Saturday, June 4, 2011

Learning the symphony of beats

Indianexpress Express News Service ,
The New Indian Express
Updated Jun 01, 2011 at 11:03am IST

Sathish Babu

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The nearly two dozen tablas lend a rhythm to the cool breeze at Vyloppilli Samskrithi Bhavan, creating an impromptu symphony with the drizzle of showers that kept coming back. This day-long ‘riyaz’, in the lap of nature, was special to the 19 learners who had assembled here from various parts of the State. Under the guidance of Sathish Babu,disciple of Ustad Alla Rakha, the participants - all of them students of tabla under various teachers - fine tuned their method of practising the lessons at home.
"A group ‘riyaz’ benefits you a great deal. This is a regular feature in the schools in North India. It will help you perfect the practice sessions undertaken at home and flawed methods do not creep in. Besides, it is refreshing rather than practising alone, especially as a beginner,” says Sathish.
The ace practitioner has been giving concerts and accompanying maestros since 2004 when he returned to Thiruvananthapuram, his hometown, after the grooming in Mumbai. “I stayed in the home of Ustad Alla Rakha for one year and then found a place nearby to move out. Those days, it was riyaz, day in and day out and group sessions were particularly enjoyable.”
Sathish organised the first group practice last month at the same venue and was surprised at the overwhelming response from students - his own and those studying under other gurus. “It was word of mouth publicity. My students informed their friends and they sent SMSes to others and so on. I am really happy that people have arrived from as far as from Thrissur,” he said, introducing us to Abdul Nasar, a businessman who had brought his two sons along for the ‘riyaz’.
"They are both learning tabla under Pandit Subhankar Banerjee in Kolkata. During vacations, they travel to their Guru and stay with him. He gives them enough homework to last through the intervals in between,” says Abdul Nasar. Shaheen, in class X and Sahil, in class VII, are more than eager to lap up the hard-earned lessons, up North and down South.

Sandeep Sagar, a BCA graduate, has been training under Sathish for 12 years now, but has never participated in competitions in school or college. “Competitions have never lured me and that is not what I learn tabla for,” says the soft-spoken Sandeep, and shares a smile with his Guru.

Sandeep Sagar
Sathish says.. “I teach my students how to play this wonderful instrument and to enjoy it. I cannot train them for competitions. Sandeep started coming to my home as a toddler and stayed with us all day, sharing our meals and playing around. But those who learn from me use their knowledge in a variety of ways, some play for music troupes, some have their eyes fixed on winning contests and some others learn for the pure joy of playing tabla,” he says with a smile.
Radhakrishnan, a civil contractor from Kayamkulam, nods in agreement. For eight years now, his Sundays have been kept apart for trips to Sathish’s home in Thiruvananthapuram. These days, he brings along his five-year-old son in the hope that he will pick up a taste for his father’s passion. Just as Karthik, a first standard student of Loyola, was loitering around the mandapam at Vyloppilli because his parents had brought him over as instructed by Sathish. “He began his lessons at Sathish Sir’s recently, and is often asked to simply listen to the seniors playing,” says Karthik’s mother Subha.
At past one in the afternoon, the beats did not sound tired. The group dispersed for a quick lunch before getting back to work. They wanted to make the most of this special riyaz before calling it a day at 6 pm.

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