Taking ghatam and kanjira to the West
|The supporting artists are integral part of the ensemble
in music The supporting artists are integral part of the
ensemble in music
Kanjira artist Ganesh and Ghatam
exponent Subash Chandran. — Photo:R.
CHENNAI: They are responsible for the accompaniments
that pep up the kutcheri, though they remain largely unsung.
The supporting artistes, who are an integral
part of the ensemble in classical and fusion music. This is about
a unique Guru-Sishya duo who tour together, play together and
work together to spread awareness of the lesser known Indian
`Ghatam' veteran Subhash Chandran and Ganesh
Kumar, a Kanjira artiste, are on a mission: to take the two native
instruments around the world. They have been going places, largely
in the United States, having set up six schools to spread the
magic of South Indian percussion.
"The ghatam, kanjira and konnakkol (vocal
percussion) have become an integral part of fusion music because
they provide the right kind of bass sound that fuses well with
Western instruments like the sax, bass guitar and banjo," Subhash
Chandran says. Thanks to such fusion concerts, the West has taken
an interest in the lesser-known Indian classical instruments.
"We have over a hundred students at the
satellite schools of Sankara Academy of Music and Arts in New
Jersey, New York, Washington, Portland, San Francisco and Tampa," says
Ganesh. About 15 musicians from the Sankara Academy of Music
and Arts had attained the `arangetram' (debut concert) stage
till date. "We travel throughout the US for eight to nine
months during the year and come back in time for the music festival," says
the ghatam exponent. The master of vocal percussion began popularising
`kunnakol' thirty years ago, when Doordarshan started broadcasting
fusion music concerts as a part of the JG Laya Group. "But
it became popular only in the nineties, thanks to fusion music.
In fusion music, you get a lot of freedom in expressing what
comes to you naturally," says Chandran.
His market-savvy disciple Ganesh lines up concerts
with top class fusion musicians from the West to promote their
brand of percussion. "We played for the Katrina Relief fundraisers
at Seattle organised by the Mata Amritanandamayi Centre, and
a jugalbandhi at Tampa, Florida, recently."
Ganesh has also recently participated in the
International Convention organised by the Percussive Arts Society
at Columbus, Ohio, and launched a synthetic version of the kanjira
under the Artists innovation series. He also released a two and
a half hour instructional DVD on `The Art of Kanjira' marketing
it as the South Indian Tambourine.
Ganesh has also developed a website to promote
his style of music: www.ganeshkanjira.com.