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Oct. 13, 2005
CONTACT: Pam Young

Hands Full of Beauty performs at EMU to raise awareness of tsunami damage in Tamil Nadu

Ypsilanti - As part of EMU's International Week, the touring group Hands Full of Beauty will perform at EMU's Sponberg Theatre Monday, Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. The group is from Tamil Nadu, India, where the December tsunami hit hard. "We want to generate an awareness of what happened in Tamil Nadu," said group member Srinivas Krishnan. The performance is free; donations will be accepted.

Group members and their specialty instruments are detailed below (details provided by Hands Full of Beauty):

Karthick Subramaniam - Ghatam

Hands Full of Beauty
The ghatam, a very ancient percussion instrument of South India, is a mud pot with a narrow mouth. From this narrow mouth, it shapes itself outward to form a ridge. Primarily made of clay fired with brass or copper filings with some small amount of iron filings, the ghatam's size varies according to pitch. The pitch can be altered to a small degree by the application of plasticine, clay or water. The ghatam is placed on the lap of the performer, with the instrument's mouth facing the performer. The artist uses his fingers (including thumbs), his palms, and occasionally, even the fingernails to produce various sounds. Sometimes, the ghatam is turned around so that the mouth faces the audience, and the player is able to play more easily on the neck of the instrument.

Karthick is a child prodigy. He serves as the founder and curator of the Heartbeat Ensemble in Chennai, India. He started his concert career at the age of seven. A doyen of South Indian percussion, not only has he demonstrated his amazing dexterity in accompanying the great stalwarts of yesteryear and recent times, but he has also displayed his creative and improvisatory genius in playing mind-boggling rhythms for various fusion groups, such as Heartbeat Ensemble and United Nations Symphony Orchestra. On the Carnatic music platform, Karthick is renowned for his crisp play and deep knowledge of rhythm. He majestically finishes many a tani avartanam by throwing his ghatam in the air and catching it without missing a beat. Karthick has toured the world on 28 occasions and has been to Miami University a year ago.

Embar Kannan - Electric Violin

Embar Kannan has come to be recognized as a leading violinist, and is definitely the most sought-after violinist in South Indian Classical Music. He has adapted a new style of performance through his electric violin that he has modified to suit the needs of South Indian Classical Music. Trained under the renowned Kanyakumari, he has lived up to the expectations of a promising violinist of great potential by combining with artists from all over the world and being featured at festivals in South Africa, Australia, USA and the Middle East. Embar Kannan is highly accomplished as a violinist and is in the forefront of violinists of the younger generation. His bowing technique is of high quality, marked by sweetness and clarity. Kannan is the recipient of many awards and honors for both his solo and his accompanying skills. He is an A grade artist of the All India Radio (AIR) and has played solo concerts and violin duets with his guru. He has accompanied many leading artists. He has also traveled widely and performed in concerts in USA, Europe, and the Far East and this is his 29th world tour.

Poongulam Subramaniam - mridangam

Poongulam's philosophy of laya vidwan (rhythm) is different. Laya for him means to get involved. People say that Poongulam Subramaniam is a great laya vidwan, which is different from a tala vadya vidwan (does not focus on time necessarily as much as the groove and feel of the main composition). For Poongulam, when you merge with the main artiste and merge with another artist's music, there is always a special rapport that is established between him and the main artiste, which is known as laya. When both get totally involved in laya more and more, Poongulam believes that he is in search of something deeply powerful and spiritual. The excellence, the rapport and then scholarship, the skill, delivery, imagination etc - when all these qualities are present, it lifts you from other type of artiste and to another level and where you become a trend setter. That is how life is. His role on the mridangam is vital and sets the mood for all the artists on stage.

U. Raju - mandolin

The mandolin in its original form is typically an acoustic stringed instrument about 60cm (2 ft) long with deeply vaulted ribs and a table slanted downward at the lower end. It has a neck-peghead attached to a hollow oval shaped sound box. It has four pairs of loop-ended double rib fastened metal strings secured to hooks on the body on one end, and passed across a low bridge (on the sound box) and a nut (on the finger board) to the pegs inserted into a rectangular peg-box. A small flexible plectrum is used to vibrate the strings.

A Maestro means one who combines unique musicianship and immense virtuosity. U. Raju has proved that he fulfills this to the hilt. A rather inconspicuous member of the western orchestra, Raju comes from a family of musicians (related to U. Shrinivas) and has revived and raised the mandolin, an unknown instrument and given it a respectable status in classical music. His music acumen has assumed many dimensions through his performances with Heartbeat Ensemble. He glides over the gamut, traversing 4 octaves with subtle deflections and certainty. Every design falls into place in the octaval build up of the raga (melodic scale). He can evolve and execute the most intricate fraction-ridden swara (solfage) combinations that would keep any accompanist on edge.

Srinivas Krishnan - tabla and vocals


Sethuraman - kanjira

This is an Indian Frame Drum and is one of the most popular instruments in the family of tambourines. It is made out of wooden rim from Jack fruit tree (mostly available in eastern countries), approximately 2" to 2 1/2" inches deep. The total diameter of the wooden rim will be 7" to 8"... the wooden frame covered with the monitor lizard skin (now an endangered species in India) stretching around the frame. The artist has to sprinkle water on the back inside of the instrument to get a good bass sound. The player has to be very careful in putting water on the back side, as too much water will lead to a dead tone... so we have to wait for 5-10 mins for the instrument to dry. You can get a heavy bass sound by correctly sprinkling water during concerts. The instrument will also have an effect on the outside temperature and moisture conditions. Sethuraman is a young Kanjira exponent (South Indian Frame Drum Tambourine) from Chennai - a Southern Metropolitan City in India. Born into a music-loving family, Sethu is one of the few percussionists, with an aesthetic sense of approach in playing this traditional classical instrument. He found new techniques in playing the instrument and found nuances of melody from this amusing bass percussion instrument.

Sunder - morsing

This tiny instrument is held in the left hand, the 'prongs' against the upper and lower front teeth. Some players hold the instrument between their teeth. It must make firm contact, but do not press too hard or you will give yourself a toothache and potentially damage your teeth - hold it lightly but firmly. The tongue of the instrument, which protrudes from the mouth, is made of spring steel. This is plucked with the index finger of the right hand (backward, not forward) while the tone and timbre are adjusted by changing the shape of the mouth cavity and moving the tongue, kind of speaking silently, effectively. Sunder achieves further control of the sound with his deep breath. Unusually for a percussion instrument, Sunder can produce a very long duration note on the morsing by sucking air through it, sometimes (depending on the instrument) without even plucking it first. Like the mridangam, the morsing is tuned to the tonic, which means Sunder has to have one for each pitch. Fine tuning is achieved by placing small amounts of beeswax on the end of the tongue.

Although a tiny and relatively quiet instrument, Sunder's role on the morsing unmistakably adds to the music, reinforcing the sruti (the pitch) and providing a kind of textural as much as rhythmic accompaniment. When it comes to the thani or solo, Sunder has developed a whole set of patterns as for any of the other instruments. Be glad if you grew up speaking Tamil, or one of the world's faster languages; it is not at all easy for a native English speaker to master konokol (or rhythmic syllables) and, even when you have made some progress chanting the syllables, it is much harder as soon as you put the morsing to your lips!

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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