She’s perhaps one of the few women players of the instrument in India.

12-year-old thavil player Amrithavarshini breaks the glass ceiling in music
news Music Tuesday, January 09, 2018 - 19:20

Amrithvarshini Manishankar, a seventh standard student, is one of the youngest thavil vidwans in India and possibly one of the few women players of the instrument in the country. Traditionally considered the forte of men, Amrithavarshini plays the heavy percussion instrument with ease.

“Women can also do it,” Amrithavarshini says. “Women’s contribution to these arts is essential in today’s social environment.”

Training under Aadhichapuram AB Ramdoss and Kovilur KG Kalyanasundaram, she has been playing since the age of five. She spends only two hours at practice each day because, as she says, “I have to study as well!”

The thavil, an instrument native of Thanjavur, is a barrel-shaped percussion instrument from Tamil Nadu. Traditionally used in folk and Carnatic music, it is also played in temples. Owing to the specific occasions on which it is played, Amrithavarshini says, “This is a ritual based instrument.”

It is usually accompanied by the nadaswaram.

While the barrel is generally made of wood from the jackfruit tree, the beats are rendered on stretched animal skin- usually goat on the left and water buffalo on the right.

With her father being a thavil player himself and her mother a scholar of music, Amrithavarshini says, “The lack of women thavil players is what inspired me to take up the instrument. I wanted to challenge the notion that it is difficult for women to play this instrument.”

The thavil was predominantly played by hanging the instrument on the player’s shoulder. Amrithvarshini says, “It used to be considered difficult for women. But now, it can be played sitting down also. The thavil was once an open air instrument but now the acoustics can also be adjusted.”

Amrithavarshini who boasts of having performed over 200 shows, including for the government, has also been appreciated by Karunanidhi.

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