courtesy: Sri.PP.Ramachandran
Anecdotes about Musicians—25

25.Umayalpuram Sivaraman ( 1935….)



Sri Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman was born on 17-12-1935,He is the son of Dr P. Kasiviswanatha Iyer and Smt Kamalambal. His father, a medical practitioner was an accomplished musician. Shri Sivaraman learnt music under four great and illustrious masters: Sri Arupathi Natesa Iyer, Sri Tanjavoor Vaidyanatha Iyer, Sri Palghat Mani Iyer, Sri Kumbakonam Rangu Iyengar. Academically also he scored -- a double graduate of The University of Madras (B.A., B.L.).

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A childhood fact about Sivaraman is that he was asked to practice tuning the tambura for six months by his father, when he had told him about his interest to play the mridangam .His musical talents fetched him the gift of a kanjira from his grandmother. Sivaraman had his 'arangetram' when he was ten and the debut was held in the Kalahastheeswaraswami temple in Kumbakonam. Having made his debut at a tender age of ten, Sivaraman has been in the field as a 'top notcher' for half a century now, accompanying a galaxy of maestros of recent past and artistes of great merit today, both vocal and instrumental.

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His percussion career has been a spectrum of accompaniment to a legion of musical maestros in Carnatic music –. He has to his credit several jugalbandhi concerts with the top artistes of Hindustani music like Pt. Ravishankar, Sri Hariprasad Chaurasia, top tabla artistes , Kishen Maharaj, Samta Prasad, Ustad Allah Rakha, , Zakir Hussain and others.

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He has undertaken original research in the art of mrudangam. His lecture demonstrations all over India and abroad enabled him to disseminate knowledge. He has introduced the fibre glass mrudangam to Carnatic music for the first time, improvised a mechanical jig to eliminate human error in the moulding of skins for both sides of the instrument and has done research work on tanned and untanned skins for the mrudangam. His analysis of the ingredients of the black patch has given much insight on the overtones produced by different strokes on the mrudangam.

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Sivaraman has played mrudangam in several professional recordings and in the special feature 'The Drums of India', in the United States. He has also planned and played in the cassette 'Garland of Rhythm' which has given a new dimension to the concept of thaniavarthanam. He was invited to play mrudangam in the popular and successful Tamil movie 'Mrudanga Chakravarthy'. Sri Sivaraman is a 'A' Top Grade artiste in All India Radio and Doordarshan. He has presided over the Annual Music Conference of the Indian Fine Arts Society, Madras, in 1984 and was conferred the title of Sangeetha Kala Sikhamani. Sri Sivaraman has been appointed as the Director for 'Tanjore Vaidyanatha Iyer School for Percussion' recently started by the Music Academy, Madras.
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He has given lecture demonstrations at several institutions. He has gone abroad several times on concert tours and special programmes. He participated in the Tala Vadya Kutcheri for the Festival of India in London and Washington. Stepping outside the world of
Indian classical music, he has recorded for ECM with violinist L.Shankar in a contemporary new age jazz direction with heavy Indian overtones. In 1996, he released the album Garland of Rhythm on the Magnasound label.
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He is the sole mridangam artiste in the nation to have been awarded three of the nation's highest civilian honours – Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. . He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi award. He was conferred Kalaimamani, awarded by the Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram of Tamilnadu. He got the Sangeetha Kalasikhamani. He had been appointed 'State Artiste' of the Government of Tamil Nadu . Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal has appointed Sivaraman as 'Asthana Vidwan' of Kanchi Sankara Mutt. Sri Sankaracharya Swamigal of Sarada Peetam ,Sringeri has bestowed on Sivaraman the title of Mrudanga Kalanidhi and has appointed him as 'Asthana Vidwan' of Sarada Peetam, Sringeri. He has trained many Indian and foreign students in the art of mrudangam and continues training more disciples.

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His mrudangam playing is considered to be in a class of its own, winning critical acclaim from the top-most musicians and music lovers. "There have been giants like Tanjore Vaidyanatha Iyer, Palghat Mani Iyer, Azhaghanambi Pillai in the past who handled this instrument with great dexterity. But Umayalpuram Sivaraman has beaten all past records by developing the mrudangam into a class by itself. He has almost codified the patterns and evolved a method by which all possible combinations have been worked out and perfected. That is why he is the first preference to all musicians.

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