The Score Magazine June 2017 issue - Page 17

A BRIEF HISTORY ON THE LEGENDARY PERCUSSIONIST Vikku ji’s exceedingly long and successful chosen field spanning about sixty-one years proves that he is a one-of-a- kind artist. In the year 1955, his father Sri Harihara Sharma introduced Vikku ji to Ghatam as there were too many mrigangists around at that time and scope to make a decent living was not easy considering the family’s financial status. This transformation for Vikku ji from mridangam to ghatam was not only for him but also for the instrument itself. He was made to get up at 4AM every morning and was given water in which the previous day’s rice was soaked after which he was made to go to the prayer room after which the father used to close the door from outside. Vikku ji would have to practice one particular set of beats till the lamp died down for want of oil. This had taken about four hours too many a time. Sharma imparted on his son the beat calculation. Since the basics were laid by his father, he was able to imbibe the nuances of playing the ghatam easily. Moreover, he was used to only hearing beats since his childhood. In March 1955, he played his first concert at Dhakshinamoorthy temple, Chennai for which the honorarium was Rs. 1. Due to persistent poverty, the family was forced to look into Cinema as well. At that time, Gantasala, Chalapathirao and Raheswararao were some of the music directors who were ruling. Vikku ji was in demand as ghatam was indispensable instrument as it’s sound heightened the total outcome of the song. He also performed with the music troupe of MK Thiyagharaja Bagavathar. During those times, it was believed that the metallic sound of the ghatam was more suited for female voices than male voices. Sulamangalam sisters, P. Leela, U.R Jeevarathnam, T. V Ratnam, to name a few, offered Vikku ji chances in their carnatic and light music concerts. He later became a permanent artist in the concerts of M.L Vasanathakumari, Radha Jayalakshmi, K.B Sundrambal and later D.K Pattamal. Since his dad believed that his career would go up the notch if he played for male singers, through his close friend Sattur Subramaniam Iyer and also violin maestro Sri T.N Krishnan, got him maximum chances. Vikku ji was also in the troupe involving Lalgudi and Umayalpuram organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. They toured Eastern Bloc Countries like Russia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Poland. In fact, they also organized a program called ‘Layavinyasam’ to popularize ghatam in rural areas of India. In the year 1966, he performed his first American UN concert tour which was attended by the representatives of all the countries and was arranged by Sri C.V Narasimhan. He accompanied the nightingale of India M.S Subbulakshmi and Sri T.K Muthy on the mridangam. He has also taught Ghatam at Berkley Center of World Music. Later, his career was enhanced where he performed with renowned artists like L Shankar(Violin), Zakir Hussain(Tabla), Hariprasad Chaurasia, Shivakumar Sharma, Briju Maharaj, Sultan Khan and Pandit Durg alal and they took the world by storm. The Score Magazine 15