A Festival Of Underground, Experimental & International Music
April 2021
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A visit to Guru Muthuswamy and more

img_0308The last two days have been so hectic and filled with unexpected things that it has taken me time to get around to the blog. Firstly Thursday was almost a right off as the rains began to pour and we had to cancel a trip to Kalakshetra which it turned out we couldn’t have done any as they only except visitors at 8.45am in the morning. It wasn’t clear this was the case anywhere but with heavens opening up and the streets flooded the afternoon was a wash-out. Back to Wednesday, so we made our way over to the wonderful singer, teacher, guru Smt Subbulakshmi Muthuswamy’s house to witness a Carnatic singing class. Subbu as I have come to call her which is properly not very polite was the singer who sang at Counterflows. Once we find the apartment and climb the stairs we are greeted with open arms by a radiant guru Muthuswamy. It is so amazing to be invited into her house and to witness such an intimate occasion. After tea and biscuits the class begins. The two students are not the least put off by us and the singing begins. Mark asks if it is ok to record and they are so cordial it is delightful. There is a gentleness and real beauty watching guru and student work together through the ragas. At one point the Sri Lankan student is asked to improvise by guru. It is totally amazing and such a privilege to bear witness to. Ramkumar the mrindangam player who performed in Galsgow also, joins us to extend our knowledge of the tala (rhythm).

Lesson over we head for the Carnatic music bookshop around the corner. Offered a lift on a scooter I can’t refuse. The shop is brilliant and Mark and Rian buy the most amazing set of academic books on Carnatic theory. This has the makings of a really important project. That evening we meet Nandini, Guru Muthuswamy’s other violin playing daughter (Lalitha, who is in Germany’s sister) for dinner. It is so great to see Nandini again. Nandini is actually the one who started all this off.

img_0334Thursday morning and afternoon as I have said were a wash out. Rain stopped play. In the evening we headed over to The Youth Hostel which is a serious Carnatic music venue not far from Kalakshetra for the evening concerts. Luckily for us we arrive a bit early and the opening concert is running late. Luckily as what we get to hear is another revelation. Carnatic music as played by the Thirumeignanam Brothers on the extraordinary sounding pipes the Nadaswaram also accompanied by the also wonderful sounding Thavil drums. These drums sounded almost industrial with their sharpness and almost bitter sound. This was a revelatory performance. After came the star performer singer Sri. Abhishek Raghuram. A young super star Carnatic singer. Oddly we all agreed apart from our Keralan mentor Nakul that we found his performance too theatrical and flowery. But what the heck, it was another lovely evening of music. Then of for food where Dosa is king.