TVG 90 Competition – I came third!

Of interest to Bodhran Geeks/Southern Indian Music Fusion Freaks/Supporters of Men in Man Caves/People in People Caves….

So I am delighted to say that I came third in a global Southern Indian online drumming competition!


I had to send a video of me playing a composition by TVG (see below) in round one, and then I got to the final and the 9 finalists were sent a brand new composition which we had about 3 days to learn. Then we had to send a video of us playing the new composition along with a click. You could do it on any percussion instrument. Here is the audio we were sent of the composition I had to learn. (NB You can see the piece written out on manuscript below)

Final piece as sent to us as Konnokol (vocal rhythm language).

Here is my video entry – with shaker added to aid listener comprehension.

International Validation of Man in Man Cave

I give you the more detailed story below but main thing is I have been working on this stuff in my man cave since 2017 and haven’t really played it to anyone – my wife had just found it annoying – so getting this recognition from TVG’s own people in India is super wonderful. Even my wife was slightly impressed.

New Album based on this Music in the Pipeline

I have been planning this for a while but I am going to be making an album of new music based on the application of TVG’s Carnatic music approaches to the Bodhran and Scottish traditional music as well as improvised jazz and the rhythms of the spoken word- which will feature one of TVGs compositions made ‘Scottish’ in a number of different ways – plus some new compositions I have made inspired by his style. The album will feature contributions from Aidan O’Rourke, Julian Argüelles, David Greig ( the playwright), and the Bevvy Sisters amongst others.


So in December 2017 I went to India – with the support of Creative Scotland and Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival so thanks to them – and as well as making the In Common album in Delhi I spent a week studying Southern Indian Carnatic drumming with Suresh Vaidyanathan in Chennai. You can see a video about that trip on the In Common page of this website if you are interested.

As part of these lessons my teacher Suresh taught me a composition called Sundaram by HIS teacher the guru TVG – which stands for T. V. Gopalakrishnan who is a very beloved drummer, singer, and educator. NB This recent competition was part of the celebrations of TVG’s 90th Birthday. Suresh only taught me the first part of the composition BUT he made a video where he played all three parts without explaining them. The second part maps the rhythm of the first part exactly onto a triplet or duplex rhythm. The last part is double speed of the first part!

So when I got home I looked at the video until I worked it out – which gave me great rhythmic geek type of joy. I sent a video of me performing the second part in Konnokol ( ie using the Southern Indian vocal rhythmic language) to Suresh and he was happy I had worked out the riddle he left for me. Then I set about learning to play it on bodhran. This involved having to learn new techniques or at least get better at techniques I had previously started to explore – that weren’t traditional techniques on the instrument. – in order to play this music. So it has taken a while.

So I had been practicing Sundaram for the last three years and it formed part of the challenge in the first round – and that helped me make it to the final. When it came to the final of the competition we were sent a new composition Surya that was very similar in approach, there was an initial section, it then moved into triplet/tuplex, the to double speed, then to double tuplex speed! You can see the sections on the video above.

So I have already started writing new music for the bodhran that is exploring this features of TVG’s music, – where a composition is mapped into different time signature/tempo grids. This would be a bit like taking the pitches from a jig and then mapping them onto a reel – or vice versa.

Another feature of Carnatic music – which is completely different to Celtic traditional music – is how the lines of a composition expand in a kind fractal way – so small bits of a melody happen more and more times, when the melody is repeated making the whole line longer and changing it’s rhythmic nature. It is comparable to ornamentation in scottish traditional music – but a kind of ornamentation that actually afters the length and sound of the melody – rather than just embellishing it.

So this whole competition experience has motivated to push on with this wee musical journey I am on – and I recently started teaching drums on the BMus Music course at Napier University – so I will be sharing the Konnokol approach with the students there – because I think it is a fantastic way of training the rhythmic brain – no matter what style of music you are learning.

4 thoughts on “TVG 90 Competition – I came third!

  • By Iain Sandilands - Reply

    Brilliant, Tom!

    • By tombancroft - Reply

      Thanks Iain x

  • By Rick Bamford - Reply

    Hi Tom, congratulations on the competition and total respect and awe for a journey well travelled. Fascinating and inspiring. Thank-you kindly for sharing. Rx

    • By tombancroft - Reply

      Thanks Rick x

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