Dr. Trichy Sankaran is a global ambassador for the mridangam, a double-headed South Indian drum. Crafted from the wood of the jackfruit tree, the instrument has a rich history. It is depicted in ancient temple carvings across Karnataka, and prototypes were used to accompany early Hindu religious ceremonies. Indian epics such as the Ramayana refer to it by name, describing the mridang-like sound of stormclouds.
Few can play it like Dr. Sankaran - a classical master and prolific fusioneer who has devoted his life to furthering its cultural and technical reach. Born in Tamil Nadu, his early musical life followed a typical sequence - childhood training within the family, rigorous instruction from an esteemed guru, and burgeoning acclaim as a young accompanist. But at age 30 his path deviated sharply, as he took up an unexpected invitation to teach Carnatic rhythm in Canada.
He left for Toronto’s York University in 1971, expecting to be there a couple of years at most. But he became fascinated by the challenges of the role, staying for the long term to formulate new methods of rhythmic instruction. He has taken on thousands of students and collaborated widely, working with dancers, jazz groups, classical orchestras, Gamelan ensembles, and West African drummers. He returns to Chennai each year as a star accompanist in the Chennai Music Season, but has never moved back to India.
"There is always a spiritual dimension to the laya. The pranas [life elements] of rhythm have to be found...You must develop this deeper sense. I use rhythms to meditate, to really clear the mind."
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