Meet Abhinav (Abhi) Seetharaman. Abhi is a sophomore from Ashburn, Virginia in Columbia College interested in Economics and Political Science and is on the pre-med track. On top of being a Columbia student, Abhi is the founder of MusiLinks, a 501c(3) non profit that uses music to raise funds for grassroots organizations as well as a professional South Indian classical drummer.
Intrigued about his eclectic interests, I decided to interview Abhi to learn a little bit more about his interests and off-campus performances.
What is mridangam (origins, what it sounds like, importance, etc.)?
‘Mridangam’ is an ancient South-Indian classical drum. Existing for several millennia, its origins go back to Indian mythology, where Nandi (the Bull God & escort of Lord Shiva) was a master percussionist and used to play the mridangam during the performance of Shiva’s powerful “Tāndavā” dance.
The mridangam has a unique metallic timbre – being a double-barreled drum, one side produces treble sounds, while the other side produces bass sounds. The combination of these two membranes allows for the production of distinct harmonics.
How long have you been playing it for? What led you to start playing the instrument?
I’ve been playing the mridangam for about 11 years. When I was around 5 or 6 years of age, my parents used to notice me playing beats on almost every hard surface I could get my hands on! Seeing this, they decided to initiate me into this art form.
Do you feel like there is/are any tension(s) between Western musical traditions and South Indian musical traditions?
Not at all – in fact, for the past few decades or so, South-Indian classical music has converged with Western music (pop, classical, rock, etc.) to create a fusion music concept. This dynamic concept has primarily strived to promote awareness of these music forms to both initiated and uninitiated audiences. Nowadays, many Western musicians have adopted certain South-Indian musical elements to add that new twist or dimension to their music, and vice versa.
It’s always a synergy between various world music genres.The bottom line is to make the music strike a chord with everyone, and really touch peoples’ souls.
How do you manage performing mridangam and your academic workload?
It’s simply my passion for the art form that constantly drives me to pursue it, along with academics.
Where can someone go if they want to hear you play and/or learn more about the mridangam?
My website! www.abhiseetharaman.com
The Lion Profiles project seeks to interview various students, staff, and faculty here at Columbia to offer a look into the diverse minds that makeup our academic community.
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