Shrinath excels in mridangam debut performance

SHRINATH HONRED-webNEW YORK: As the audience stood up to drown out the emcee’s voice with their applause, a shy 14 year old put down his mridangam and bowed. Shrinath Viswanathan, a student of guru A.R. Balaskandan of New York, presented his Mridangam Arangetram (debut performance) at the main auditorium of the Hindu Temple in Queens, New York on Saturday, September 6.

In attendance were several leading artists known both locally and world-wide including Rajeswari Sainath, a prominent Bharatanatyam dancer and dance teacher; Dr. C. G. Balachandran, a widely acclaimed New York based mridangist and Usha Balachandran, a well-known dance teacher.

The chief guest was world-renowned mridangam maestro guru Karaikudi R. Mani, who is also Shrinath’s Parama guru. Having Mani Sir at the event was a great honor for Shrinath, his teacher and his family, said Balaskandan. In order to improve his playing, Shrinath had the privilege of training with Guru Sri Karaikudi Mani for a few weeks this summer.

“Even if I play one-hundredth as well as Mani Sir, I will be proud of myself,” he said.

His attempt to emulate his Parama Guru was noted. Rajeswari Sainath said, “Karaikudi Mani’s unique style called ‘Mani Baani’ makes the mridangam sing. Shrinath’s performance today showed a glimpse of this. His tonal modulation of the vallinam, mallinam – dual tones of sweet and strong, was powerful. He has all that is required to be a great artist and I am sure that one day the Carnatic world will be proud to have him as a well established artist.”

Shrinath was accompanied by singer Saavitri Ramanand, Sandhya Anand on the violin, and Sriram Ramesh on the kanjira. As is typical of an Arangetram, the young mridangist used the concert as a platform to exhibit the skills he acquired over years of training and practice.

Shrinath, a sophomore at Great Neck South High School, has been learning mridangam from Balaskandan since the age of five. The main piece of the Arangetram was Rama Katha Sudha, in Ragam Madhyamavathi. The song, which lends itself to an abundance of devotion, was lauded by the listeners.

At the end of this main song, Shrinath played a thani-avarthanam (intricate rhythmic solo), where Shrinath and Sriram exchanged various complex rhythmic patterns and culminated in a grand finale. Shrinath was extremely nervous playing in front of an audience that was no stranger to high-quality Carnatic music. “I did not want to let down my teacher, and I knew that so many great musicians would be listening to my playing,” he said. He received a certificate of accomplishment from his teacher, who put it eloquently, “Shrinath spoke for me through his mridangam.”

Despite his worries, Shrinath’s playing impressed all who heard it. Sri. Karaikudi Mani said, “The highlight of the event for Shrinath was the standing ovation from the crowd when Karaikudi Mani said “I extend my blessings to Shrinath by presenting him with a mridangam that I personally have played in concerts.”

PM Swamy

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