Sangita Kalanidhi Trichy Sankaran
Trichy Sankaran sir is really a doyen among mridanga vidwans worthy of praise, laurels and huge following. As members have pointed out about his clarity, azutham and others things TS has achieved mastery over this instrument. In trichy he had rigorous training which included waking up at 4 am to practice for many hours. My aunt who lived next door at the Panju Iyer Stores in trichy used to recall a lot about sankaran sir's practice sessions and his rigorous training. A fitting example of the adage "Hardwork Never fails", TS sir had the good fortune to learn under stalwarts like Puvalur Venkatraman and Palani Sri M Subramania Pillai. If training alone matters, then each and every student learning from doyens become masters. Whereas the sad fact is not so. Each one earns their merit through self discipline, timely guidance and opportunities, and above all Eeshwaranugraham. TS earned all these through patience, perseverence, hardwork, commitment and strict adherence to tradition. He has shown very clearly through his playing that real merit lies in adherence to tradition than mere stage gimmickry. I have never seen him do any stage gimmickry. The greatest asset of his playing lies in his vallinam/mellinam, hard/soft strokes (loose translation though), a joyful mixture of these producing lilting tone both to the artiste on stage as well as the audience. The azutham, clarity can come only through long hours of practice and applying body, mind and soul to the patterns with full concentration. It is not easy but looks easy on performance. Strokes breathe fire, patterns find expressions, melody soothes, beats re-live, layam transcends and his whole playing touches the soul of the entire audience present on the particular day.
I have heard innumerable concerts of TS sir. His commitment to the traditional methods of playing remain unchanged. An example for this can be cited from OST sir's comment which he made about TMT sir. It seems a kriti was taught to OST sir in the 60s and the same kriti was rendered by TMT sir in the 80s without any change in the paataantara. That is the sort of commitment doyens had towards tradition was the point made by OST which can apply to TS sir's playing too. His innovations are within the tradition. His creativity surpasses the common man's imagination but stays within the boundary.
Much can be said about his accompaniment. Right from varnam till mangalam maintenance of the weight of the playing is very important. Of course all doyens have it but special mention should be made to TS sir whose weight increases as the concert progresses. This is a great quality for a mridanga vidwan. A grand fact of TS sir's playing is in the method of accompanying different types of kritis with different kalapramanams. His accompaniment for Ninnujeppakaranamemi manasa in mandari for Lalgudi sir played at Krishna Gana Sabha 1984 is a classic example of vallinam/mellinam. Especially his accompaniment during the anupallavi stands out as exceptionally brilliant. Another example i can cite is a TV recording with DKJ, MSG and TS in which DKJ sir sang Guruvarulum tiruvarulum enakkarulum ganapathiye in khanda chaapu. He has played with full vigour in that kriti without marring the beauty of either the kriti or the layam. His accompaniment to Veena recitals and playing for Tanam stands out as one of the best. One more pre-recorded with S Balachandar, in which TS has played a beautiful, unimaginable tani avartanam for 3/4 idam in Hindolam kriti. TS has known to play outstandingly for kritis like Marubalka, Padavini, Ninnujeppa and the like. Equally adept is his playing for chowkka kala kritis like Janani Ninnuvina, marivere and the likes of swarajathis. I have also observed his pauses are minimal but his vallinam/mellinam compensates for the long pauses that the other mridangists give to create effects. In other words, if one gets the vallinam/mellinam combination of TS, long pauses become redundant and unnecessary. Palani school is famous for accompanying Tiruppugazh compositions and TS is no exception to this. His accompaniment to Paniyin vinduliyagave in Khanda Dhuruva Tala set in faster pace is a classic example. There is also a CD of TS named Count 21 based on the tiruppugazh Kaadi Modi Vaadadu Nool katriduvorum, which contains two tisra beat, one khanda chaapu followed by khanda laghu totalling to 21.
Vidwan Karaikudi Subramaniam used to talk a lot about TS sir and his playing whenever i had a chance to interact with him shows the level of respect TS had with co-musicians.
The title Sangita Kalanidhi earns respect through adorning such persons of calibre and merit.
Mannarkoil J Balaji