Saturday, April 22, 2006

Who is Vikku Vinayakram?

Vikku Vinayakram is a master percussionist (ghatam) and can attract crowds even if he is the only performer on stage. But an accompanist getting such attention is a recent development in Carnatic music tradition.[image]

Lakshmi Subramaniam, author of From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy: A Social History of Music in South India, has a short piece in EPW on the changing position of the accompanist in the Carnatic music tradition. Explaining how the accompanist was pushed to the margins as part of the construction of a performative ideal in which the vocalist and the audience came together in an "interiorised acoustic space," she argues this does not work any more given Carnatic music's "patrons" are no longer only the middle-classes of cities like Chennai and Bangalore, but also NRIs in Cleveland and Chicago.

...percussion has reinvented itself as a key instrument in fusion and has begun to enjoy an almost mythic status with western audiences...also because the modern classical performer has reinvented himself seeking not the nation or its middle class as his patron or deity as the case may be, but the global audience where the perception of the instrument as well as its player occupies a different register. Here the accompanist whose self-definition as an independent artist, whose music blends easily with world music and contributes to its range and repertoire, whose personality, projection and imagination are not trapped within the confines of prescriptive and even
arbitrary notions of “spiritualism”, “classicism” and “tradition” exercise a different agency and command a different rapport with the audience.


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