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Hear the drums speak for him

Anil Kumar Sastry

The maddale may not have brought him riches, but it enriches other’s lives

— Photo: K. Gopinathan

BEATS OF ART: Shankar Bhagwath, a maddale expert, showing his skills.

BANGALORE: A percussion artiste is usually proficient in simultaneously performing on a couple of instruments. But here is one who can play seven at a time and this time in Bangalore, if everything goes as planned, he will up the number to one more to eight.

Meet Shankara Ramachandra Bhagawat, a maddale artiste. Mr. Bhagawat will perform at the Naada Vaibhava 55 organised by his buffs on the occasion of his 55th birthday in Bangalore on April 19 at the Town Hall.

“I am not from a traditional Yakshagana family. My father Ramachandra Bhagawat, a native of Sistamudi in Yellapur taluk, was an agriculturist. After completing VII standard, I grew increasingly fascinated by the maddale and joined the Kota Hangarakatte Yakshagana Kala Kendra where I learnt the basics from Thimmappa Naik. Another artiste, Naranappa Uppoor, encouraged me,” Bhagwat told The Hindu on the eve of his performance here. Perhaps, his inability to speak till he reached the age of 10 could have made Bhagwat to speak through the maddale, letting his hands produce the real notes. He began playing the instrument on a full scale for various Yakshagana troupes from the age of 20. Along the way, he learnt to play the tabla from G.R. Hegde of Sirsi. “Learning the tabla changed the way I played the maddale.” Apart from performing in Yakshagana programmes, Bhagawat accompanies vocal artistes on the tabla and has performed jugalbandis with tabla players such as Allugantikoppa Lakshmisha Rao and Kalbaga Glpalakrishna Hegde.

As for his skill in performing on seven maddales at a time, Bhagawat says he can produce the seven notes on them. Very few artistes can perform this feat and the late Durgappa Gudigara was a pioneer in this accomplishment.

Like many traditional artistes hard up for money, Bhagawat does not want his children to follow his footsteps. His son Darshan will be completing his B.E. shortly and daughter Pooja is a commercial student. His wife Vinoda Bhagawat pitches in by running a small eatery that offers traditional lunch.

Although Bhagawat’s performance has been appreciated by his fans, he has not received any government honour. “I don’t perform with any award or recognition in mind; but it is for my love of the art,” he says.

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