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HeArtbeat Ensemble - Carnatic Music With A Twist

Ranjani Saigal

Members of the heArtbeat ensemble, S.Karthik (Ghatam, Konnakol and Vocal), Embar S. Kannan (Silent Violin) , U.P. Raju (Mandolin), Poongulam S. Subramanian (Mridangam) Papanasam Sethuraman (Kanjira). N. Sundar (Morsing & Tabla) gave a scintillating classical music concert with lot of percussion accent.  The concert, presented by MITHAS, was held at the Kresgee Auditorium on Sunday, October 1, 2005. 

Why such an ensemble? “It is our attempt at doing something that may bring Carnatic music to a wider audience. We also feel that there is a lot of interesting things that can be done with percussion which has not been fully explored” said Ghatam Karthik who leads the group. The group walked onto the stage with all musicians dressed in identical white Kurta Pyjamas, a rare sight for Carnatic musicians.

The evening began with Mallari in Khanda Triputa followed by a Hamsadhwani varnam "Yaanai Mukhane". The Varnam was a composition by Ghatam Karthik. â€œWe did not want to touch or alter the works of the Carnatic music trinity or of other great composers. They are beautiful creations and should be presented only as the composers intended. God has been kind to bless me with talent to write lyrics. I have composed may of pieces that are being presented this evening.” said Karthik. Karthik also is blessed with singing talent and that was

A piece called “Pulse” in the unusual ragam Ratipatipriya  grabbed the attention of the audience. It was a stunning. Embar Kannan enchanted with his lilting Ratipatipriya Raga essay. The percussionists  provided a  rare  duet between Mridangam and Kunnakol Sol.

All pieces were used to showcase the talent of each of the soloists. One of the lead pieces of the evening was "Srotaswini" which was enthralling and the Tani Avartanam that followed the piece was very well structured. The Tani was under the leadership of Poongulam Subramanium who created a  smooth flow between all instruments including Mridangam , Morsing, Ghatam , Kunnakol and Kanjira. There were other pieces including a wonderful RTP.

“It was fabulous” was the unanimous comment heard about the performance  in the audience many of who were new to Carnatic music. Karthik who hopes bring Carnatic music to a wider audience was inspired by Pandit Ravi Shankar's work . “Pandit Ravi Shankar has worked hard to make Hindustani music and the Sitar popular in the West.  We are very inspired by his work and would like to use ensemble ideas like he did to create awareness about Carnatic music and our percussion instruments.  We  feel that an ensemble structure is familiar to people in the West and we hope that our music can reach beyond traditional audiences” says Karthik.

 How do people in Chennai, the home of Carnatic music receive this group and their music? “They love our work. Leading musicians have given us their blessings and we are encouraged by that” says Karthik.

When gifted musicians who are excellent performers come together to present anything the music can only be wonderful. The heArtbeat presentation was clear evidence for this theory. Each performer in the group is a maestro in his own right. To see them come together in this beautiful fashion was a treat.


Unfortunately the attendance was not as large as it was for the Pandit Ravi Shankar’s concert the next day. If this young group continues their work and builds a name for them, I am sure they can achieve their goal of making other instruments like Mridangam a household name in the West and the audience would grow. There is a lot to learn from Pandit Ravi Shankar’s approach to making music accessible to the non- Indian –classical music aficionado. The concept of creating short and simple compositions is one of them. As these excellent  musicians refine their work I am sure they will go as far in music as they have already come – which is a long way indeed!



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