Training in classical music was a ‘must’ for a south Indian girl preparing for matrimony those days. My forte was academics and not music. Still by the time I got my degree in Science, I did develop some interest in music, thanks to my guru, an eminent violinist.

  But, though I managed to climb a few lower rungs in music, my theoretical knowledge of music was nothing commendable. Though I used to regularly attend the free music concerts of the stalwarts during Ramnavami and could comprehend some of the finer nuances, it always floored me how the singer picked up and resumed singing correctly after the last cycle of percussion round was over.

   Though I myself had sung in a few gatherings, it was mostly to the hoi polloi and not to connoisseurs and that too without accompaniment.

  Shillong in north eastIndiais known for its pop music. But there were a few ethnic groups who would arrange classic music concerts once in a while. Thus,Maharashtramandal had arranged for a Hindustani classic music by an eminent artiste from outside for their annual get together.

   My neighbour, equally friendly with the Kannada andMaharashtragroup, tried to persuade me to sing a couple of songs at the same venue and I got persuaded.

  The grand concert of the famous artiste had enthralled the audience. After a two hour concert, the artiste wound up and so did the accompanists. Then I was led to the stage to begin my program, without any formal introduction or announcement to the august audience in the impressive auditorium.

  Seeing me ready to sing, the accompanists kindly stayed back to play for me. The audience who was about to stand up and flex their muscles was caught unawares by a strange, amateurish voice booming out of the loud speaker, singing in an alien language. Politely or perhaps for curiosity’s sake, some of them settled back in their chairs.

  I had chosen 4 pieces of light music in Kannada_ Devaranamas (bhajans) in ragas familiar to the Maharashtrian ears such as Bheempalas, Kapi, Sindhu bhairavi, Behaag.

  I was quite confident with the songs. But what was that sound? It was the tabalchi (drum player) trying to accompany me. I was totally at a loss. I did have some knowledge about the South Indian mridangam beats. But what does one do about the tha-dina-thak-dina of the pair of tablas? Will he know when one cycle of taal is over, more importantly will I know when to begin? The beats were going on relentlessly__ tha -dina –thak- dina. I thought I would lose track of the beat I was tapping on my thigh with my open palm. I started sweating. Will he not laugh if I cannot follow him? What will the audience think of my singing so much out of sync with the tabalchi’s beats?

   I had to take a quick decision. Just short of asking him to stop and withdraw I had no other go.

   Then it struck me, what the heck? I am the singer and he is the accompanist. It is for him to follow me and not my headache to adjust to his tha-dina-thak-dina. I was not planning on letting him have a solo session in any case. So, all he had to do was to ‘dance’ (sorry, ‘play’) to my tunes and my beats.

   After this, I became more relaxed and nonchalant and I confidently completed the other three songs to the great relief of the audience, tabalchi and myself.




14 thoughts on “MUSIC AND I

  1. Sneha says:

    You’re a multifaceted person, Vimala. I always feel like you’d make a beautiful singer whenever I hear your voice. Well, well, well, all of these experiences of yours – I wish I could have a full color anthology of them. On a rainy day or when the sun shines bright, or even otherwise, as vacant on my couch I lie (excuse me, poetic flow these days happens only when I’m commenting on someone’s work, not otherwise!) your book would be great to read. Beautiful, Vimala. And yes, I’m sure the tabla man didn’t mind dancing to your tunes…. !! Give my regards to Mr. Ramu. Also, when do I send you my book? The copies have arrived – I’d asked for 12.

  2. Seetharam says:

    Did Ramu’s parents ask you to sing during the ‘interview’ ?
    Incidentally, when you come to know how the singer and the violinist come know that the thani ends, please let me know. I am yet to get a satisfactory answer to this !

    • No, Ramu’s people did not ask me to sing as he was more interested in my degree than music. As for Tani, from what I have guessed, I think the combinations are played less than or more than the required tala and when it is brought to coincide with the tala(say adi), then it is end I think.

      • My dear Seetaram, if Ramu’s father had asked me to sing, my music would have been really heavenly, because that’s where he was when I got engaged!

    • Sneha dear,My voice on phone? My children always keep telling me that I shout too much on the phone and it embarasses them when they are in office cublcles!

  3. Nuggehalli Pankaja says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece; ofcourse I have my own funny experience,and was unwise enough to blurt it out during one of the interviews we writers are subjected to, and I think I cut out a buffoon.

  4. I could visualize the scene. On a more serious and practical note, this could happen and do happen to the most veteran of singers. I have often found maestroes going out of sync with their tabalchis but of course they know the technique of camouflage. Whether mridangam or tabla, one needs an innate sense of tala and laya to sing with these percussion instruments. Enjoyed reading

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