Percussion maestro Thrikkampuram Krishnankutty Marar was an ardent advocate and practitioner of Kerala’s ethnic music tradition. In his death, music buffs have lost a rare talent.
Rasikas of Panchavadyam, the indigenous temple orchestra, and Sopanasangeetham will miss seeing the fragile frame of Thrikkampuram Krishnankutty Marar who enchanted them with elegant phrases on the thimila in the Panchavadyam recitals and sang for them beside the sanctum-sanctorum of the Perumthrikkovil temple at his native village of Ramamangalam. His disarming smile and robust voice have now become part of the art history of Kerala. Till a few days before his death, Marar, endearingly addressed by his colleagues and admirers as Thrikkampuram, would sing for the deity, accompanied by the sonorous beats of the edakka.
Although not a direct descendant of the legendary musician Shadkala Govinda Marar, the Thrikkampurath family was closely linked to the Karavattetath family where the well-known vaggeyakara was born and brought up. Krishnankutty Marar had listened to the story of Govinda Marar. Hence his grooming as a Thimila player and sopanagayakan had a lot to do with the pride and confidence instilled in him even at a tender age. Deep familiarity, at a practical level, with all the different genres of ritual-music in the temples prompted Thrikkampuram to explore the underlying principles of each. He read spirituality in the vocal and instrumental music of Kerala supported by scientific notions.
Thrikkampuram’s career as an eminent thimila player in the major Panchavadyams of central Kerala was in sharp contrast to his preoccupations with Sopanasangeetham and the edakka. The former was, for him, an innovative voyage and a disciplined discourse while the latter was a non-contractual offering to the presiding deity of the temple. He discharged both with an acute sense of responsibility and fierce commitment. Playing with such stalwarts such as the Annamanada Trios and the Kuzhoor brothers, Thrikkampuram could weigh the pros and cons of his beats on the thimila at a young age. He had an irresistible quest for scientific reasoning in his negotiations with vocal and percussion-music. This, in course of time, helped him prepare a theoretical frame work for Panchavadyam and Sopanasangeetham. Playing each and every note with a precise understanding of its tonal and philosophical implications was the hallmark of Thrikkampuram’s artistry.
Music buffs will always cherish his unforgettable ettichurukkal in the triputavattom and the richness of Panchari in thimila edachil, his improvisation in the final segment of the Panchavadyam recital. Thrikkampuram appreciated in full measure the composite nature of this temple orchestra and, therefore, hardly allowed any discordant note in the ensembles under his pramanam (leadership). In condensing the inputs in a Panchavadyam performance within the time-constraints, Thrikkampuram was astute. The credit for highlighting the richness of the Kudukka Veena rightly belongs to this percussionist par excellence.
Of all the tyanis that Thrikkampuram had sung in his inimitable style, ‘Neelakandha manohara jaya’ in raga Samanthamalahari and ‘Thunga pinga jata kalaapavum’, the composition of Shadkala Govinda Marar in raga Revagupthi, carried an uncommon rigour and sweetness. Thrikkampuram had an unmitigated trust in the solidity of a music tradition exclusive to Kerala. There was practically no symposium in Kerala in which he had participated that did not go without deliberations on Kerala talas such as Lakshmi, Kumbha, Marma and Kundanachi.
At the same time, Thrikkampuram had maintained a profound respect towards Carnatic music and its exponents.
Although he did not have an intimate association with the Pallavoor trios, he was all praise for their infinite imagination and musical vein, especially those of Appu Marar. But Thrikkampuram always stood for the melavazhi (accent on ennams and structural integrity) in Panchavadyam enunciated by the venerable gurus of the south school.
Among the recognitions that came his way are the State Government’s Pallavoor Appu Marar Puraskaram, Senior Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi Award. His modesty and calm demeanour did not alter a wee bit even after the honours he was conferred with.
He led a Spartan life till his last breath. With the passing away of Thrikkampuram, the heritage of temple music and the Ramamangalam bani have lost much of its sheen. However his sonorous voice and the delicate fingering on the thimila and the edakka will continue to reverberate in the minds of the rasikas for many more years.