In the world of Konnakkol music, a prodigy has emerged, catching the attention of music enthusiasts—Shivapriya Vishwanathan, a young prodigy whose extraordinary talents have thrust her into the spotlight. Perhaps you, dear readers, have already witnessed her exceptional performance through the video that took social media by storm. Shivapriya seamlessly weaves the Adi Talam in one hand while skillfully embracing the rhythmic nuances of Roopaka Talam in the other. Her prowess in this unique musical feat is none other than the Avadhanam, a rare and endangered performance form with roots reaching back to the medieval era.
Shivapriya Vishwanathan's odyssey with Konnakkol unfolded serendipitously, like the sweet melody of an unexpected symphony. Konnakkol, with its rhythmic allure, beckoned to her, claiming her artistic spirit at the tender age of 10. In an unforeseen turn of events, the art of Dual Talam revealed itself to Shivapriya, forever binding her to the world of rhythms. “Talam is a formation of mathematical patterns, a calculation per se, but also a language of the divine through beats and cadences”, says the prodigy Shivapriya.
For the past 15 years, Shivapriya Vishwanathan has been immersed in a transformative musical journey under the tutelage of the esteemed Smt. Lakshmi Shree and Shri A S Murali. However, her musical odyssey began much earlier, at the tender age of 4, when she embarked on the path of vocal music under the guidance of her father. This early exposure laid the foundation for her musical prowess, setting the stage for the extraordinary talents she would later showcase in the realm of Konnakkol.
Shivapriya's fascination with dual talam was sparked by the awe-inspiring stories of Artists. Their ability to perform Avadhanam with not only his hands but also incorporating movements of the legs, head, and even the subtle blinking of the eye left an indelible impression on her young mind. This revelation ignited a fervent curiosity within Shivapriya, compelling her to delve deeper into the intricacies of this ancient art form.
The culmination of her dedication and passion brought forth a unique opportunity—an opportunity to share the stage with the illustrious Grammy Award Winner, Viku Vinayakram Ji. This collaboration is not merely a musical milestone for Shivapriya; it is a cherished moment that reflects the harmonious fusion of tradition and contemporary acclaim.
Avadhānaṃ, in its essence, can be likened to the clinical model of divided attention, reaching the pinnacle of cognitive prowess. For a child to master this art at a tender age is in fact, a question to be answered only by the divine. This exceptional skill demands an unparalleled level of concentration, memory power, and an extraordinary ability to navigate through multiple tasks concurrently. At its core, it challenges an individual's capacity to respond simultaneously to various tasks or task demands. The multifaceted nature of these tasks, ranging from spontaneously crafting a poem to keeping a meticulous count of randomly ringing bells, not only speaks to the prodigious memory required but also underscores the necessity for a deep understanding of literature, music, and prosody.
Shivapriya Vishwanathan's gratitude plays seamlessly around her Guru, Shri Ghatam Raja Ram Ji, a figure she holds in the highest regard. With affectionate admiration, Shivapriya describes him as the epitome of patience, a virtue that has left an indelible mark on her heart. In her own words, he stands as the most patient person she has ever had the privilege to encounter. What sets Shri Ghatam Raja Ram Ji apart is his ability to tailor his teachings to the unique needs of each student. Shivapriya fondly recalls the personalized attention she received under his guidance. Recognizing her mathematical inclinations, he not only acknowledged but also nurtured her interest by providing specialized practices and exercises. This bespoke approach allowed Shivapriya to delve into the depths of her art while fostering a deeper connection with her musical journey. He allowed her to explore and play with her nadais, unleashing the creative spirit within. “The freedom to experiment, coupled with the guidance of a patient and understanding Guru, became the catalyst for my artistic growth”, said the inspired student.
Under the guidance of her esteemed Guru, Shri Ghatam Raja Ram Ji, Shivapriya embraced the opportunity to delve into the mystique of an ancient instrument called Jallari, locally known as Gethu. Jallari is a percussion instrument, and its resonance echoes predominantly within the sacred confines of Avudaiyarkoil. The temple, known for its profound spiritual significance, follows a unique tradition—the idol is said to be in meditation, and worship is conducted through a sacred silence. In lieu of the traditional nadhaswaram, Jallari assumes a central role in this distinctive form of worship, renowned for its subtlety and nuanced musical expression. The instrument, once fading into obscurity, has found a revival, thanks to the dedicated efforts of those like Shri Ghatam Raja Ram Ji. Today, there are only two performing artists for this unique instrument. Shivapriya is a bearer of tradition, carrying this ancient musical legacy into the future. She made a documentary about the instrument which can be accessed through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_2Ky_4QFTI&t=130s
In the crescendo of Shivapriya Vishwanathan's musical journey, certain moments stand out like radiant notes, etched in the melody of her memories. Among these, a particular day shines brightly—a day when she stood before the maestro Zakir Hussain, rendering a performance that resonated with the brilliance of her artistry. To receive personal appreciation from the legend was not just a moment of acclaim but a testament to the heights her talent had reached. Yet, amidst these star-studded accolades, Shivapriya holds another gem close to her heart—the recording of the video "Madrasana" with Br Somashekar Jois Ji. This experience holds a unique place in her musical chronicles, marking her first foray into the realm of digital recording. The impact of that moment reverberates through her mind, creating a lasting imprint on her artistic soul. She cherishes the musical collaborations with the Kanjeera Quartet, featuring Vidwans B Shree Sundarkumar, KV Gopala Krishnan, BS Purushotaman, and Anirudh Athreya. Additionally, her participation in the concert series "Divine Sound" alongside Umayalpuram Mali's group, under the guidance of her Guru Ghatam Rajaram ji, further enriches her profeciency.
At the heart of Shivapriya Vishwanathan's musical journey lies a profound sense of devotion—an unwavering connection to the divine. With deep reverence, she proudly declares herself an ardent devotee of Mahaperiyava and Sri Kapali Karpagambal. For Shivapriya, every note she plays, every rhythm she orchestrates, is a sacred offering to the divine forces that inspire and guide her.
In the symphony of gratitude that resonates within her heart, Shivapriya begins with her first thanks to the divine, acknowledging the spiritual currents that flow through her music. Following this celestial acknowledgment, her gratitude extends to her parents, the pillars of support who nurtured her passion from its earliest whispers. Each note she plays is a testament to their love and encouragement. But the melody of gratitude doesn't end there. It embraces each and every guru and inspiration who has played a pivotal role in shaping her artistic identity. In the grand ensemble of life, her mentors become the orchestrators of wisdom, guiding her through the depths of Konnakkol and beyond.
In the final refrain of our conversation, Shivapriya Vishwanathan shares a poignant message, resonating like a profound melody that lingers in the air. Her words carry the weight of universal truth—a call to embrace and preserve the traditional art forms in every family that may have been overshadowed or lost amidst the waves of foreign invasions. As her words linger in the air, they echo the sentiment that traditions once embraced and nurtured, become timeless melodies that bridge the past, present, and future. In this parting note, Shivapriya Vishwanathan extends an invitation—a melody beckoning all to reconnect with their cultural roots, to revive the forgotten tunes, and proudly carry forward the legacy of traditional art forms for generations to come.
|| Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitah ||
Vigneshwaran, Senior Correspondent of TheVerandahClub.com is both a skilled digital content writer and marketer by profession, as well as an avid independent writer driven by his passion. His literary talents extend to crafting beautiful poems and captivating short stories. In addition to these creative pursuits, he has also authored a book titled "Halahala," which can be found on Wattpad.
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