South Indian drumming virtuoso to launch faculty concert series

World-renowned mrdangam virtuoso Trichy Sankaran launches the 2011-2012 Faculty Concert Series of York University’s Music Department with “Rhythms of India”, a showcase performance Oct. 4 at 7:30pm in York’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall.

Sankaran is known internationally for his rhythmic dexterity, tonal nuance and consummate mastery of the mrdangam, the traditional double-headed drum of classical South Indian music. He has appeared at major festivals on four continents and in his 50-plus years of concert experience in Carnatic music, has performed with all of India’s classical music masters. In addition to traditional Trichy Sankaran Playing a Cultural Drumsettings, he has played with jazz and electronic ensembles, gamelan and other world music groups from many different cultures, as well as performing regularly with his own group, Trichy’s Trio. His recordings include Laya Vinyas (1990), Sunada (1993), Lotus Signatures (1997) and Ivory Ganesh Meets Doctor Drums (1998).

Right: Trichy Sankaran

Hailed as “a fabulous musician” by the New York Times, his critical accolades include The Globe and Mail’s comment: “It was Sankaran who took virtuosity to its most vertiginous heights, articulating with indescribable sleight of hand, a wealth of liquid sound at astonishing speeds.”

Sankaran takes centre stage in “Rhythms of India”, a program of works rooted in classical South Indian music and bridging east and west, and traditional and contemporary styles.

He will be joined by two of his musical collaborators playing traditional instruments: Mohan Kumar on ghatam and Desi Narayanan on kanjira. Also sharing the stage with Sankaran will be his daughter, pianist and vocalist (and York music alumna) Suba Sankaran (BFA Spec. Hons. ’97, MA ’02), leader of the Juno-nominated Indo-jazz-funk fusion ensemble Autorickshaw, with her bandmate, tabla player Ed Hanley, and frequent Autorickshaw guest performer Dylan Bell on bass Suba Sankaranguitar.

Left: Suba Sankaran

The audience will be treated to a musical masala featuring solo and ensemble performances and including original compositions by Trichy Sankaran.

The concert will be followed by a reception celebrating the most recent accolade for the master percussionist and pioneering educator in Indian classical music. Sankaran has been chosen as the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi title and award, bestowed by the Music Academy of Madras, India.

Considered one of the highest honours in the field, the distinction is presented annually to an expert Carnatic musician. As part of the honour, Sankaran will give two concerts and a special lecture, and will preside over the Music Academy’s 85th annual conference, running Dec. 15, 2011 to Jan. 1, 2012. The conference brings together leading scholars and performers of Indian classical, folk and world music from around the globe. Sankaran will be officially invested with the Sangita Kalanidhi title in Chennai, India on Jan. 1, 2012.

This is just the latest in Sankaran’s long list of honours. He is currently a finalist for the Toronto Arts Council’s Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music, which recognizes an artist or creator who has made a contribution to the cultural life of Toronto through outstanding achievement in music with a focus on international engagement (recipient to be announced Oct. 20).

The Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce has honoured him with its Professional of the Year Award, and in 2005 he was celebrated in Mylapore, Chennai, India, for his five decades of service to Carnatic music as a global performer, composer, musical collaborator, scholar, teacher and cultural ambassador. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of Victoria, BC in recognition of his contributions to music in Canada and abroad.

This year also marks Sankaran’s 40th anniversary as a professor the Faculty of Fine Arts at York. He joined the Department of Music in 1971 as a founding director of Indian music studies, one of Canada’s first university-based world music performance programs. Over the years, he has fused eastern and western pedagogical practices and has been a major influence on a generation of students, many of whom have gone on to become noted performers, composers and educators.

Sankaran’s “Rhythms of India” is the first of four performances in the Faculty Concert Series spotlighting faculty artists in the Department of Music at York University. Upcoming concerts will feature soprano Janet Obermeyer (Nov.1), violinist Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico (Jan. 17) and improv pianist/composer Casey Sokol (Feb. 14).

Tickets are $15, or $5 for students and seniors. A three-concert package is $30. For tickets, contact the Box Office at 416-736-5888.