Mridangam vidwan Arunprakash’s new musical venture

Composer-mridangist K. Arunprakash will lead a team of musicians in performing Sundaravalli Ammal’s songs at an upcoming event

Arun Prakash and his ensemble during the rehearsal at Ragasudha Hall, Luz, Mylapore.
 

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Bho Shambo,’ a song from a Maharajapuram Santhanam album that hit the charts decades ago, still remains a hot favourite with musicians and audiences. L. Krishnan, whose brainchild it was, was a prolific and successful composer during the cassette boom of the 70s and the 80s. Now, Krishnan’s son, K. Arunprakash, a well-known mridangam exponent and composer, is pushing the boundaries of the music he grew up with.

About 30 years after R. Sundaravalli Ammal, a housewife-turned-composer, published her songs in the book Kaanada Kovilgal Kelaada Geethangal, Arunprakash is organising a concert featuring several musicians to relive some of her compositions. Supported by the late composer’s family, the event will premiere on the Parivadini Music YouTube channel in the first week of September.

Book release

Sundaravalli Ammal composed not only the lyrics but also the music for the songs that flowed through her mind even as she went about her household chores, and published them in her book with notations in 1991. She did not, however, live to complete the notation for 10 of her songs.

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R. Sundaravalli Ammal

R. Sundaravalli Ammal
 

These ten will now get a new life with Arunprakash not only setting the lyrics to music, but also notating them in a book, Sundara Amudha Ganam, to be released at the event. Historian V. Sriram and musician R.K. Shriram Kumar have written the foreword for the book. Critic Subbudu wrote the foreword for Kaanada Kovilgal Kelaada Geethangal, while the Sankaracharya of Kanchi gave his blessings in writing.

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Speaking about his father, Arunprakash says, “He started off as a vocalist after training under B.V. Lakshmanan, Pudukode Krishnamurthy, O.V. Subramamaniam, and G.N. Balasubramaniam.” Krishnan joined the Telugu film industry as a music director, and later moved to All India Radio as a composer. “Balamuralikrishna, Bombay Jayashri, Maharajapuram Santhanam, Bombay Sisters… the list of illustrious musicians he worked with is long. He composed music for more than 2,000 albums, Annamacharya kritis, Bharatiyar songs, and Maharajapuram Santhanam’s ‘Vandeham Sharanam,’ to mention just a few, that became big hits,” recalls Arunprakash. About his own composing, he says, “While my father’s music is a big inspiration, I listen to all kinds of music, Western, classical, film and so on.”

Arun’s orchestra

For the upcoming Sundaravalli Ammal event, Arunprakash’s orchestra has an interesting mix: Vignesh Ishwar and Aditya Madhavan (vocals), Sandeep Ramachandran, Sayee Rakshith and Madan Mohan (violin), Mylai Karthikeyan (nagaswaram), Sujith Naik (flute), Charulatha Chandrasekar (veena), and N. Guruprasad (ghatam). “Besides vocal, there are raga interludes on the nagaswaram, flute and violin — Anandabhairavi, Sama, Saranga, Kambodhi, Sahana, and Dhanyasi are among the ragas selected — as well as a tanam interlude on the veena.

‘Sengamalavalli nathane’, Sundaravalli Ammal’s beautiful Tamil lyrics, floated in the air as we entered a rehearsal at Ragasudha Hall. As the line ended, the violins, flute, nagaswaram and veena piped in, even as the vocalists picked up the cue to introduce the next line.

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The rehearsals have been many, revealed Arunprakash, who sat centrestage playing the mridangam. He and ghatam vidwan Guruprasad provided the rhythm. There was a pause in between to check sound settings before the music started again with an effervescent Anandabhairavi piece. Going by the energy of the rehearsal, the programme promises to be a memorable ode to music and Tamil.

The writer is a trained classical musician.

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