About Bala Skandan

Bala Skandan is a performer, educator and composer of Carnatic music. He performs both on the Mridangam (double-headed drum) and violin (Carnatic style). He also highlights the beauty of Kanjira (frame drum) and konnakkol (vocal rhythm) in his compositions as well as in performances. He is the lead artist and composer of Akshara Music Ensemble, a NY based Indian-classical music inspired band. Bala Skandan lives in Manhattan and teaches actively.

Bala Skandan started his music training at the age of 6 in both Mridangam and Violin; He received training from the legends of Carnatic music Guru Karaikudi Mani on Mridangam and Vidushi T Rukmini on Violin.

Noted for his ‘superb musical accompaniment’ by the NY Times, Bala Skandan has accompanied established international musicians and dancers and has performed in prestigious venues in Chennai, Europe and North America throughout his musical career.

He is the lead musician and composer for Akshara, an Indian percussion ensemble based in NY.

In 2007/08 Balaskandan had the distinction of teaching and conducting the first Carnatic student recital at the prestigious Juilliard School of music.

About Bala Skandan

Bala Skandan is a performer, educator and composer of Carnatic music. He performs both on the Mridangam (double-headed drum) and violin (Carnatic style). He also highlights the beauty of Kanjira (frame drum) and konnakkol (vocal rhythm) in his compositions as well as in performances. He is the lead artist and composer of Akshara Music Ensemble, a NY based Indian-classical music inspired band. Bala Skandan lives in Manhattan and teaches actively.

Bala Skandan started his music training at the age of 6 in both Mridangam and Violin; He received training from the legends of Carnatic music Guru Karaikudi Mani on Mridangam and Vidushi T Rukmini on Violin.

Noted for his ‘superb musical accompaniment’ by the NY Times, Bala Skandan has accompanied established international musicians and dancers and has performed in prestigious venues in Chennai, Europe and North America throughout his musical career.

He is the lead musician and composer for Akshara, an Indian percussion ensemble based in NY.

In 2007/08 Balaskandan had the distinction of teaching and conducting the first Carnatic student recital at the prestigious Juilliard School of music.

Training

My musical journey started when I was about six. Apparently I was so mesmerized by a Nadhaswaram troupe at a temple I was duly enrolled in a music school to learn Mridangam. A week or so later I was also ‘encouraged’ to join the violin class against my will. I hid the fact that I was learning violin form my friends for a long time (Needless to say playing the violin wasn’t considered cool even then). Over time I learned to love the violin and became grateful for my parents’ insistence. I also stubbornly refused to give up one of the instruments as suggested by many since they are not considered complimentary instruments.

Our violin Guru Shri Sarweswara Sharma was a wonderful teacher and a great human being. He was soft spoken and gentle, I was terrified of him. He taught me it was possible to speak softly and yet keep the attention of those around you. He had a great influence in my musical development and my personal development.

My early Mridangam teachers were Shri Ambalavanar and Shri Sinnarajah. They both taught with long sticks that they used to keep Thalam (tempo) on the floor. They never hit anyone but when someone made a mistake the floor got it. When I was about thirteen, they approached my parents and suggested I had an Arangetram (graduation ceremony). It would be the first Arangetram in the school’s history. I was of course thrilled but my father was skeptical but agreed to go along with it. It was a grand event – Arangetrams were so rare then. No one from family or friends had even heard the term and didn’t know what to expect but I think they all had a good time.

When I was living in London, I had the great fortune to be introduced to Guru Karaikudi Mani. I was living in London then and I had just recently heard one of his Sruthilaya album in my friend’s car. I couldn’t believe my ears – I had never heard anything like it. The precision, clarity and strength were simply out of this world. So when he accepted me in his school I was overjoyed and whence began another chapter in my musical career.

I started to travel to Chennai on a frequent basis. During one of these visits, a friend’s mother who is a great musician herself suggested I learned violin from Smt T Rukmini, another musical gem. She is an amazing violinist who ruled the stage during her younger years. She is also a great vocalist but above all a humble and lovable person. She was not taking any students by this time and my friend’s mother had to insist. I was lucky she agreed and I have been under her guidance since then.

In addition to my Gurus, I have been fortunate to get to know some brilliant musicians and Gurus who have influenced my thinking and opened my eyes to new possibilities. Shri T V Gopalakrishnan has been a big part of my musical development for over a decade. He is a versatile musician who has taught both Carnatic and Hindustani vocal and many instruments. He is a progressive musician who has revolutionized the industry by introducing many new ideas. Shri Vittal Ramamurthy is a fantastic violinist of the Lalgudi Bani and a great teacher. Shri Ravikiran is a musician’s musician and his knowledge of nuances in Carnatic music is vast. Shri Seetharama Sharma has helped me with my singing and hopefully one day I can dedicate more time to it.

Working with great musicians is always a learning experience. I cherish the occasions where I shared the stage with Shri TV Gapalakrishnan, Shri O S Thyagarajan, Shri N Ravikiran, Carnatica Brothers, Bombay Sisters, Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi, Flute Maestro Praveen Godkhindi, Sharveen, Ustad Shahid Pravez, to name a few.

I am blessed to be working with some fantastic New York based musicians in my band Akshara. One of my great passions is teaching and I enjoy watching my students grow musically.