Ganesh-Kumaresh
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Ganesh-Kumaresh

Chennai, Tamil Nādu, India | MAJOR

Chennai, Tamil Nādu, India | MAJOR
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The best kept secret in music

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They have been together through raga and rhythm, performances and practice, albums and experimentations, joys and jamming sessions, and tours and tribulations. When together on stage there's a never a dull moment or a discordant note, but their distinct personalities come through when you meet them off it — at Ganesh's well-appointed apartment in Tiruvanmiyur.

Clad in an embroidered beige kurta-pyjama, a composed Ganesh seems to convey more through his calm smile than words while the younger Kumaresh is boisterous, chatty and witty. Through the long-drawn photo shoot he exhibits an insatiable energy to play pranks and prod elder brother Ganesh into striking some funny poses. He often breaks into old Tamil film numbers to help his brother get the right expression for the camera. Diehard movie buffs, both watched Suriya's “Singam”, first-day-first-show, in Thanjavur where they had gone for a kutcheri (they even acted in NTR's “Brahmarishi Vishwamitra” and K. Balachander's “Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal”).

A DIFFERENT FUSION

Back from an 18-concert-25-day-tour across the U.S., with tabla wizard Ustad Zakir Hussain the violinists did not have much time to get over their jet lag. After kutcheris down South and performing at a corporate event in the city, they are geared up to finish composing for their next album besides working on a well-structured practice module for violin students.

“Our overseas performance tour with Zakir bhai is almost an annual feature. Our association with him dates back to 1998, when we performed with the maestro for the first time at the Music Academy Sadas,” says Ganesh.

Adds Kumaresh, “When you are with him, you perceive music differently — as a fusion of time, space and culture. You tend to look beyond genres to weave a wonderful tapestry of traditions and then confidently step out of it to create exhilarating new sounds. More than all this, it's his modesty that's more affecting.”

During such creative outings, it is compliments from the uninitiated that the duo cherishes besides having fun engaging with other artistes. “It's not hard to connect with people the world over through the violin; it has Western origins after all. It's a very universal instrument that easily adapts itself to every style of music.”

During the U.S. tour, they played at universities and acclaimed auditoria, presenting a mix of Carnatic ragas and their own ragapravaham (melodic pieces sans lyrics) compositions. “Ragapravaham is an attempt to move away from the vocalised framework of classical music and explore what the instrument is capable of on its own,” explains Kumaresh.

AN EARLY START

The brothers, who have been performing for almost four decades now, have always been excited about bowing differently. “The most rewarding aspect of creating unique sonic experiences was being appreciated by veterans in the field that spurred us on.” They began giving independent violin performances when still in primary school.

The turning point, of course, was in 1983, when the then Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran watched a concert of the talented twosome on television, sent them a note of appreciation and eventually, made them State artistes. “The honour was the icing on our hard training and we decided to turn our passion into a life-long sadhana. Our father T.S. Rajagopalan, an unabashedly tough guru, was most delighted,” explains Ganesh.

“We would wake up at 4 in the morning to practise before going to school and then come back to another session of music. Between all this, our father would still find the time to discuss with us the various aspects of a raga. I would longingly look at the children playing outside. Though I saw him as a martinet, today, I keep sending up a silent ‘thank you' for the discipline he inculcated and the direction he gave to our creative restlessness,” says Kumaresh and suddenly leaps across the table to hold his brother's hands. “And now, he is there for me.”

It was at the insistence of his brother that Kumaresh gave himself full-time to music. “I was in a dilemma. But Ganesh was confident I could do it.” Quite like other siblings, they do have their share of fights and disagreements. “That's healthy. Blind compliance is not good,” smiles Kumaresh.

Besides sharing the stage, the brothers love to go on long drives, organise family outings, indulge in electronic gadgets, shop for casual and concert clothes and, of course, watch movies. And what about scoring music for films? “We are tuned in to the idea but no interesting project has come our way as yet,” says Ganesh.

Meanwhile, they continue their odyssey across the violin strings, through an amazingly varied combination of notes, often straying gallantly on to higher octaves to create harmonies with a contemporary appeal, albeit classically-rooted. - The Hindu


When violin duo Ganesh and Kumaresh get together, they set the house on fire.

Not just musically, but by being such an endearing and ever-smiling duo. Amidst all the crackles and laughter, they got talking about raga pravaham, a form of music they have introduced this Margazhi. "Over a period of time, we started feeling our music was becoming complacent. It was becoming lyric-centric," begins Ganesh, explaining how musicians either play or sing songs that have existed for over three hundred years. "The songs are recreated and reproduced by every artsite. Instruments are used more to support than complement a dance or a vocal concert," says Kumaresh. Hence, raga pravaham — music without lyrics — was born. "It is a form by itself keeping in mind the essentials like ragams and thalams. The definition of the composition remains intact, but the inspirations and creative exchanges change with every concert," they say.
- The Times of India


Held at the Chowdiah Hall recently, the third edition of ‘Splendor Of Masters’, a unique music concert organised by Banyan Tree, succeeded to entertain the audience for more than three hours. All the eight musicians, who are experts in their chosen fields, treated the audience to some of the finest tunes.

Grammy-award winning ghatam maestro Vikku Vinayakram, veteran sitarist Ustad Shujaat Khan, renowned violin duo Ganesh-Kumaresh, American saxophonist George Brooks, popular mridangam player Patri Satish Kumar and talented tabla players Amit Choubey and Ojus Adhiya put forth a brilliant show.

Ustad Shujaat Khan, the renowned sitarist, expressed his gratitude on behalf of the entire team. “It’s rare when we artistes get to play music together. We talk to each other in the language of music. People come for a show with a pre-conceived notion about music and performers. But without sticking to any rules, we will try to bring out different feel and moods,” he said before the starting of the show.

The unique ensemble began with a violin recital by Ganesh and Kumaresh, followed by a recital by George Brooks, the saxophonist. Other artistes gradually joined the concert as well. Music-lovers appreciated the unparalleled chemistry and perfect synergy between all of them. Ustad Shujaat Khan presented a ‘ghazal’?— Pyar Ka Jazbat Naya Rang Dikha Deta Hai —?from the album of Ahmed Hussain and Mohammed Hussain titled ‘The Golden Moments’. This was enjoyed by all.

George Brooks, who hails from California, expressed his happiness on performing with the veteran artistes. “I am delighted to be here. I got an opportunity to play with extraordinary musicians. This week is special for me as my father, who I’m very close to, turned 85. I dedicate today’s performance to him,” he said emotionally.

Vikku Vinayakram joined the concert in the second session. He entertained the jam-packed audience with his inherent talent.

His experiment with five ghatams at a time was amazing. His fingers just danced on the earthen pots creating great music. His spontaneity and creativity was spellbinding.

Though each one represented a different style of music, they succeeded to blend Carnatic, Hindustani and Western aspects in a beautiful manner. Each one got enough time to showcase their talent.

The jugalbandi between Ganesh and Kumaresh on violin and Patri Satish Kumar on mridangam was completely enjoyable. The response was really good as the audience couldn’t stop clapping till the end. - Deccan Herald


A musician living on the banks of the Ganges and another living in Singara Chennai came together on one stage to create music so divine that it struck a chord in every listener. 'Adrishta', the opening concert ofThe Hindu Friday Review November Fest was special in more ways than one.

It was first performed at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris to a great response. This time round too, internationally renowned Ganesh Rajagopalan of the Ganesh-Kumaresh violin duo and the Grammy-nominated Debashish Bhattacharya, the accompanying musicians and a wonderful audience made it an evening to remember.

An enthusiastic audience started trickling in from about 6.45 p.m. Hopes were high, because the Fest had set a wonderful precedent last year. The audience was eclectic, but one thing that united them was the desire to listen to new music.

For industrialist Rajini Varadaraj, who has promoted arts in Coimbatore, this is her first experience at the November Fest. “I was not around the last time. I see there is a nice mix of genres and I'll attend the concerts with an open mind. I'm looking forward to having a good time,” she said.

And, Ganesh and Debashish lived up to all the hype. They started off with a wonderful piece specially created for the festival, in Mohana Kalyani. It was a musical conversation between the slide guitar and the violin, with Ganesh and Debashish merely acting as translators.

The camaraderie on stage was infectious. Smiles abounded, and it was clear they were having a great time transporting the audience to a land steeped in music.

Many a time, Debashish stayed grounded, only to happily let Ganesh soar. At others, Ganesh stepped back to allow his friend to take centre stage.

And the accompanying musicians – Patri Satish Kumar on the mridangam, Trichy Krishna on the ghatam and Abhijit Banerjee on the tabla – turned fans, applauding each time the duo touched a crescendo or explored the very depths of a raga.

The flourishes were many, and how the instruments yielded. Ganesh got the violin to plead and cajole, while Debashish's emotion-filled notes stirred the senses.

The second piece the duo played was a Hindustani composition in Madhyamavati/Megh in Jhaap taal.

The main raga they explored was Charukesi. This was followed by a wonderful percussion interlude and a coming together of the slide guitar and the violin.

The concluding piece was Tamboori Meetidava set to the raga Sindhu Bhairavi. And yes, did we mention three percussionists? Make that four. The frequent applause from the audience!
- The Hindu


Ganesh and Kumaresh presented a brilliant Purvikalyani. The fine raga delineation was by Ganesh. The duo chose ‘Meenakshi Memudam’ of Dikshitar as the main piece and for niraval, ‘Veena Gaana Dasa Gamaka Kriye.’ The Swaraprastharas were a sheer mathematical wizardry. It could have been nicer had it been a bit shorter.

Ragam and Tanam in Begada was shared by the two. Simultaneous exposition in higher and lower octaves by the brothers was pleasing. With two stalwarts in the rhythm department, they could have played Tanam with laya accompaniment.

‘Iruvar Inainthirunthal Vetri Kaanalaam - Sruthiyum Layamum Poala,’ in Khanda Jati Triputai was a delightful definition for a Pallavi. The rendering was in Ragamalika - Varali, Kalyanavasantham, Hemantha (a combination of Mohanam and Vasanthi), Revathi and Hamsanadham. The thani had thunder and gentle rains.

There were two laptops (perhaps with sound cards) on the stage in front of the violinists, an indication that technology has taken the prime seat in classical music as well. - The Hindu


Discography

Ragapravaham, 2012, Times Music
Aksharam, 2009, Times Music
Carnatic Chills, 2007, Saregama
Shadjam, 2006/7, Charsur
Dance like a Man, 2002, Music Today
Colours of India, 2001, Music Today
Navarasa (Spark), 2001, Music Today
Shantam, 2001, Shrutilaya
Manoranjani, 2000, Music Today
Brahmma, 1999, 2003, 2005
Samarpan, 1995, Shrutilaya

'Laughing Buddha' from Carnatic Chills received radio play across all national radio stations
'Laughing Buddha' became the theme song for the only Carnatic Music Talent show 'Carnatic Idol' drawing viewership all over the world
The album Carnatic Chills was released by AR Rahman
'Adbhutha' from the album Spark got radio airplay on Radio Mirchi, India's premier radio station

Photos

Bio

Ganesh-Kumaresh are among the leading exponents of the Carnatic violin (the South Indian system of Indian classical music) and possibly the most recognized names in the current generation of collaborative music.
They tread a fine balance of appealing to both a traditional and modern ear. This rare sensibility allows them to experiment across various styles of music, and yet their music is still very much steeped in the rich Indian classical tradition. Their inspirations follow from traditional grooming and hence the use of traditional classical, devotional and temple sounds and texts, and western influences that come from being part of the current generation that is exposed to and has access to a variety of music. Among western music, they are keen listeners of jazz and western classical music and constantly strive to find parallels between those genres and their own Indian style.

Born in Chennai, Southern India, they have been responsible for taking the violin in its South Indian avatar to a global platform. Their strict adherence to classicism and their virtuosity coupled with their innovative presentation makes them an act to watch.

The brothers, who were hailed as ‘Child Violin Prodigies’, gave their first public performance in the year 1972, when Ganesh was just 7 years and Kumaresh 5 years. Since then, the brothers have performed in different places in India and in a number of countries across the globe.

Ganesh Kumaresh have been the only violin duo to perform for more than three decades together. The brothers have carved a niche for Indian instrumental music with their impeccable and remarkable technique both in playing the instrument and in interpreting the musical forms.

While they hold their own as soloists and as a duo, they have to their credit many musical projects and collaborations with the likes of Zakir Hussain, John Mc Laughlin, Steve Thornton, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt to name a few. Ganesh, alongwith the legendary tabla master Zakir Hussain, recently performed at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

They crossed over the Carnatic style into jazz at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival showcase with the Scottish AAB trio in 2011 and will be showcasing the project after a solo performance at the prestigious Southbank Centre's 'Alchemy' festival. They will also be featured on a special series on BBC radio 3 in April 2013.

They have been responsible for making the violin, which was all along considered a mere accompanying instrument in India, occupy the centre stage at a concert platform.