That was pretty cool. Looking back, now I realize how significant that was.
Around the same time, I started competing in local mridangam competitions such as the Papanasam Sivan competition, and then the Cleveland Thyagaraja competition. I came back empty handed at my first attempt at both these competitions. However, this did not deter me. I practiced better and went back with more resolve and ended up winning the next time I participated in these competitions.
Ravi uncle always included in me all the laya vinyaasams. I lose count of how many I’ve played in around the country. The best was when our laya vinyaasam was video recorded by CCI TV, to be broadcast and showcased in India.
Over the last couple of years, thanks to Ravi uncle and Padma Mohan aunty, I’ve had several opportunities to play at the monthly CCC events. This is where I was exposed to playing for instrumentalists, which led me to believe that I can do the same for my arangetram.
More recently, I became and Indian Raga Fellow. I was chosen as one of two percussionists and surviving 3 rounds of elimination and some very stiff competition from many others around the world. I was also named the Indian Raga Ambassador for California.
I was able to show off my talent as a percussionist by playing the mridangam and ghatam. The talented group of musicians also admired the fact that I was able to provide a unique quality of beat for one of the pieces we produced by using just a rock and a stick. The rock and stick I used where the ones I use to tune my mridangams. These tuning tools became the source of percussion for one of the Indian Raga pieces we created and recorded during our summer workshop.
Our rendition of Sia’s Cheap Thrills has won us many acclaims worldwide. We won the first prize in CD Baby’s competition. We have been publicized by the press in India. Sony India tweeted our video to show how well a pop song can be set to classical Indian (Carnatic) music and receive rave reviews. All this happened over this past summer, while I was ramping up my preparations for my (mridangam) arangetram.
I will continue playing mridangam and accompany artists of all ages and experience. I also plan to learn other percussion instruments, like ghatam and kanjeera, for Carnatic music.
Also, with my guru's guidance, I will be teaching young kids (beginners) how to play the mridangam up to the intermediate level. I live in Pleasanton; so, I plan to spread the divine art of playing the mridangam in the East Bay and the Tri-Valley areas of the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
If you would like me to accompany a vocalist or instrumentalist, or would like to be introduced to the mridangam, you can reach me by clicking here.
If you'd like to see me perform live you can attend one of my upcoming concerts. I will be adding my performance calendar soon.