An enthralling performer
Vettikavala Sasikumar has broadened the scope of the nadaswaram.
BREATHING MUSIC: Vettikavala Sasikumar.
No longer is the Nadaswaram just a `mangalavadyam' that is confined to the festive season or auspicious occasions. It has come to occupy a prominent place among other musical instruments that is used in mainstream kutcheris.
The credit for this change goes to nadaswaram vidwans who have given the instrument a renewed charm. K.N. Sasikumar popularly known as Vettikavala Sasikumar is one such gifted artiste. He has taken the art form to the masses with his unique, mellifluous `bani.'
Sasikumar attributes his success to regular practise and God's grace. "Normally, for a beginner, to produce even the first sound in the instrument, it takes two to three months. It takes not less than five years before he gains some proficiency in playing it," he says.
The nadaswaram advantage
According to him, learning vocal music before venturing to learn to play the nadaswaram would work to a student's advantage. "This will help students apply perfect `tuttukarams' and `gamakas' to bring out the feel of the sahitya," says Sasikumar. He rues the fact that the nadaswaram has not got its due in Kerala, and feels that the absence of a course recognised by the Government could be a reason for this.
Vettikavala Sasikumar hails from a family of musicians. His parents Narayana Pillai and Gourikutty Amma were Kathakali artistes and his grandfather Velayudhan Pillai was a noted thakil artiste.
He started learning the nadaswaram, when he was 10 under nadaswaram maestro Thiruvizha Raghava Panicker. He was trained under the gurukul for 10 years.
In order to widen his repertoire he moved to Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu and trained under Mayapuram Govindaraja Pillai for five years.
After he finished his training, Sasikumar returned to his village. Financial constraints forced him to look for a job.
In 1978, he was appointed as the nadaswaram artiste at Vettikavala Mahadeva Temple. Along with performing at the temple, he performed at concerts too, which helped him make a mark.
An `A' grade artiste of AIR, he has performed in India and abroad. He has won numerous awards.
Sasikumar calls his `arangettam' providential. His guru Thiruvizha Raghava Panicker and his son Thiruvizha Jayasankar were due to perform at Thiruvizha Devi Temple. Jayashankar was unable to make it to the concert and Raghava Panicker asked Sasikumar to accompany him.
Although Sasikumar's forte in concerts is `ragaalapana,' he has tried his hand at being offbeat.
He has performed to the accompaniment of different combinations of musical instruments, which included veena, violin, flute, mridangam, tabla, ghatom, and edakka among others.
He has also penned several `mallaries,' typical compositions played on the nadaswaram.
Sasikumar has been instrumental in starting the Navarathri music festival at the Vettikavala Mahadeva temple. Many renowned artistes have performed at the festival.
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