Of Ragas and Rhythm, Times of India
Diptiman Dewan Apr 11, 2012
Trichy Sankaran, faculty of fine arts, York University, Canada, speaks to Diptiman Dewan about the Indian music studies programme
It was back in 1971 that Trichy Sankaran, faculty of fine arts, and the late Jon Higgins, started the South Indian music programme at the University of York, Canada.
On how it all started, Sankaran says, "Higgins invited me to join him to teach courses in rhythm, performance, theory, and also perform with him in concerts. The Higgins-Sankaran duo continued until 1978 when Higgins left York University and I took over the South Indian music programme as the chief director."
Over the years, the holistic approach in teaching the programme has made a positive impact on the approach and understanding of rhythm of western performers, says Sankaran. Further, the introduction of adaptation techniques and concepts in the programme enabled western drummers (Jazz drummers in particular) to adapt to their own instruments.
According to Sankaran, the pedagogical style of teaching combines the best of both East and the West to create a holistic blend. His collaborations with Western musicians in performance, particularly with groups like Nexus, World Drums and Gamelan, among others, and contemporary world music ensembles have had far-reaching effects in the deepening of the understanding of Indian culture in Canada as well as in the evolution of the programme.
A course on Solkattu studies (spoken rhythms and patterns of hand-clapping used by classical South Indian dancers and musicians) created by him has influenced students from the undergraduate to graduate level over the years to take up teaching, performance, and research.
Says Sankaran, Indian music in general has attracted westerners for its melodic varieties, use of drone, rhythmic sophistication and improvising qualities while Carnatic music in particular, has been appreciated for its rhythmic character, enchanting melodies, and drum improvisation besides compositional structures.
Delectable designs with mridangam, The Hindu
MRIDANGAM Tiruchi Sankaran demonstrated the mesmerising style of his guru, Palani Subramania Pillai.
Lec-dem: Tiruchi Sankaran.
Tiruchi Sankaran delivered the keynote address in connection with the centenary celebrations of Sri Palani Subramania Pillai conducted by Sri Krishnagana Sabha and thereafter gave a lec-dem on the style of the percussion legend. He dedicated these two to the memory of his Guru.
In his address, Sankaran said that Palani assimilated the Pudukkottai style and enriched it with his own inimitable touch and that mridangam playing perhaps reached its aesthetic heights in the hands of his guru. “My Gurunathar was meticulous and distinctly original as an accompanist and while playing sollus. While manipulations of nadai patterns were so complex as to be beyond the easy grasp of talented musicians in the audience, his sarvalaghu patterns and rich syllables were so precise and poised that however complex they were, he could keep the listener feel quite at home.” His combo performances with another legendary maestro Palakkad Mani Iyer, where Palani played the ganjira drew large gatherings. Their exchanges seemed like combats, but were really brilliant musical conversations between the two masters of laya. Palani also teamed up with leading vocalists of that period “exemplified the greatest friendship and collaboration in Carnatic music history.”
Though steeped in tradition Palani had an open mind to allow himself to jam with jazz musicians from the U.S. and AIR broadcast a special session of this in 1959. Palani’s gumuki remains unsurpassed to this day and Sankaran said that rasikas would be in raptures as he gave his gumuki effects when Madurai Mani Iyer rendered the songs like ‘Eppa Varuvaro,’ ‘Vellai Thamarai’ and ‘Kandhan Karunai’ during the thukkada phase of a concert.
Sankaran’s lecdem began with the statement that like vocal music, laya vaadhyam also has its established and accepted patanthara. His playing on the mridangam during the lecdem was a combination of Gana Nadham and Ghambeera Nadham. He started with a few typical examples in Kanda Chapu and his melkalam had the same pressure in strokes as in the normal gait and the change itself was mesmerising for its spontaneity. He cited the links each segment of his playing had with his Guru and added that he was judiciously giving some of his own embellishments as dictated by his own creativity.
The mishra kuraippu in Khanda nadai was made popular by Palani and Sankaran demonstratively played many such variations that were imaginative and had the marked quality that compressed sollus within small spaces with clarity of sound and perfection. He played keezh kala thisram and remembered M.D. Ramanathan’s singing at this point, which demanded a challengingly slow-paced kalapramanam and even said that once he totally lost himself while playing for this maha vidwan.
One could also see the less obvious as one listened to Sankaran. The tabla’s gentle influence could be seen in the sheer sugam of the nadais and the thavils grandness in the multiple level calculations that came forth with unmatched precision. Neyveli Venkatesh on the ganjira joined during the korvais and kuraippus and their brief avarthanams gave Azhagu Nadais and explored many possibilities and carved a few delectable designs.
January 23, 2009
From Tiruchi to Toronto, The Hindu
From Tiruchi to Toronto
Tiruchi Sankaran will be honoured with Sangita Kalanidhi by The Music Academy on January 1.
“The birth centenary year of Palghat Mani Iyer begins in 2012 and now it is the 50th memorial year of my guru, Palani Subramania Pillai, and I will be conferred the Sangita Kalanidhi title by The Music Academy. The timing could not have been better,” begins mridangam vidwan Tiruchi Sankaran from his residence in Canada in a telephonic conversation with this writer. He continues, “Being the first ever recipient of this award from the Pudukottai tradition, I am overwhelmed but want to dedicate this award to the entire percussion fraternity.” Tiruchi Sankaran then takes us through his journey from Tiruchi to Toronto.
Subbaraya Iyer and Subbulakshmi Ammal, Sankaran's parents, moved to Tiruchi when he was three years old from Poovaalur, their native village. Noting Sankaran's penchant for rhythm, his cousin P. A. Venkataraman started teaching him mridangam. He laughs, “I was four yet no concessions. He was a tough task master”.
His practice served as the wake up call at 4 a.m. daily for the 15 odd-households in Panju Iyer Store, on Salai Road. A store meant families living in single or two-roomed dwellings within a compound. “Practice was for about five hours a day before and after school”.
“It was evacuation time and mridangam vidwan Palani Subramania Pillai had moved to Tiruchi. Impressed by my dexterity, he wanted to take me as his disciple but my parents were against it as I was just seven years old. When my cousin left for Delhi I continued with Ramanathapuram M. N. Kandaswamy Pillai, another disciple of my guru.”
Later foregoing school for a year, Sankaran went to Delhi to continue his mridangam lessons with his cousin and also made his debut at a Harikatha programme.
Returning to Tiruchi when he turned 11, Sankaran came under the direct tutelage of Palani Subramania Pillai, which went on for about eight years. Sankaran's first major concert was at the famed Nandrudayan temple in the East Boulevard Road in Tiruchi Town, where he played alongside his guru Palani Subramania Pillai for Alathur brothers. “I had the rare opportunity to play with my guru for musicians of the highest order,” he says.
The Pudukottai bani
About his guru, he says, “He belonged to the Pudukottai School of mridangam. His father, Muthiah Pillai, and Dakshinamoorthy Pillai were disciples of the great maestro Manpoondiah Pillai, who founded and moulded the Pudukottai bani. My teacher was a good singer too. The unique gumuki technique of Pillaivaal gave a new definition to the art of mridangam playing. He was particular that his disciples should never imitate him and was always ready to teach them intricate mohras and korvais.”
Sankaran got many opportunities to play for stalwarts of the past as a solo accompanist. He completed his Bachelor's and Master's in economics at Vivekananda College, Mylapore, in 1966.
Thereafter he was busy playing in concerts, when in 1971 Prof. Jon B. Higgins offered him a job to teach at the York University in Toronto, Canada. “It was a tough decision to sacrifice a career that was at its pinnacle. Today, I am the Director of Indian Music Programme that was initially co-founded by Higgins and myself. I have created a hybrid system of eastern and western methods of teaching, including the use of my own specially devised notation, comprehensive lectures and analysis. I have published many articles and two major textbooks, ‘Rhythmic Principles and Practice' and ‘Art of Konnakkol'.” Sankaran has taught in many universities in the U.S. and has toured widely around the world for concerts and lecture demonstrations.
Do you miss India? “ I do,” he says repeatedly, but explains: “Staying abroad has helped me to accomplish more in performance, writing, teaching, and composing with ease and has also given me a unique perspective of my own culture and the music of India, which I share with a global audience. As a torchbearer of the Palani style of mridangam playing, I have been visiting Chennai for the December music season every year.”
His second daughter Suba Sankaran has a Master's degree in Ethnomusicology from York University and is trained in western classical (vocal, piano), Jazz (vocal) and Carnatic music, with Indo-Jazz fusion being her main forte. To carry on his legacy, he has disciples across the world. His other interests include composing and continued research in different traditions of drumming. He also teaches ganjira, ghatam, and konnakkol.
In retrospect, he says, “I have to thank my parents, my guru, vidwans and all those who shaped my career. My abhyas will never stop and it will be more of contemplation, ‘structure-oriented' and laya dhyanam. Life is Rhythm and Rhythm is my life,” he sums up.
-Dec 1, 2011
Finalists Announced for 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards
August 17, 2011
Today, Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) announced the fifteen finalists for the 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards, celebrating those individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to Toronto’s vibrant artistic and cultural life.
This year's nominees were chosen by a stellar multi-disciplinary jury which included Peter Chin, Simon Foster, Maureen Hynes, Shannon Litzenberger, Charles Reeve, Sonia Sakamoto-Jog, Jini Stolk, Jordan Tannahill and Jennifer Waring. Winners of the 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards will be announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at the Mayor‟s Arts Awards Lunch.
2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards Finalists
Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music finalists:
Andrew Burashko, Rita Chiarelli, and Trichy Sankaran. A $10,000 cash prize presented to an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music. The recipient will also have participated in international initiatives, including touring, studying abroad and participating in artist exchanges.
Finalists Announced for 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards
On August 17th, Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) announced the finalists for the 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards, celebrating those individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to Toronto’s vibrant artistic and cultural life.
TRICHY SANKARAN, international artist, composer, educator, and cultural ambassador, has been named a finalist for this year’s Muriel Sherrin Award.
A $10,000 cash prize presented to an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music. The recipient will also have participated in international initiatives, including touring, studying abroad and participating in artist exchanges.
Dr. Trichy Sankaran is a globally-respected artist, composer, educator, and cultural ambassador, who consistently demonstrates mastery, creativity, ingenuity, humility, and devotion. Since his professional debut at 13, Trichy Sankaran has had a prolific international performing career, appearing as a featured musician at major music festivals and cultural events in Europe, Australia, North America and Asia, including the highly celebrated World Drum concerts at Expo 86 (Vancouver), Expo 88 (Brisbane) and Expo 2000 (Hanover). As an active contributor to the music scene in Canada, he has composed a dynamic body of work that bridges the musical traditions of both India and the West. Collaborations include performances with New Music, jazz, Western Classical world fusion and internationally-recognized Carnatic and Hindustani musicians. As an Indian music scholar he has contributed to many learned societies across the globe and has authored textbooks. As an award-winning (OCUFA) professor he is held in high esteem by his students and colleagues at York University. Over the years, Prof. Sankaran has bridged Eastern and Western pedagogical styles and has influenced generations of students who have become noted performers, composers, and music educators themselves. The University of Victoria, B.C, honoured him with an Honorary Doctorate degree in music in recognition of his eminence in the field. Prof. Sankaran has closely worked with the Asian community in large measure for the success of major festivals in Toronto for the past four decades.
Winners of the 2011 Toronto Arts Foundation Awards will be announced on Thursday, October 20, 2011 at the Mayor's Arts Awards Lunch.
Trichy Sankaran chosen for 'Sangita Kalanidhi' title
Mridangam maestro Trichy Sankaran has been chosen for the coveted 'Sangita Kalanidhi' title by the Music Academy in Chennai and he would be honoured with it in January one next year.
The Executive Committee of the Academy which met on Sunday has taken a decision to this effect, President of the Academy N Murali said in a press release on Monday.
Sankaran would also chair the 85th Annual Conference of the Academy which would be held from December 15 to January one, 2012, he said.
Music College Makes Trichy Sankaran Nostalgic