Manish Mahadevan and his Mridangam

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At last year’s annual cultural assembly, sophomore Manish Mahadevan was thrust into fame. His South-Indian drumming performance dazzled the audience, and he became instantly recognizable.

But while many are now aware that Mahadevan drums, few know much about his particular genre of drumming, and what it means to him.

Mahadevan plays the Mridangam (pronounced mri-dung-um), an ancient South-Indian percussion instrument often used to accompany singers. He has been playing it since he was a third grader in Manchester, U.K., and his passion for the instrument has more than sustained itself over the years.

“My favorite part about it is what my hand is capable of doing,” Mahadevan said. “Just the small movement of my fingers and how much sound it can make.”

Mahadevan now takes lessons from two different teachers, sometimes as frequently as every other day. Since his move to Burlingame, he has been taking his drumming especially seriously.

“Here it’s really intense,” he said, comparing the mridangam scene in the Bay Area to that of Manchester. “The standards are a lot higher, so I don’t perform as much.”

That isn’t to say he doesn’t perform at all, though. Just last year, Mahadevan traveled to Cleveland to participate in a massive Indian classical music festival where he played alongside singers, violinists and sitar players. It was a grueling but rewarding experience, he said.

“The practice sessions tend to be at least two hours long a day, so it’s very physically demanding,” Mahadevan said.

In addition to the Cleveland festival, he played for Burlingame students at the school’s cultural assembly last year.

“My mother just saw it in the news bulletin and said ‘Manish, you should go play at it,’” he said. “I was reluctant at first, but I just went there and said ‘Hey, I might get some publicity.’ I tried out, they liked it and I performed.”

The most important event currently on Mahadevan’s horizon is his arangetram, a three-hour long concert played with a singer and a violinist. In it, Mahadevan will be able to demonstrate everything he’s learned throughout his years of training. He hopes to complete it in the next year or two.

Until then, Mahadevan will continue to practice, perform and possibly play again at this year’s cultural assembly.

“If they let me do it again I hope to,” Mahadevan said. “And I’ll probably do some more complex stuff, because honestly, what I did last year wasn’t that complex in the grand scheme of things.”

Posted on November 26, 2017 .