Tarang Blog – Mithushan, Raam and Janarthan’s visit to Chennai
This month, three of our Tarang members traveled to Chennai, India to further their musical journeys. Here are their stories:
After a long, long journey from London Gatwick to Dubai, we had another 6 hours transit to reach Chennai. Luckily, I slept through both journeys so jetlag wasn’t really bothering me when I stepped out into the Chennai heat, dazed but excited for lessons. Raam left with Dr. Shobana Swaminathan whilst Janarthan and I left for Venkatesh sir’s house. Janarthan and I jumped straight into lessons with Venkatesh master pushing us to our limits. He then called AS Krishnan sir to organise my first ever morsing lesson and Krishnan sir soon came over to teach me how to play morsing for real. I now consider him my morsing guru as he was the first to teach me this art form and the connection we have is amazing. He taught me so much in the space of 10 days and has given me so much material to practice and perfect before I next see him, which I’m hoping will be by this time next year. It was slightly worrying for me that at the age of 62, his breathing technique and breath control was better than mine… really made me consider how much I need to consider in order to really take my music as seriously as I want to. I’m thinking I may need to take up yoga and meditation. Not only did he ensure that my classical grounding through the morsing became more enhanced but he also helped prepare me aptly for the concert I performed in on 11th August. The concert was a massive learning curve, teaching all of us how to be professional on stage and deal with all the situations that arise during a performance (both good and bad). I hope this is just the start and that once I’m comfortable with my sound, I’ll be more confident in performing on stage for Carnatic performances.
Venkatesh sir and AS Krishnan sir have inspired me greatly and I hope I can show them and myself that I can get to the stage they expect from me. Ultimately, Chennai made me re-evaluate the effort I put into my music training and hopefully I can keep my head down and keep working hard for the foreseeable future.
After this, Raam and I left Janarthan in Chennai and made our way to Bangalore, where we bumped in Abishek anna at the airport at 4:30am for a quick reunion (but were too scared to ask for a selfie…). The first few days in Bangalore have great as we are staying with Ghatam Giridhar Udup. With an incredible view and the balcony floor all to ourselves, Raam and I settled into Bangalore life easily and quickly.
Next, we both headed to a workshop in Melukote with well known artists from the Karnataka state. Unfortunately all the lectures and interactive sessions were in Kannada, but thanks to the help Mysore Manjunath’s son, we still got a lot out of the weekend, including a last minute morsing accompaniment opportunity for myself at a Veena concert. This time we were a bit braver and managed to get a photo with my guru and the Mysore brothers.
The most inspiring and heart touching moments for me have been when I have had the chance to sit with my gurus and artists outside of music to just chat and chill. I’ve learnt a lot from just talking which has helped fine tune my mindset when it comes to how I should approach Carnatic/Hindustani music.
But now that all that is out of the way, I’m ready to settle down for lessons and return home with purple and bruised hands as I know Giridhar sir will show no mercy when it comes to practice!
Chennai has provided me with more questions than answers to all I had pondered during Music India about my journey ahead in this musical ocean. The first few days were intense – I was doing long hours of practice with short bursts of lessons to help prepare me for the concert. It felt daunting but the nerves somehow didn’t kick in, despite knowing I was about to perform at one of the most respected and well known venues on the Chennai music circuit.
Having decided after lengthy deliberation the pieces I was to perform, preparing them was a tough task. I had to deal with the improvisation primarily by myself. I felt I was starved of ideas and I was finding it hard to solidify any concepts I had come across which would provide a strong basis for my improvisation. Furthermore, staying a few days with Venkatesh Master was a wonderful learning experience and I was pushed to come up with mathematical ideas quickly, which was something I had never done before and is an aspect I am now keen to explore.
The concert was an interesting experience for all three of us. It was a huge learning curve and taught us how to deal with a vast array of situations, both good and bad in the course of preparing for the concert, as well as during the actual day itself. It was a real privilege and blessing for us to perform at such a reputed venue, and personally, for me, it was an even greater blessing to have not only Gurus, including Bhaskar Ji, Sudha Ji and Lalgudi GJR Krishnan Ji, be present, but to have my dear friends and family back home watch me perform (who, despite telling them at such short notice, were still able to tune in and support us by watching and sending their wishes). I am certainly looking forward to when we return, representing a British Carnatic identity with an even greater standard of playing.
The next day Mithushan and I left early for Bangalore – for me the part I really could not wait for! A nice surprise was meeting Abhishek Anna, so early in the morning at the airport, who was equally happy and surprised to see us (I hope)! Pure learning with my idol was what I had wanted following my last trip in 2014 and I was buzzing for it to happen again. The workshop, which Mithushan has already written about, was so surreal as we got to meet more of the musicians who we watch time and time again on YouTube (for me, the Mysore Brothers). It was a much needed break and a nice opportunity to learn more about rural India. I’ll definitely have more to write up about Bangalore, considering how excited I am about it, and look forward to sharing my experiences with you all!