(Editor's Note: Vidwan N Narayanaswamy is the Disciple of Kalaimamani Sri Guruvayur Dorai.)
Please tell us something about your native place, childhood and family.
I was born in Kalladikodu in Palakkad District of Kerala… I was born into a family which encouraged and propagated classical music by all means… My father was a trained vocalist and a harmonium player and my mother was an ardent lover of music who was also a trained kaikkottikkali dancer.
What inspired you to learn Mridangam? Please tell us about your initial years of learning.
Since my father was into music, he was very much interested in me also pursuing a classical art form and I was very inspired by his musical aptitude… I developed a flair for singing initially and then it bloomed into my love for learning mridangam when Vid.Nataraja Pillai used to visit our house every day to rehearse with my father (Vid.Gopalakrishnan Iyer). I started my initial lessons in Mridangam under him.
When and how did you decide to take up mridangam professionally?
I started my career as a Mridangam player by playing for Bhajans. Later on, I moved on to accompany Classical Dancers seeking for opportunities professionally .
Tell us about duality in profession (i.e. working full time in Raman Institute and an artiste) which you have been doing for many years.
I could strike a balance between music and office considering rehearsals during the weekdays was either early morning or late evenings. Concerts used to happen during the weekends. This atmosphere helped me manage work and music gracefully.
How and when did your association with Nrityakalamandiram and Bharatanjali start?
It was 1992 when I started my association with Guru B Bhanumati and Nrityakalamandiram.
You have been a part of Bharatanjali ever since its inception. Would you like to share a few experiences with us while working and being a part of creating new Choreographies?
The best part about Guru B Bhanumati is that she is a perfectionist and purist in her medium of work. Her working style is very inspiring to watch even to a common man. It thus paved way for musicians like me also to be inspired by her working nature because she is not only a beautiful dancer but also a wonderful human being.
Bharatanjali has dancers who are dedicated students of dance and are wonderful human beings who have always been very respectful towards everyone. Being a musician and being a part of a choreographic process has also widened my horizons in playing for dance. I am very privileged to work with such wonderful, hardworking, dedicated and humble artists like Guru Bhanumathi and Sheela Chandrashekar.
Differences and similarities in accompanying music and a dance concert?
Difference is that the Manodharmam escalates during a vocal concert for a mridangam player whereas during a dance program there is an adherence to be followed to the performer. Similarity is that the playing nature for music and dance from a mridangam player should spring out “Sowkhyam” (the very essence) to the art and not playing unnecessarily.
If an individual intends to accompany a dance concert, what are few primary rules which one has to follow or incorporate to make the concert a success?
As an accompanist to dance, following the dancer’s footwork and playing at apt instances to enhance the dancer’s Abhinayam is what highlights a mridangam player. During a tillana, following the korvais created, with confidence matters even to the mridangam player and not only the dancer and nattuvanar. In this process of growing as an accompanist to play for dance, one also needs to develop his/her own style in playing so that there is a uniqueness that the artiste will be known for.
Your message to the young minds who are learning an art form and for those who have considered art as their profession.
My only message is that never forget your roots. However far and wide one goes, he/she needs to know what triggered them to be wherever they are today. Learning should not be for a specific purpose but should be because of the love for it.