Rhythmic Resonance: T. S. Nandakumar’s Global Impact on Classical Percussion

Featured & Cover Rhythmic Resonance T S Nandakumar's Global Impact on Classical Percussion

Well known around the world for his mastery of the Mridangam, a percussion instrument that is a primary rhythmic accompaniment in Carnatic music ensemble, and with expertise in various other percussion instruments, including konnakol (vocal percussion), thavil, ghatam, kanjira, and morsing, T. S. Nandakumar is a world-renowned south Indian music artist, showcasing his versatility in Carnatic music, has devoted his entire life to the cause of popularizing Indian classical music around the world.

TSN Mridangam 05 (1)T. Shankaranarayanan Nandakumar, popularly known as “TSN” has played a pivotal role in spreading the knowledge about Indian drums, particularly the mridangam in the United States through his stage performances at prestigious orchestras, participation in global music events, educational initiatives and contributions, collaborations, global impact, and philanthropic endeavors. He has demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility through charity work, including organizing a 24-hour non-stop Akanda Seva Bhajan in aid of India’s tsunami victims.

Nandakumar’s belief that “Music is like a horizon which is never ending and has no boundaries” has enabled him toLifetime Achievement Award by SAFE (1) take music with him wherever he goes. TSN’s participation in international festivals and workshops has contributed to the global awareness of Indian percussion, showcasing the richness of Indian drumming traditions and providing a platform for cross-cultural exchange. By actively participating in musical collaborations and performances in the United States, TSN not only showcases the beauty of the mridangam but also educates audiences about the intricacies and significance of this traditional Indian percussion instrument.

As a percussionist, TSN has accompanied luminaries in Carnatic music, including Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M. D. Ramanathan, Bhimsen Joshi, T. N. Krishnan, M. Balamuralikrishna and others. His role as an accompanist has greatly enhanced the events with the performances of these eminent artists.

Through his musical engagements, TSN engages in cultural diplomacy, fostering an appreciation for Indian musicTSN Mridangam 06 (1) and drumming traditions. This indirect form of education occurs as audiences experience the artistry and cultural depth of the mridangam during performances.

“Through music, you can reach god,” says Nandakumar who wants to spread this path to the Almighty. Not satisfied with his mastery of classical Indian music, TSN took upon himself the mission to spread Carnatic music around the world. He established TSN’s Percussive Arts Centre. Inc (TSNPAC), where students are trained in diverse instruments. Since its inception in 1998 in Mumbai, India, TSNPAC has evolved into a hub for Mridangam (1)students to refine their skills and collaborate within the realm of Carnatic arts.  Upon migrating to New Jersey, USA, TSN seamlessly incorporated TSNPAC, offering courses in higher learning for Carnatic percussion enthusiasts in the United States. Today, TSNPAC stands as a beacon for aspiring artists seeking to master the intricacies of Carnatic percussion.

It’s well known around the world that through TSNPAC, TSN has played a very important role in teaching and training students in diverse percussion instruments, including the mridangam. In addition, Internationally famous musical institutions have tapped into TSN’s expertise, hosting his performances and through his highly acclaimed special, lectures in percussive arts.

TSN Mridangam 02 (1)TSN has performed at the Thyagaraja Festival, a prestigious and culturally significant experience for Carnatic musicians. Thyagaraja Aaradhana Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, is the largest Indian classical music festival outside of India.

“I feel very good about my accomplishment in spreading my knowledge about music to everyone. I have students all over the world, students of Indian origin and from other nationalities, some of them have become full-time musicians and are accompanying renowned artists,” Nandakumar says with pride. TSNPAC, in addition to providing training to music enthusiast, has successfully organized numerous annual events by notable artists in Carnatic music, including luminaries such as K J Yesudas, N. Rajam, N. Ramani, A. Kanyakumari, and L. Subramaniam.

Mridangam Arangetrams are held annually at TSNPAC, where graduating students perform along with accomplishedLeading concert (1) artists, without prior rehearsal, which is a unique approach that serves as a culminating experience for their graduation from the Center.  TSNPAC’s significant milestones include a decennial celebration marked by a grand performance featuring over 100 students. The center conducts Mridangam Arangetram annually, where students, without prior rehearsal, accompany main artists like A. Kanyakumari, culminating in a graduation ceremony. They follow in his footsteps by training their own students in the style of TSN and continuing to promote Carnatic percussive arts.

In addition to training students of South Asian students, several artists from the West, who are now well known forTSN Mridangam 04 (1) their expertise in Carnatic Music include Paula Jeanine, Todd Isler, Johann Berby, Guillaume Barraud, Will Calhoun, Bill Buchen, Lenora Zenzlai Helm, and Bernhard Schimpelsberger. TSNPAC’s legacy embodies a commitment to excellence, providing a platform for students to explore and flourish in the rich tapestry of Carnatic music.

TSN’s discography, featuring solo performances and collaborations with various artists, serves as a valuable resource for those interested in Indian percussion. His recorded works contribute to the preservation and dissemination of this musical knowledge. His album, “Jewels of Rhythm” by his ensemble has earned him high accolades. Vibrative Rhythms by TSN is a fusion of Carnatic, Hindustani, and Western music as a one-man ensemble With K J Yesudas (1)of mridangam, konnakol, thavil, ghatam, kanjira and the morsing played by himself. Author of several books, to educate students to the themes of Indian Percussive Arts, TSN is currently working on writing books that cover advanced topics.

TSN Mridangam 03 (1)Son of Shrimati Saraswati and Shri Balakrishna Panicker, a great supporter of the arts as member of the Devaswom board in Kerala and actively involved in promoting Carnatic devotional music in temples and organizing concerts, TSN was born in the village of Ambalappuzha in Kerala, India. As a child, he was fascinated with the rhythmic chants and bhajans. Nandakumar soon became a ‘Laya Vidwan’ due to his mastery of Carnatic percussive components: Laya, Raaga, Thaala and Bhava.

“At a very early age I started learning mridangam (A South Indian Classical Carnatic double-sided drum) because I was fascinated about percussion and its beats when my uncle’s (Shri Amabalapuzha Brothers) concert was held in the temple where I used to put Thalam,” recalls Nandakumar. “When I started learning, I enjoyed playing mridangam and other percussion instruments. I was so passionate about it that I got into teaching mridangam and other percussion instruments and making people aware of the importance of music.”

In Performance (1)As a young prodigy, TSN gained a reputation as an accompanist to renowned Carnatic musicians such as Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M.D. Ramanathan, S. Ramanathan, R. K. Srikantan, V. Dakshinamurthy, Bhimsen Joshi, N. Ramani, M. Balamuralikrishna, T. N. Krishnan, K. J. Yesudas, N. Rajam, T. K. Govindarao, Nedunuri Krishnanmurthy, T. V. Gopalakrishnan, Parassala . B. Ponnamal, A. Kanyakumari, M. Chandrasekaran, D. K. Jayaraman, B. V. Raman, B. V. Lakshmanan and many others.

In recognition of his great accomplishments, TSN was honored with The Lifetime Achievement Award by the ShantiTSN Mridangam 01 (1) Foundation in Chennai. He was awarded the “Best Teacher Award” from several organizations with the most prominent being awarded by Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and the Cleveland Thygaraja Aaradhana Festival and by the Shanmukhananda Fine Arts, Sangeetha Sabha, Mumbai in 2007, Bharat Ratna Dr. M. S. Subbulakshmi Sangeetha Pracharya Award), and Visionary Award by Academy of Indian Music, USA.

Dedicating his entire life to the spreading of Carnatic Music, Nandakumar has been highly sought after as a teacher in India and abroad. He has conducted several musical concerts, lectures, demonstrations, and workshops at universities in the United States abroad like Lamar University of Houston and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. TSN conducted special classes in percussive arts at the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Pittsburgh, and the Academy of Indian Music in New Jersey and Switzerland. He also conducted 24 hours nonstop Akanda Seva Bhajan (Offered a Prayer through the medium of music) with his students in Mumbai for the tsunami-affected victims of India.

Nandakumar says, “My aim of contributing to Carnatic music by spreading knowledge has been successful and I forever am indebted to my parents and my teacher. I feel even more proud that some of my students have become masters of mridangam and it’s an honor knowing that the knowledge I shared with my students is now spreading around the world, imparting to many generations.”     For more details, please visit: http://mridangam.info


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