It was the closing day of the five day Spring camp at Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (called SAM henceforth) and I got the opportunity to experience the same, thanks to Chennai Bloggers Club. Five of the bloggers got together and travelled for over a couple of hours to reach SAM located at Seekinankuppam village on the East Coast Road.

@ SAM

We reached the location at 1 pm and Diane, our host at SAM made sure we had lunch before giving us the campus tour and explaining about the various happenings. Vayitrukku unavu, piragu dhan sevikku – but the food was good, a common one for faculty, students and guests alike. The ambience for music was set right here when I picked up a conversation in the neighbouring table where its occupants were humming and discussing some technique over lunch.

Campus Tour

During the campus tour we visited the various floors, practice and recital halls for various instruments, the open arena. We came to know that the entire campus is designed in the shape of a piano, though we couldn’t get an aerial view of that. The recital halls are named after eminent musicians. All practice rooms are sound proof. Students are allowed to use the practice halls to sing or play in groups or solo any time. The open arena on the terrace is used for jamming sessions by students every Thursday.

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In fact the entire college atmosphere is filled with music, and I am sure it would be a stupendous experience studying there. It seems the longest term degree that could be had is the Bachelor’s degree programme which is tied up with McNally Smith College of Music in the USA. Apart from that there are also smaller courses, diplomas and workshops conducted in music production, live performance and such themes.

Konnakol Class

We got the opportunity to sit in one of the classes happening at that time, which turned out to be Indian Music – Konnakol class by Ghatam Karthik. At least I sat the class’s length, and the experience is worth a post by itself. He built the class from the basics of “tha dhi thom nam” and the various nadais, rhythmic rests and kaarvais. From there we (everyone present in that class) gradually went on to recite in sync, complex set of jathis in sankeernam (represents nine). A sample of the patterns that were explained, below:

Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham tham tham tham tha||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|| Tham tham tham tha tham||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham *pause* tham tha tham||

(in Lavangi scale – S R1 M1 D1 S :: S D1 M1 R1 S)

S,; R,; MDM R; M; DSD M, D, SMR SRMDRS||
;; ;; RS,D,; SD,M,; DM,R,; MRM||
;; ;; thari kita thaka thom; thari kita thaka thom;  thari kita thaka thom; thakita||
And it went on…

The class extended into an extempore ensemble of all the faculty members performing rasikapriya for us. It was euphoric, listening to Mili Vizcaino for Vocals (Western), Sid Jacobs on the Guitar, Pablo Lapidusas on the Piano, Fabio Bergamini on Drums, Johann Berby on Bass Guitar, Sreyas Narayanun for Vocal (Indian Music), Dr.S.Karthick  on the Ghatam all perform together!

L Shankar’s Speech

There was a special lecture by violinist L Shankar who spoke on various topics from his musical journey, his PhD in Ethnomusicology, his electronic dance music (EDM) band, Shakthi and his invention, the double violin. Certain words of wisdom from his speech, below:

  • Never comment on a piece of music unless you are asked for an opinion. You can even perform with them, but do not comment unless asked.
  • Practice to make your music perfect; do not practice for a performance.
  • Do not take music as a second profession – you either take it up full time or you don’t.
  • The importance of breathing and not using drugs, to youth in general, to musicians in particular.
  • I play the same way for ten people or for a huge crowd of thousands (though I wondered if this is as easy as said)

Interesting Interactions

During break, we had some interesting conversations with the students and faculty. While speaking to Karthik sir on his Lavangi korvai, he said that he had composed a whole thillana in the same raga and I was free to learn and sing it anywhere 🙂 I also got to try playing an instrument that looked like morsing – Sid said it looked like the Jew’s harp which should have been a distorted word for ‘jaws’ harp because we place it between our jaws to play. Whereas the student who had it said that she purchased it in a Tibetan shop in Pondicherry.

Thanks again to Sai from the PR agency, Diane, Rahul and Vinay from SAM. Watch out for the performance of the SAM faculty at the Egmore Museum Theatre on Apr 8th. I have attached a snippet of the kind of fusion that happens when they perform together (this is just a recording of them warming up before performance). The day’s events came to a close by a performance by the jazz fusion band playing what I understood as Hamsadwani.

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

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