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T. S. Nandakumar: A Maestro’s Journey in Carnatic Percussion

T. S. Nandakumar: A Maestro's Journey in Carnatic Percussion
Photo Courtesy: T S Nandakumar

In the world of Carnatic music, few names resonate as profoundly as T. S. Nandakumar, a maestro whose mastery over the mridangam and other percussion instruments has not only earned him international acclaim but also played a pivotal role in the dissemination of Indian classical music across the globe. With an illustrious career that spans several decades, Nandakumar, affectionately known as TSN, has been instrumental in elevating the status of Indian percussion music, particularly through his educational and philanthropic endeavors.

A Legacy Rooted in Tradition

Born in the village of Ambalappuzha in Kerala, India, TSN was introduced to the world of Carnatic music at a young age. Under the tutelage of Shri Kaithavana Madhavadas, he underwent rigorous training in the gurukula samprada tradition, mastering the mridangam and other percussion instruments. His passion for music was not just limited to playing; TSN was determined to share his knowledge and love for Carnatic music with the world. This led to the establishment of TSN’s Percussive Arts Centre Inc. (TSNPAC) in Mumbai in 1998, a premier institution dedicated to the teaching and promotion of Carnatic percussion.

Spreading Carnatic Rhythms Beyond Borders

TSNPAC, under TSN’s visionary leadership, has become a beacon for students of Carnatic music, offering specialized classes in mridangam, ghatam, kanjira, morsing, thavil, and konnakol. The institution’s annual concerts have featured performances by Carnatic legends such as T N Krishnan, N. Rajam, and N. Ramani, to name a few. In 2008, to mark the 10th anniversary of TSNPAC, a grand concert featuring more than a hundred students on stage was organized, further solidifying the institution’s reputation as a hub for Carnatic arts.

TSN’s commitment to promoting Carnatic music extended to the United States when he incorporated TSNPAC in New Jersey. Through this expansion, TSN has been able to engage with a wider audience, introducing them to the nuanced world of Carnatic percussion. His efforts have not gone unnoticed; TSN and his students have graced stages at prestigious venues such as Lincoln Center, showcasing the beauty and complexity of Indian percussion to Western audiences.

A Mentor to Many

TSN’s teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that music is a universal language that transcends cultural and geographical barriers. This ethos is reflected in the diverse backgrounds of his students, many of whom have gone on to become full-time musicians and graded artists by All India Radio. TSNPAC’s Mridangam Arangetrams are a testament to the rigorous training and dedication of its students, who perform alongside acclaimed artists without prior rehearsal, demonstrating their mastery of the art. “He has authored books like “Roots of Mridangam” and “Intricacies of Mridangam” which serve as invaluable guides for the students and educators alike in the field of Carnatic percussion.”

Honoring Tradition and Fostering Innovation

Beyond his role as an educator, TSN has been a prolific performer and collaborator, participating in international festivals and workshops that highlight the richness of Indian drumming traditions. His discography, including the acclaimed “Jewels of Rhythm” series, showcases his versatility and innovative approach to Carnatic music. TSN’s contributions to the field have been recognized with numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Shanti Foundation in Chennai, Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbulakshmi Sangeetha Pracharya Best Teacher Award from Shanmukhananda Fine Arts in Mumbai, Best Teacher Award by the Bhairavi Fine Arts Society, USA, and Excellence Award by the Senator of New Jersey, USA, to name a few.

A Cultural Ambassador

Through TSNPAC and his various musical endeavors, TSN has emerged as a cultural ambassador, bridging the gap between traditional Indian music and global audiences. His work exemplifies the power of music to connect people, fostering a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of Carnatic percussion. As TSN continues to inspire the next generation of musicians, his legacy stands as a testament to the enduring appeal and relevance of Indian classical music in the contemporary world.

In conclusion, T. S. Nandakumar’s journey in Carnatic percussion is not just a story of personal achievement but a narrative of dedication to the preservation and promotion of Indian classical music. Through TSNPAC and his myriad contributions, TSN has ensured that the rhythms of Carnatic percussion continue to resonate far and wide, touching the lives of students, musicians, and audiences across the globe.

Published by: Nelly Chavez

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