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Friday, September 17, 2010


Virtuoso Durban Indian drummer dies after a short illness.

South Africa’s most accomplished mrdingam (Indian drum) player, Pregalathan Singaram, 54, has died at a Durban Hospital after a short illness. He was a child prodigy who hailed from a family of musicians who have contributed immensely to the furtherance of the Indian performing arts.

In 1980, Pregalathan Singaram graduated in the art of playing the mrdingam – the two-sided Indian drum - after studying for two years in India under the respected teacher Sri Madras A Kannan. Immediately upon his return to Durban, he began regularly accompanying top South African and international singers and musicians on stage. He also performed in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Singapore, India, Netherlands and Brazil.

He ran his own music school and, through his tutelage at various centres, more than 100 students have graduated in the art of playing Indian percussion instruments. He has been an adjudicator at the annual Tamil eisteddfod and was a founder member of the United Musicians and Dancers Association of South Africa.

Pregalathan Singaram has played a significant role in promoting racial unity through music and is co-ordinator of the National Drum Festival organised every year by the Bartel Arts Trust in Durban. He also was a regular item on the annual programme of the Awesome Africa Music Festival and has given numerous performances on national television. Last year, he published a book Heartbeat of a Maestro for use by students of the mrdingam.

He and his wife Yogambal, an accomplished performer in the South Indian dance form of Bharata Natyam, spent most of their spare time promoting the performing arts by holding workshops and free recitals of a very high standard.

His is survived by his wife and two daughters, Shree and Arasi, who are both doctors.

“He was a good friend of mine,” says well-known musician Tansen Nepaul. “A father of music and king of the mrdingam. I had the honour of playing with him on many occasions and worked closely with audio recordings for his book and CD on drum lessons. This is certainly a blow to karnatic music in South Africa.”

The funeral takes place on September 17 from 11h00 to 14h00 at the MTSS Hall in Merebank, proceeding to the Clare Estate Crematorium at 15h00 for cremation at 15h30.