Little Keshava’s tabla journey began at dining table

October 11th, 2010 - 11:33 am ICT by IANS  

By V. Jagannathan
Chennai, Oct 11 (IANS) The seven-year-old’s fingers created magic on the tabla at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony but little Keshava’s musical journey began at the dining table when he was just two. And the boy wonder sings and plays the guitar too - when he’s not reading his favourite “Snow White” story!

Prafulla Dahanukar, a painter, watched in amazement as her two-year-old grandson Keshava copied the rhythmic beat cycles she played on their dining table. She immediately decided to buy him his first tabla.

He then took to music, growing up in a musical and artistic environment in Auroville, Puducherry, said his mother Gopika, who is a singer and photographer.

The child later learnt more of the intricacies by simply watching the hand movements of tabla player Ganesh Basavaraju who plays the percussion instrument with Gopika and her companion Nadaka at their public performances.

And after coming home, Keshava would imitate Basavaraju’s hand movements on his tabla. Basavaraju later started guiding the child whenever he came home, Gopika told IANS.

Recalling the moments before Keshava began playing at the CWG opening ceremony, Gopika said: “I gave him a completely different approach to the opening ceremony. I told him it’s a big light show and there will be many people participating and he is one of them. I did not allow any press before the opening as I wanted to guard the spontaneity for him.”

“With that approach, he was fearless right till he walked up on stage. All he knew was that his part was to go play and come back down to mama.”

The CWG opening was his first solo and sixth public performance.

Even as comparisons were drawn between Keshava and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, especially as both have curly locks, Gopika revealed that she compared his hair to none other than Hindu god Krishna.

“I feel a deep connection to Krishna - I was singing many songs to Krishna before he was born. Keshava was my favourite name of Krishna and I dreamt that my son should be born with curly hair and it happened,” Gopika told IANS. Keshava is a synonym for Krishna.

A Class 2 student of Deepanam School in Auroville, Keshava sings well and tries his hand at the guitar too.

“He will remember a song in the pitch he has heard it. When he was three, he would sing songs tapping his feet and clapping in rhythm at the same time…pacing up and down,” Gopika said.

The proud mother says Keshava is shy but full of energy.

The tabla prodigy’s daily routine consists of going to school, reading his favourite fairytale books, cycling and checking his amla and lemon trees.

“He loves to arrange the dining table for all of us while I cook and after dinner, he plays his tabla for a while if he feels like…which can even go up to an hour or two sometimes,” Gopika said.

Keshava’s current favourite storybook is “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and he absolutely loves the part where the queen transforms herself into an old hag.

The little boy loves the idea of magic and a make-believe world where he can transform himself into anything he wants and entertains the family.

“He takes a glass of water and entertains us by pretending it is a magic potion and acts as though he is transforming himself into different animals and characters,” Gopika said.

While the country will remember Keshava taking centre-stage as nearly 1,000 drummers performed at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the boy is ignorant about his fame.

“When a relative called him and said, ‘Keshu you have become a big man, he replied no, no, I am still a small boy’,” his mother recalled.

Were they nervous just before her son went on to the big stage?

“I had no stress or fear in me and we laughed narrating his story under the stage minutes before he performed,” Gopika said.

And what was her initial reaction when Keshava was approached to play at the mega event?

“After some contemplation I followed my inner guidance and thought that since it’s not something that I had pursued and had come to him on its own, then it must be part of his destiny.”

(V. Jagannathan can be contacted at

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