K. Sridhar and K. Shivakumar

Initiated into the Carnatic tradition from early childhood, Sridhar and his brother Shivakumar are descendants of twelve generations of musicians. As young children they were both pupils of the famous Usted Zia Mohiuddin Dagar - specialist in the classical and devotional Dhrupad Dhamar style of the North.

Two music traditions co-exist in India, that of the North (Hindustani) and of the South (Carnatic). They share the same basic systems but differ greatly by the instruments used, by the ragas played, and by the concept of musical expression. It is very rare for musicians to master both traditions; Sridhar and Shivakumar have done so. Shivakumar’s instrument is the violin and Sridhar’s is the sarod.

The violin is an instrument familiar to the Western tradition but it has been an important part of Indian music for the last two hundred years. In the Indian style it is played whilst sitting on the floor and with more pronounced slurring of notes – due to its original use as an accompaniment to vocal music.

The sarod is an instrument of great complexity and few musicians choose to play it. The body of the instrument is carved from one piece of teak or mahogany of 1.2m in length. The bridge is supported on a soundboard of stretched leather which is extremely sensitive to vibration. The fingerboard is metal and fretless, and the full resonance of the note is produced by pressing the string onto the fingerboard with the fingernails. Of the 25 strings four are used for melody, two for rhythm and four tuned to the dominant notes of the raga, while the remaining 15 are sympathetic, vibrating strings. Not having frets allows for both precise individual notes and a variety of subtle intonations, making this one of the most beautiful of all Indian instruments in its extraordinary range and sonority.

Sridhar’s study of Hindustani music was a long and rigorous discipline in the old style of learning. He is the last musician in India to have studied this way.

Since 1982 he has established a reputation as one of India’s foremost touring artists, forging exciting links with musicians of various disciplines around the world – jazz, flamenco, Arabic and African.

Shivakumar is renowned in India as a brilliant accompanist to singers and a fine teacher.

The brothers’ performances at the WOMAD festivals in Toronto and Bracknell in 1988 were the culmination of their musical relationship. It was more than just a duet, it was ‘jugalbandi’ – one idea speaking through two pairs of hands.

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