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Mridangam Arangetram: Maheedhar Athreya

Mayuram Rajam Kumar

Mridangam Arangetram: Maheedhar Athreya

by Mayuram Rajam Kumar, Cromwell, CT

In the month of August 2022, the Indian community of New England witnessed a wonderful mridangam arangetram by young Maheedhar Athreya, at the J Everett Collins Center for performing arts, Andover, in the august presence of the chief guest for the evening, Sangitha Kalanidhi Shri Trichy Sankaran - a doyen among percussionists of India. Maheedhar, who is the grandson of Sangeetha Choodamani Shri O.S.Thiagarajan and son of Smt Aparna Balaji and Balaji Rajamani, is a disciple of ‘Nada Vallabha’ Shri Neyveli R Narayanan, one of the senior most disciples of ‘Padma Vibhushan’ Umayalapuram Shri K Sivaraman. It was indeed a great pleasure to be part of this event, amidst such eminent artists / stalwarts.


14 year old Maheedhar Athreya has been learning the art of mridangam for the past 7 years from his Guru Neyveli Shri Narayanan mostly online, given the geographical distances involved. With a wonderful set of highly accomplished artists on stage - Shri Bharatsundar on vocal, Shri Kamalakiran Vinjamuri on the violin and Shri Ravi Balasubramanian on the ghatam, Maheedhar played with such ease and confidence that the audience felt it was a full fledged professional concert, and not just an arangetram. For each and every composition rendered by the vocalist, Maheedhar embellished and enhanced the rhythmic patterns so aptly and beautifully. Be it the slow paced Janani Ninnu Vina or the fast paced Nenarunchi Nanu, Maheedhar was able to keep up with it.


Vidwan Sri Bharatsundar provided the vocal anchor for Maheedhar. Bharatsundar is an amazing and one of the most accomplished carnatic musicians from India. He effortlessly renders the most intricate and complex nuances in carnatic music, through his well poised expression of melody and rhythm. The kutchery (concert) was a mix of krithis in a variety of thalams (rhythmic cycles) and gathis (beat-tempos) which possibly were intended to expose Maheedhar's skill in adapting to various rhythms. Maheedhar did very well in this exercise and showed his deep understanding of accompanying. The challenges posed by Bharat through niraval and swara prastharams to Kanakku (calculations to rhythm) were well taken by Maheedhar unhesitantly. Bharat gave crisp alapana on ragas Varali, Reethi gowla, and Mohanam befitting and elevating the occasion. Sri Kamalakiran Vinjamuri - the young prodigy - provided very sweet accompaniment on his violin strings. He beautifully enhanced the ragams and the melodic exchanges (in niraval and kalpana swarams) between the vocalist and the violinist were very enjoyable as they were entertaining. 

Thani Avardhanam (percussion solo) by Maheedhar and Shri Ravi Balasubramaniam was crisp and energetic, maintaining melody and sweetness. Maheedhar showcased his rigorous training through a clean execution of the thani designed in 2-kalai Adi (song 
Jagadeeshvari), aligned to a one-off beat edam. Sri Ravi Balasubramaniam on Ghatam gave great support and inducement to Maheedhar throughout the concert, especially during thani. Ravi the seasoned ghatam player and a Robotics professor by profession, unleashed his robotic fingers on the Ghatam during thani, guiding Maheedhar ably.

The Chief Guest Sri Trichy Sankaran appreciated the well-rounded teaching of sri Narayanan and expressed happiness over the playing of Maheedhar and how he handled the stage and commented on the good support provided by Ghatam Ravi Balasubramaniam. The hosts Sri Balaji and Smt Aparna Balaji narrated the event, their experience with Guru Narayanan who shaped Maheedhar against the odds of distance and a teenager in the making. Grandfather Sri OST shared his long decades of experience and insisted upon parents to train the kids on classical music which would provide them discipline and culture. He sang glimpses of Keerthans by great authors such Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Dikshidhar to cite valuable references buttressing how this art continues to live with one long after the learning years, elevating them all along.


Many in the audience mentioned that the music tradition in Maheedhar's family - guidance from his grandfather Shri.OST, musician mother Smt. Aparna Balaji, connoisseur of arts - his father Shri Balaji Rajamani and his sister Mahathi Athreya (a musician and a dancer herself, who also emceed the evening) will facilitate him to have richer training to better his talents.


Any Indian function never ends without tasteful food served and serviced and so was that day with food catered from Maya Indian Grill.

From decorations, all the arrangements, welcoming to catering food, every detail was tended to and to the point, In all, it was a memorable arangetram event day with Great music, courteous hosting, good gathering of artists, presence of great personalities like Trichy Sri Sankaran, Shri
 O.S Thiagarajan and Shri Neyveli Narayanan, great food, beautiful and welcoming decorations,with the sole purpose of introducing a new mridangam artist to our Indian community. In all, it was memorable AUGUST 27, 2022 worthy of being cherished for many more days and years to come.

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