"Start your early lessons with Sankarabaranam..."

Interview with Akella Mallikarjuna Sharma

Akella Mallikarjuna Sharma, is a violinist and teacher based in Hyderabad.


He is a retired Principal from the Govt. College of Music and Dance, Hyderabad and has been conducting several workshops and seminars to impart his methodologies in 'Mukthayi Singing'.He was in Chennai recently to conduct a workshop on 'Music and Mathematics'. He shares his experiences in an interview with A. Bhavadhaarini of KutcheriBuzz...      

Akella Mallikarjuna Sharma

Tell us about your early years in music?

I learnt music from my father Akella Aswatta Moorthy who was a vocalist, violinist and a very talented musician. I used to play mridangam from the age of three, and in my 17th year I learnt the violin. I attended the Music College at Vijayanagaram for a period of one year.
'Parur' M.S.Gopalakrishnan is my 'manaseeka' Guru for violin and for Carnatic music I revere Nedunuri Krishnamoorthy as my Guru.

You have been an accompanist for several years.

I've been an accompanist on the violin for more than 45 years. I have accompanied eminent vidwans like Voleti Venkateshwarulu, Mudikondan Venkatrama Iyer, AriyalurKrishnan, Pinakapani, Gopalarathnam, Nedanuri Krishnamurthy, Balamuralikrishna, K.V.Narayanaswamy, D.K.Jayaraman, Maharajapuram Santhanam, V.V.Sadagopan,Kalyanaraman, T.R.Subrahmanyam and many others.

Teaching seems to be your focus now. Your comments?

 Yes, I now concentrate only on teaching music. I served as a lecturer for nearly 35 years at various colleges in Andrapradesh including Vijayawada, Vijayanagaram,Hyderabad, Secunderabad, Warangal, Manthani etc., and later as Principal for 15 years.

What do you feel about teaching methodologies in music, in the fast-paced world today?

Teaching must not be commercialized as it is being done in today's world. The ability of the teacher to produce a good student and to make even a dull student shine in excellence must be the core idea. Teaching music to the younger generation is a very enthusiastic venture since at the young age they are able to reproduce what ever is taught to them immediately, which is not so in the case of those in their 30's or 40's. 'Catch them young' is the slogan, that can promote our music among the younger generation. Today, there are so many distractions in the society.

Can you explain some nuances of teaching music?

 I usually advocate a 'Laya' test to simply test the person's sense of 'layam' or 'beat'. Then we can test for 'shruthi' and reproducing capabilities.' When we start teaching, we begin withn Raga Mayamalavagoula but I have found by experience that Shankarabaranam is an easier ragam for the early lessons. Till the geethams, only the swarams have to be taught without the 'Gamakas' since we can't make a crawling baby run 100 metres suddenly! The introduction of Gamaka between each and every note should be slowly introduced and has to be clearly shown to the student so that he or she is able to do self-learning even from that stage onwards. A teacher should take utmost care to impart knowledge, and correct wherever the student goes wrong and not misguide the student.

You have also designed electronic instruments for music. How are these instruments useful?

The students of today are lucky to have electronic tambura replacing the manual one. Computer and internet add to their facilities. I wanted to make students aware of the role of talam in music and hence I devised a new talometer / metroneme called 'Laya Madhura'. My student Paul Sudhakar of Hyderabad assisted me in this. This talometer produced by Supreme Sonic Systems has nine talas with varying speeds and is specially designed to make the student perfect in the 'Kaalapramaanam' aspect (maintaining the speed). The idea of making an electronic tambura with thri-sthayis arose about 8 years ago, and I was very happy to make such a tambura with the 3 octaves- mandhra, madhyama and thaara sthayis. The provision of Anthara Gandharam and other notes, which can be used when elaborating particular ragas, makes it special in its own way.

Tell us about the books you have authored, especially for teaching?

With the blessings of Sadguru Saibaba I authored a book 'Sangitha Swararagasudha' that covers the short-cut methods in teaching Swara-kalpana and Raga-Alapana to students. The book has two parts: 1 - Swarasudha with 'Shruthi' and 'Laya' exercises, easy methods of singing 'Mukthayis' and 2 - Ragasudha comprising 36 popular Raga - alapanas in notated form with Gamaka-nuances explained. Nine pre-recorded cassettes with practical illustration is a supplement with the book. My interest in tala aspects enabled me to pen a few books on 'Talaprasthara'. There are three books namely, 'Indian genius in Thala Prasthara', 'Critical Interpretation of Thala Prasthara' and 'A systematization of Prasthara of Desi Thalas'. These books will be of interest to students of Musicology.

What is your advice to young violinists?

Basically, to be an instrumentalist, you should learn vocal music. Students should practise 'Bow-less' exercises in 'Jantai' and other basic lessons. There are a couple of finger techniques where gamakas between each and every 'swara' has to be carefully observed. The distance between fingers and the placement of fingers are to be learnt in precision. The teaching of 'Varnams' forms a base of the raga and Varnams are the vehicles to learn the ragam to perfection. On this base, practice and constant contemplation in music only can continuously enrich your knowledge in music. Accompanying violinists must be able to follow the vocalist providing support and inspire them to sing in full confidence and for this, enormous listening to the radio and live concerts will surely help.

For copies of 'Thalaprasthara' and 'Sangitha Swara raga Sudha' contact: Sai Sannidhi Sangitha Publications (Hyderabad) Ph: 91-40-27054232 or Karnatic Music Book Centre (Chennai) Ph: 91-44-28111716

For ordering the Talometer and the Electronic Tambura contact: Sudhakar (Hyd) Ph: 91-40-2773 0012