Umayalpuram Mali with American Students

Umayalpuram Mali



Reported by Sarah Wright, Harvard University

Students at Harvard University are enjoying the privilege of studying with Umayalpuram Mali this semester. The mridangist from South India is residing in the Boston area for four months this Spring as a Fulbright scholar.


Most students in Professor Richard Wolf’s class on South Indian music started out with no knowledge of Karnatak music. They are learning about raga and tala through musical practice on vina, voice, and mridangam, in addition to reading and listening assignments.

Umayalpuram Mali plays a critical role in the students’ learning by offering instruction on mridangam and by enriching classroom discussions with his perspective as a top performer in South India.

Umayalpuram MaliAs one of Umayalpuram Mali’s students, I am discovering a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of Karnatak music through learning drumming. Practicing different drum strokes, for example, sharpens my ear to hear tonal subtleties in performances. Learning how to create and perform endings of various lengths in different talas helps me perceive similar structural patterns while listening to recordings.

Mridangam students will find Umayalpuram Mali’s CD, "Jack Wood," both pleasurable and educational. The hour long recording is broken into two tracks, each consisting of a brief spoken introduction, a short kriti, and a lengthy drum solo in which Umayalpuram Mali demonstrates his virtuosic performance skills.