at Jazz Yatra 1986, India
percussion, mridangam, morsing)
In the modern
generation of percussionists, perhaps no other individual has mastered
the intricacies of Carnatic music and the laya endowments of the
ghatam to such a great degree as Pandith T.H. Vinayakram. A child
prodigy, he started his concert career at the tender age of thirteen.
He demonstrated his amazing dexterity in accompanying the great
stalwarts of yesteryear
and recent times-Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, G.N. Balasubramaniam,
Madurai Mani Iyer, M.S. Subbulakshmi, and Maharajapuram Santhanam.
streak comes alive when he plays mind boggling rhythms for various
fusion groups, such as Shakti and J.G. Laya. He majestically finishes
many a tani avartanam by throwing his ghatam in the air and catching
it without missing a beat.
has a number of titles and awards to his name, including: "Kalaimamini"
given by the government of Tamil Nadu, India, and the First Sangeeth
Natak Academy award for ghatam in 1988, a Grammy Award in 1991 for
Best World Music Album for his participation in Mickey Hart's "Planet
Drum" in which he played ghatam and morsingh. Vinayakram was
a nominee for the 38th Annual Grammy Awards for Best World Music
LAYA" consits of the internationally
acclaimed "ghatam" (Indian earthen
pot for storage of water) player
Vikku Vinayakram, Subhas Chandra
doing "vocal percussion"
known in Carnatic music as "konnakol"
and mridangam and Joel A. (for
Almeida) on the piano. This trio
was formed to give expression to Joel A's
ideas and compositions which blend
Indian music from the south with
all jazz lovers would know, was a member
of the extremely successful
"Shakti" group which also featured John
McLaughlin, L. Shankar and Zakir
Hussain. Vikku has performed
all over the world several times and
amongst his better known performances
was the one at the Royal Festival
Hall in London during the Festival
of India in Britain — his musicality
and dazzling virtuosity brought the house down several times and he received
rave notices in the British
press. Vikku has, in differing combinations, regularly participated
in the earlier Jazz Yatra festivals. Amongst Vikku's friends and admirerers
are several jazz drummers
including Billy Cobham.
singing in jazz is as old as the music itself. The first
scat record was made when Louis Armstrong dropped the paper
on which the lyrics were written and instead
of stopping the recording turntable (in
those days tapes were non-existant)
he continued and
sang the song without using any words - by scatting. The
record turned out
to be a hit. Since then scat singing has come a long way and today
the undisputed leader in the field is the amazing Bobby McFerrin.
In our Indian traditions we have known scat singing as "alap"
(where a single word or syllable is used for vocal explorations
of the rags), the "tarana" of north and "tillana"
of south India, and the little known but well developed art of expressing
percussive sounds vocally known in south India as "konnakol".
Every Carnatic singer can do "konnakol" but few have the
gift Subhas Chandra ie endowed with and few have developed the art
to such a high level.
Upto the arrival
of Bobby McFerrin, our vocal techniques made Jazz scatting look
rudimentary, but in all fairness to Bobby it must be added that
Indian singers now need to watch out,
or at least become aware of the scope and variety of vocal sounds
and techniques iinnovated by McFerrin. Today Bobby McFerrin has
specialised in absolutely solo, unaccompanied vocalising. In certain
aspects Subhas Chandra might be declared to be Indias answer
to the McFerrin phenominon.
of Indian music with jazz has frequently been experimented with
but the results have not always been positive. These experiments
are conducted more often from the jazz side abroad and rarely from
fndia. Joel A. is a rare musical
visionary from India whose experiments in such blending seem to
have succeeded. He has acquired proficiency in various idioms that
go into a successful blend; he has learnt western classical music,
composition and the piano, Indian music in Madras (his home city)
and he is self-taught in jazz (and latin and rock music). Perhaps
the most endearing quality in Joel A. is his ability to "swing".
London is his temporary home, he is a scientist.
compositions are unique, his arrangements leaving ample room to
project the virtuosity of the greatness of the other two members of the trio. The
music moves between Indian, jazz, latin—all with a good deal of
Almeida is doing something right can even be noticed from the fact
that musicians of the caliber of Vikku and Subhas have joined hands
to form "J.G.Laya" (a named derived from the music institute
in Madras they all belong to)