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The beat account

ANOOR ANANTHAKRISHNA SHARMA

An austere approach and meticulous sadhana are the only routes to fulfilment, says mridangam maestro A.V. Anand



MAESTRO A.V. Anand is known for his clarity, speed and neat fingering technique

A.V. Anand is among the he is one of the senior most mridangam artist of the country. He learnt mridangam from the legendary ghatam vidwan K.S. Manjunath. In his nearly six decades of career, he has performed with stalwarts like Mysore T. Chowdaiah, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, T.R. Mahalingam, Dr. S. Balachandar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Doraiswamy Iyengar, and many more. Anand is known for his speed, clarity, neat fingering technique, his imaginative calculations and above all his aesthetic sense. This maestro, extremely down to earth, says he owes his everything to the Almighty.

What led you to choose the mridangam? Did your parents’ make the choice?

From when I was a boy of four, my parents used to tell me that I showed keen interest in percussion instruments and used to listen to the mridamgam or dolu (thavil) which used to invariably accompany the Rathotsavam (procession of sacred chariot with idol of God in it during festivals) with rapt attention, refusing to be diverted till the solo item (thani avarthanam) is over.

Observing this closely, my parents decided to put me under vidwan K.S. Manjunathan who was a close friend of my father, residing near our house. Interestingly, my father was also learning mridangam for some time from my guru.

What was his teaching method? Did he influence you in a big way?

He was very methodical and highly scientific in so far as the fingering techniques were concerned which enabled me to play whatever he taught me from the beginning up to the advanced stages.

Even the most intricate, complex combinations of urutus, nadais, moharas and theermanas could be played with absolute clarity and precision.

This unique technique enabled me to understand and assimilate different varieties played by other vidwans and the same or a similar structure or combination could be played in our style too. For mastering this technique, it required enormous practice. I used to practice for two to four hours and there were days when I used to practice for eight hours! This was needed to perfect the technique and then play difficult lessons. He would not be satisfied till I played everything he desired with utmost perfection. Even if there was a mistake that could be easily overlooked, he would pinpoint the mistake and ask me to practice again and play it correctly. This insistence on perfect presentation helped me in achieving what little I have been able to.

When did your musical career take off?

I started playing for concerts at the age of 10. My first concert was a marriage concert in which I played the ghatam with my guruji playing the mridanga. The very next day I accompanied the same artist’s concert at the then Subhashnagar Grounds.

Tell us about the stalwarts you accompanied.

In 1948, I played for solo concert of the great legendMysore Sri T.Chowdiah. From there I played for hundreds of his solo concerts in our State and also other states till he passed away in 1967.

In between I providedmridangam accompaniment to number of concerts by many stalwarts like Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, T.R. Mahalingam (flute legend), Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer, Veena V. Doraiswamy Iyengar, D.K. Pattamal, M.L. Vasanthakumari, R.K. Srikantan, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Chittibabu, Jesudas, Lalgudi G.Jayaraman, M.D. Ramanathan and many others.

In a career so enriching and fulfilling, I’m sure you have a whole lot of unforgettable moments….

There are manyunforgettable moments in my six decades as an artist. It would run to hundreds of pages if I wrote.

But I would like to recall only a few moments, occasions which have left an indelible mark on my career and are most unforgettable. One is the concert ofT.Chowdiah, at the Lalbagh Glasshouse held in the Fifties for distinguished guests from the then U.S.S.R (Soviet Russia) Bulganin and Krushchev.

The hosts of this great function included Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and all the dignitaries of the first Congress government including the ministers.

After the concert, the highly respected Maharaja with the chief guest walked to dais where the concert was held. He congratulated the artists, showered appreciation and took all of us to the colossal dinner which had been arranged in their honour and invited us to sit with them. This was a great honour and speaks of T.Chowdiah calibre.

When the first Governor General of independent India, C. Rajagopalachari came to Bangalore Rajaji learnt Chowdiah was in Bangalore then. He expressed his desire to listen to his concert. Chowdiah, my guruji and myself went to Carlton house whereRajaji was staying. Rajaji came to the main door to receive Chowdiah.

When the concert started he refused to sit on the special chair. Instead, he preferred to sit near the dais and listen to us. How do you see the present day situation in Carnatic music?

The socio-economic changes we are witnessing in the recent times are having their impact on all walks of our life. This true in the case of music field also.

Music lovers, both young and old, who are interested in Carnatic classical music, are not able to bestow sufficient time and concentration.

Moreover, with the advent electronic gadgets, people prefer to sit at home and see and listen to music. This has resulted in thin attendance in live concerts. Just to satisfy audience of different tastes, the contents of a concert has become varied and duration has also been cut. The worst casualty in this trend is classical arts in general, music in particular.

The intelligentsia has to seriously think of ways to restore the glory of classical arts.

(The writer is a leading percussionist of the State)

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