For nearly eight years, Pranas Vildziunas has been a regular visitor to Chennai as a student of Carnatic music. The publisher from Lithuania learns mridangam under Ghatam Suresh of Mylapore. The story of his involvement with traditional music, especially Indian Carnatic music, is an interesting one.
"Lithuania is unlike here where you are constantly exposed to music. A few guys play the tabla and take to Hindustani music. I am almost the only one to be interested in Carnatic music," he starts off.
"Once my father bought me a book on Lithuanian traditional instruments. I then listened to a music cassette featuring them for a year but found it boring. One day , I was suddenly attracted to it. From then on, I began to study the traditional music of other cultures. Indian music was the last and by far the most complicated. There was a musicologist in my place who knew a little about Indian classical music. I used to visit him and go through his collection of CD’s but could never understand anything. Once he bought a DVD of a concert featuring T K Murthy on the mridangam. I was attracted by the instrument and wanted to get a feel of it. It was not available anywhere. So I got hold of a tabla, placed it horizontally and played it like the mridangam," he recalls.
"I took a long time to understand the differences between north Indian and south Indian music. I started watching performances on YouTube. One day in 2008, I found a video of Ghatam Suresh. I watched it a 100 times, all the while wondering who he is, who works with a clay pot! I found his website and mailed him saying that I wanted to learn mridangam from him. To my surprise, he accepted me as his student. I came down during the December music season and listened to many concerts. I bought a mridangam and began my lessons," he said.
"I prefer face-to-face lessons because I do not want accidental knowledge. I practice whatever I learn when I go back. Sometimes, I play 90 hours a month and sometime 5 hours, depending on the availability of time. However, playing the mridangam is an addiction to me," he adds.
Today Pranas enjoys Carnatic music and finds it more amazing, the more he listens to it. ‘It soothes me more than any other form of music and opens me to a deeper reality. I touch it through the percussion instrument," he says.
Pranas' dream is to be a part of a concert of Indian classical musicians.
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