Anandan Sivamani, the ace Indian drummer who is preparing for an international tour with Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman, says he first likes to practise his beats on pillows!
"Even now, I practise my beats on pillows first. Pillows have bounce. When the same rhythm is played on drums, the rhythm is magnified three times," Sivamani said in an interview on the sidelines of a concert in Jodhpur. For his fans, that may not come as a surprise. Sivamani, they swear, can transform anything into a source of music with his fingers.
Right now the percussionist is working on a new crossover album, One world Fusion, for which he travels to San Francisco. "It is a global fusion album with Indian percussion. It features Janet Aris on the saxophone and Michael Frank on the keyboards." "I am also setting out on a seven-stop 'Jai Ho' tour with A.R. Rahman to Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Kuwait and Sydney next month. My hands are full," the drummer said.
Sivamani has worked with composer Rahman in several movies like Bombay Dreams, apart from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Born in 1959, he has been playing percussion instruments for the last 35 years. He is a 'multi-tasker' percussionist, "adept at drums from all over the world and from every region". He also plays the kanjira, damru, the Indian conch, ghungroo, even an odd suitcase and 35-ml plastic water bottle, from which he produces an entire new gamut of rhythms. Besides, he is also known for his chants and beat-boxing that he fuses with his percussion.
He was at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival where he performed at Club Mehran in a late night jam session with folk percussionists from Rajasthan and UK-based beat boxer Jason Singh at Mehrangarh Fort.
The programme titled, RIFF Rustle, began with a solo act by Sivamani and was later followed by the folk collaborative act. Recalling his association with Rajasthan, he said: "I earlier came when Elizabeth Hurley married Arun Nair and I played for them.
"At the performance, I met some Rajasthani folk percussionists with whom I played. I recorded the sounds which I will use for my new album 'Anandam'. It should be released in December," Sivamani said.
He has a band named Asia Electrik with Niladri Kumar, Louis Banks and Ravi Chari. He also plays with another crossover outfit called the Silk & Shradda. "But my godfather is S.P. Balasubramanyam," he said.
Sivamani said he received his first big break when he played drums for the hit Bollywood number, Mehbooba Mehbooba. "In fact, I played solo. After hearing me play, S.P. Balasubramanyam told my father that he wanted to take me on a road trip. That was the beginning.
"I did not have time to study - probably because I did not like to study. I hated books and magazines. My father realised it and encouraged me to follow my heart. I wanted to play percussion," Sivamani said.
He said he still remembers how his father - also a drummer - invited him to Singapore during his Class 10 boards to play with him. "I played to a packed hall of 10,000 to 12,000 people," the drummer recalled.
Sivamani is just back from a musical pilgrimage of Mt Kailash where he played Siva Tandava on the frozen north face of the mountain. "I played to entertain the local people and the hermits who live there," he said.
Music has been in the drummer's blood "since he was in his mother's womb and heard her heartbeats," says Sivamani. "That was the original rhythm, my first encounter with percussion. As a child I played wooden drum sets and a broken congo mounted on a stool. I got my first complete drum set much later."
Sivamani has been asked by his fans to set up a gurukul - a music school for teaching children. "With the interest in percussion reviving, parents are now encouraging their children to take up music - even percussion - as a career. I have been asked by fans to set up a gurukul where the kids can stay with me and learn percussion.
"Wherever I go, I am mobbed by kids. Children love my music. I am looking for a suitable place to set up a gurukul," he said.