Thenuga Thevapalan

In February 2016 after attending Sir’s workshop, I was immensely intrigued and fascinated to learn about the wonderful gift he has given to the world of music by implementing a new idea of learning music through the ‘COMET’ method, ‘Correlated Objective Music Education and Training’ (Features of COMET). During the four-day workshop, I realized how the principles of COMET go beyond Karnatak music. It is holistic. During his visit, Sir would stress on the importance of a strong practical foundation in the principles of music and how it is integral to have a proper basic training. I realized this could be attained through his method, COMET. After his first visit, I was craving to learn more from him and I was on cloud nine when Sir was willing to take me as his sishya. From the moment I began my training with Sir, I completely surrendered myself to him. I was certain that his teaching and guidance without anyone’s interference would strengthen a student’s musical abilities. 

In my first session with Sir, he talked about the importance of tuning the vina towards perfection and precision. He would explain how a perfectly tuned vina is the rightful way to attain shruti-suttham and how tuning the vina precisely can be therapeutic. This is how my journey with Sir began. Even today, I am being reminded of the importance of a perfectly tuned vina.

Chin mudra

One of the most important aspects of plucking is the relaxed hand position. Sir would demonstrate on the vina how each time you finish a pluck, it should look like a ‘chin mudra’

It is rare to find gurus who put great effort in making the student understand the importance of the basics of basic. I am fortunate to have one such guru. Sir is a guru who seeks perfection in anything he does. In my second session, Sir taught me nothing but plucking for 2.5 hours! This was the first time in my life that I have given so much attention to plucking. During the lesson, Sir would stress on the importance of proper plucking; the clean sound of the plucking, the placement of your fingers and how to pluck in harmony with tala. One of the greatest things about the COMET method is its holistical approach towards learning. I have come to realize through Sir that plucking exercises are actually a way of doing ‘Dhyanam’ and a daily, mindful practice on the vina will eventually make you achieve a meditative state of mind.

One should not underestimate the values of the basic exercises of Karnatak music. Sir made me realize the various intricacies of playing even ‘simple’ exercises such as sarali, jantai and alankaram. When learning through COMET method, the student initially learn the exercises without gamakas and it astonished me how it requires a great skill in sruti and laya to be able to play these exercises. Furthermore, without a good command over your left and right hand it is hard to attain a clean sound and a good flow when playing sarali, jantai and alankaram without gamakam. I completely undervalued the intricacies of these exercises. When I started learning the basic exercises with gamakas, we would dwell on just one gamakam for hours! Sir will never move on to the next phase before he is certain the student has understood the first part correctly. He always finds a way to explain any complex phrase in an explicable manner. Sir’s guidance has been a revelation for me that a proper basic training is the most essential part of one’s musical journey and he made me realize the supreme value in sruti-laya integrated practice already from the beginning stage. Currently being at the varna-stage, I see how my basic training through COMET is contributing to make the intricate gamakas comprehensible in varnas such as ‘Sami Ninne’ (Sankarabharanam), ‘Viribhoni’ (Bhairavi), ‘Vanajakshi’ (Kalyani) and ‘Eranapai’ (Todi) to name a few.

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Sir and the students about to test the perfected vinas

Sir’s desire for quality Art education is very profound. One good example would be when he gifted each student of music in Denmark and Norway a perfectly tuned and fretted vina in the summer 2016 by setting nearly 25 vinas in perfect tune with respect to all the svarasthanas in all 3.5 octaves. It is essential for a student to have a perfect vina for a better understanding of shruti. I was deeply moved by this effort and being a student of vina, I could not ask for a greater gift!

Every student of music will in some time of his/her life have heard their guru mentioning the benefits of learning music and how music improves one’s academic, physical and social skills. Through my learning from Sir, I have come to realize how much I am gaining by playing vina. He gave me an insight into all the beautiful benefits that come with doing daily sadhana on the vina. Sir made me realize that playing vina is pure meditation. What I have achieved from his guidance is more than just understanding Arts in a better way. I have not only improved myself musically, but his teaching and guidance has enriched me on many levels. 

I have covered only one small aspect of my training under Sir. What he has given me is a depth of knowledge and an affection towards Arts that I have never experienced before. His teaching and guidance has eventually become my way of living. Little would I know that 19th of February 2016 would be the biggest turning point in my life. I know for sure that I cannot be in better hands. I am forever grateful to Krishna akka for giving me this opportunity.

 

Mathuriga Thevapalan

Ever since I started to learn from sir I have experienced the importance of having a guru in my life guiding me through every single aspect of my musical learning. With utmost care and perfection in every pluck, tone and movement, sir provides a deep insight into the very basics of the basics – such as perfection in plucking, placement of the left-fingers, shruti and sthanam to name a few. The importance sir gives to shruti- and sthana-suttham is absolutely remarkable! Our first ever lesson with sir was on how to tune the vina absolutely perfectly. Moreover he demonstrated how a perfectly fretted vina sounds and how important it is for every student of music to attain sthana-suttham. Not only did sir explain and demonstrate this for IMG_3532us, but he guided us in how to attain this perfection in shruti and sthanam and made us experience it ourselves!

Before I started to learn from sir I had only acquired a feel for the instrument and a familiarity with the frets, but I did not have a deeper understanding of the instrument nor the music I was playing. I was well aware of the latter, but I never thought about my relationship with my instrument. After interacting with sir I realised that I did not even know the instrument I have played for so long. With sir’s help I feel that I now know the vina. Sir has explained and demonstrated the uniqueness and individuality of the vina so patiently and meticulously. Most importantly I understand how a proper command of the instrument will benefit my musical learning and life in general on so many levels. I am immensely grateful for having strengthened my relationship with my instrument. For a little more than a decade I have played an instrument without truly understanding its capacity, individuality, uniqueness and importance — without even knowing how to approach it correctly. These are all details that I did not even think of before.

Rushing through one’s learning is never an option with sir. That is what makes sir so unique in a world where almost everyone is rushing through life. There are simply no shortcuts. Thenuga and I were taught the basic exercises (sarali, jantai, alankaram) over and over again – each time focusing on a different aspect of the exercises and hereby making ourselves grounded in the exercises. And I have lost count for the amount of times we went through every gitam and varna we have learned so far. Even when I seem to have an exceptionally hard time understanding and reproducing what is being taught, sir will never give up. He will spent hours doing whatever he can to help me understand and even develop new methods and ways of teaching a specific exercise, gamaka or phrase. Afterwards he will make me repeat the exercise over and over again. Sir always tells me that it is not enough when I play something correctly once, I should be able to play it repeatedly without any falter. By insisting on this repeated and perfect practice sir has made it clear to me that practice matters more than ambition and talent. There is no point in having a great voice or having big dreams for the future if one does not put in the hard and consistent work this art form requires.

After having experienced his guidance I know that I will be lost without sir. Words fail to express how utterly and completely grateful FullSizeRenderand blessed I feel to have this rare opportunity of learning under such a great master of music. Sir is without a doubt the best guide one can get. He enters every single task with an honesty and integrity I have never seen before. He is a guru who encourages his sishyas to work with complete determination, mindfulness, dedication and honesty towards the art. He will go to great extents to help his students and never expect anything in return except dedication, truthfulness and consistent work. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have the privilege of being in his presence and getting an insight into his wealth of musical knowledge and deconstructive thoughts. I cannot thank Krishni akka enough for giving me this opportunity in the first place. I am forever grateful to have stumbled across his path. To me sir is the greatest principle – a representation of the ultimate truth. 

 

 

 India visit 2016-2017