The Sivaraman Effect

Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman is someone who is living proof that great musicians never get older — they get better. A rare treat for the devotees here at Amritapuri, the Mrudangam maestro proved once again why he is the best! The taala, the breaks and every single sound that was made resonated through the hearts and minds of devotees who were eagerly waiting for Amma’s bhajans. A visionary who pursued the essence of the Mrudanga as both an art and a science, his skill knew no bounds. Right from the start, he was clear- his solos would be of a different style, each representing a unique aspect of Mrudangam playing.

Padma Vibhushan Dr Umayalpuram Kasiviswanatha Sivaraman was born on 17-12-1935 in Tanjore – the cradle and nursery of Karnatic music and its masters. Shri Sivaraman learned this divine art under four great and illustrious masters: Sri Arupathi Natesa Iyer, Sri Tanjavoor Vaidyanatha Iyer, Sri Palghat Mani Iyer, Sri Kumbakonam Rangu Iyengar for over 15 years in a Gurukula system.

He is a man who truly enjoys being one with music, as his expressions and smiles showed it throughout. So prolific was his playing that the camera zoomed into his magic fingers — playing away , not taking their eyes off of him for a moment. It was truly hard to conceive the magic of beats generated through his every touch on the mridangam. Midway through the performance, he enthralled us all, beating with both hands on the same side, switching sides simultaneously! It was a wave of percussion –moving from a fast rhythm, slowing things down, pausing and breaking – a true master of the instrument.

Thaniyavarthanam, his famous technique, was given a new twist. “Today, it is all about fast life, fast food.. why don’t I play fast, then?”, he said with a smile. And fast it was. With over 140 pulses per minute, he performed something only a true connoisseur of Mrudangam can do! His playing creates the impression or illusion of a stringed instrument, so tuneful were his strokes. His clarity of utterance: every stroke, fast or even breezy, came out crystal clear. That is, in essence, the Sivaraman Effect — and it left everyone here at Amritapuri spellbound I Amritavarsham60.

– Varsha Suresh Kumar