Mridangam beats in America
A South Indian percussion ensemble is the rage in the K College campus, Kalamazoo, U. S., thanks to Rohan Krishnamurthy.
ENSEMBLE: Rohan Krishnamurthy with his percussion group at `K' College.
Kalamazoo, a Native American name meaning "boiling pot," is a culturally rich city in Southwest Michigan, U.S. Home of the pharmaceutical giant Pfeizer and nationally reputed Kalamazoo College, this quaint town of 200,000 residents is well known for handmade guitars and the Gilmore Keyboard Music Festival. Several years ago, Dr. David Nelson, an alumnus of Kalamazoo College and currently at Wesleyan University, travelled all the way to Tamil Nadu mesmerised by the lure of Carnatic music.
New design mridangam
Today, history seems to be repeating itself in the efforts by mridangist Rohan Krishnamurthy, a sophomore at "K" College. Now in Chennai for his ninth consecutive year of performances, Rohan, a student of mridangam maestro Guruvayur Dorai, is no stranger at the Music Season.
His new design of the mridangam has recently caught the attention of leading artistes and connoisseurs.
Majoring in music and chemistry as a Heyl Foundation Scholar, Rohan has actively engaged the Kalamazoo community in Carnatic music. His efforts have brought virtuosi like Prof. T. N. Krishnan, Chitravina N. Ravikiran, Guruvayur Dorai, and Dr. David Nelson to K College, where the beats of the mridangam are heard almost everyday.
"The College enthusiastically supported my idea of starting a South Indian Percussion Ensemble on campus," says Rohan, who directs the popular college-accredited ensemble every semester. The mridangam has captured the campus in a big way.
So much so that the renowned Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra wants to feature a special mridangam-concerto, "Echoes," in their spring Youth Concert Series. The series attracts nearly 13,000 audience members all-across Michigan.
When asked how a traditionally Western Classical Music "accepted" a totally different system of music, Rohan says "the acceptance lies in America's acknowledgement of merit. If you are recognised as someone with talent, age and other factors do not matter. That is why the concerts at K College by Prof. TNK, Ravikiran, etc., attracted a larger and more diverse audience than many traditional Indian music organisations in bigger cities."
Meritocracy, no doubt, was the very reason Rohan was selected for K College' s Lillian Pringle Baldauf Award for Music against strong contenders with Western Classical Music concentrations.
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