Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I first head this jugalbandi performed by Pandit Kishen Maharaj & Vidwan Umayalapuram K Sivaraman in 1996, Twenty years ago, in a large house on the bank of the Ganges at Nagwa, near Varanasi. It blew me away then, as it does now. I would later that year see Pandit Kishan Maharaj perform. A master of the tabla.

Kishan Maharaj (1923-2008), by the time he was eleven, began performing in concerts. Within a few years, Kishan Maharaj was sharing the stage with stalwarts like Faiyaz Khan, Omkarnath Thakur, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Vasant Rai, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Vilayat Khan,and many others.

Maharaj had the ability to play cross-rhythms and produce complex calculations, particularly in tihai patterns. Known as an excellent accompanist, Maharaj was extremely versatile and capable of playing with any accompaniment, be it with the Sitar, Sarod, Dhrupad, Dhamar or even dance.

Maharaj gave a number of solo concerts during his career and also gave `Sangat` to some great dancers like Sri Shambhu Maharaj, Sitara Devi, Natraj Gopi Krishna, and Birju Maharaj.
Among all his compositions, his "Tala Vadya Kacheri" with the Mridangam Vidwan, "Palghat Raghu" stood out. Maharaj extensively toured and participated in several prestigious events across the world, including the Edinburgh festival and the Commonwealth Arts festival in the United Kingdom in 1965.

Maharaj won the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2002. For many years, he was married to Savita Devi, daughter of Siddheshwari Devi.

Umayalpuram Kasiviswanatha Sivaraman (born December 17, 1935) is an Indian mridangam player. He was awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor, on the occasion of the country's 61st Republic Day observance on January 26, 2010 and received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Kerala in 2010.

Umayalpuram Sivaraman was born in 1935 to Dr. P. Kasivishwanatha Iyer and Smt Kamalambal. His father was an avid practicioner of music, adept in playing the violin and mridangam. At an early age, his father got Sri Sivaraman initiated in mridangam through the gurukula system with eminent mridangam masters.

Umayalpuram Sivaraman completed his schooling at the Municipal Primary school and Town high school in Kumbakonam and the Kalyanasundaram High School in Thanjavur. After schooling, he obtaining the B.A degree from the Kumbakonam Government College, and completed his graduation in law from the Madras Law College in 1958. Then Sri Sivaraman enrolled for the M.L. course at the Madras University and completed one year. Drawn to a service in the Indian Administrative Serivces, Sri Sivaraman also spent a few months preparing for the I.A.S exams. While Sri Sivaraman was trained as a lawyer, he received advice from eminent lawyers including late N. Raghunatha Iyer of The Hindu and late C.K. Venkatanarasimhan who was a secretary of The Music Academy who urged Sri Sivaraman to continue his musical career with the prediction that he would rise to great heights in this profession.

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