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South Indian mridangam
 
Apprentice Ullas Rao with Pravin Sitaram, South Indian mridangam, 2009; Westwood, Massachusetts; Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
Apprentice Ullas Rao with Pravin Sitaram, South Indian mridangam, 2009

Westwood, Massachusetts
Photography by Maggie Holtzberg
 
Tuning the mridangam; Apprenticeship - South Indian mridangam; 2010: Westwood, Massachusetts
Ullas Rao and Pravin Sitaram; Apprenticeship - South Indian mridangam; 2010: Westwood, Massachusetts
Pravin Sitaram playing mridangam; Apprenticeship - South Indian mridangam; 2010: Westwood, Massachusetts
verticle bar Artist
Srinivas Pravin Sitaram
Shrewsbury, MA
verticle bar apprentice
Ullas Rao
Westwood, MA
Pravin Sitaram is a master of the mridangam, the double-headed drum that provides the primary rhythmic accompaniment in the performance of South Indian Carnatic music. This ancient music is highly complex. Equal importance is given to melody, rhythm, and lyrics. The mridangam player has the primary responsibility of keeping time or talam while providing support to the main artist.

The traditional method of learning Carnatic music is through one-on-one master-disciple transmission. Mridangam fingering technique, knowledge of the various talas, the ability to vocalize the percussion and accompaniment skills are passed on orally. Who one studied with is always part of the story and that lineage is carefully preserved. In this case, it was Guru P.S.Parameswaran, a prominent teacher in Mumbai, that first taught Pravin. Guru Parameswaran is a disciple of the legendary Palghat T. S. Mani Iyer, considered to be one of the greatest mridangam players of all time.

Pravin Sitaram moved to the Boston area in 1995 and has been teaching here since 1997. His subtle handling of the mridangam has won him many accolades in Indian musical circles and he is among the most sought after artists for accompaniment for Carnatic music in the area.

Ullas Rao was only seven when he began to study drumming with Pravin. He had the great advantage of already studying Carnatic vocal music, which continues to serves him well in learning to accompany other musicians. In 2009, the pair was awarded an MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to delve deeper into the art of South Indian drumming. During the year, they will concentrate on how to accompany the most elaborate piece of a Carnatic concert, Ragam Tanam Pallavi. Some of the things they will work on are playing well at various speeds, reducing or tapering phrases, creating the bass tone variation with the left hand side of the drum, and improving Ullas' vocal skills.
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