Balaganesh-Bageshwari of Tiruvannamalai are the fifth couple to be featured in the Navaratri Nava Shakti series of concerts by Parivadini.
Even those who are not familiar with Carnatic music would know them through their playing in AR Rahman’s Narumugaiye in Iruvar and Shankar Mahadevan’s Breathless.
Vidushi Bageshwari started learning Nagaswaram when she was seven years old. Her first guru was her father, Ramanathan. She did her bachelors in music from Madras University. She started playing in concerts along with her father when she was ten years old.
Vidwan Balaganesh is a third generation Nagaswaram artiste in his family. Balaganesh, hailing from Muruganur in Tiruvannamalai, started learning from his father’s guru, Tiruvannamalai Murugayya Pillai. He continued learning Nagaswaram from his father, Pichandi, and sister, Shanthi. Fine tuning and learning of nuances happened with Alagramam Pakkirisamy at the Tiruvannamalai Music College. In college, he learned Thevaram from Thirupananthal Thirunavukkarasu Odhuvar and raga nuances from Thavil teacher Kabilarmalai Thyagarajan.
Balaganesh has also learned vocal from Vidushi Alamelu. He honed his skills with stalwart Ponnusamy of Sethuraman-Ponnusamy brothers for nearly a year. “Ponnusamy is my mother, father and guru. He would sit in front of me and play the intricacies of ragas. He treated me like his grandson,” says Balaganesh.
Balaganesh and Bageshwari met at a concert in Tiruppur where they had gone to play separately. Following their marriage in 2009, they have been playing together with much audience appreciation. “We don’t think of each other as competitors but are always ready to give way and compromise. We practice together for long hours and know that we will do well as a couple,” the couple say.
Playing the Nagaswaram is difficult for anyone, more so for women, says Bageshwari. But practice makes perfect, she adds. Women today are doing well in all areas. They are overcoming many challenges. For Balaganesh-Bageshwari, the challenge is in maintaining family life as well as shine as performing artistes. “Many women are coming forward to learn Nagaswaram. In all music colleges, at least half the students are women. This is so gratifying,” says Bageshwari.