Thaalam Mahotsav, which celebrates the rich percussion tradition of Kerala, begins in the capital city today.

The rich musical traditions of Kerala have a long history, and the repertoire is too extensive to be assimilated in a single lifetime. The grandeur of the rhythms are located in music that is part of ritual, folk, classical performing arts and the primordial practices of the Adivasis. The three-day Thaalam Mahotsav commencing today at the Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram has struck a balance by scheduling presentations and performances by experts on genre as diverse as Koodiyattam, Arabanamuttu and Chavittunatakam.

Often the mesmerising effect of rituals relegates the music to the background in our memories, therefore, the very first session here draws us to the nuances of music for Padayani, where the thappumelam takes the lead. From the robust sounds that support Bhadrakali worship, the shift is to the sound and timbre of the hourglass shaped edakka, played by Peringottu Subramaniam. The kurumkuzhal kacheri by Pallavur Krishnankutty and his team followed by Pandimelam by Peruvannan Satheeshan and Kakkad Rajappan who are reputed for expertise in melam in central Kerala wrap up the first day’s events.

On the second day of Thaalam, expositions of folk, tribal and classical music as evidenced in Chavittunatakam (Jossy Konnathu from Gothuruthu), Paliyanritam (Aruvi and his group from Kumily), and the thaala-kala structure in Kuchipudi dance (Shailaja from Chennai) offer an experience of the diversity in music.

Tyagaraja’s Pancharatnakritis reverberate to new rhythmic expressions that emerge from the combination of the violin, pullankuzhal, veena, mandolin, mridangam, ghatam, edakka, and the mukharshanku, as presented by Nadatharangam from Thrissur. The percussion ensembles call for technical ingenuity and the high that the listener derives iare not unknown to the Malayali. Taking you close to the frenzied beats of Panchavadyam are Ottappalam Hari and Cherpulassery Hariharan with their respective teams. Both come with the experience of having trained and performed under the legendary masters.

Leading one through the music in Kathakali and Koodiyattam through lec-dems are Kalamandalam Balasubramaniam and Kalamandalam Sajith Vijayan. Thayambaka by Panamana Sasi and tabla recital by the trio, Ustad Rasheed Mustafa Tiakwa, Shahrique Mustafa and Arshad Khan brings the curtain down on a music fest that will have transcended the insularity of the local by including a peek into at least three (Tyagaraja kritis, Kuchipudi and tabla) musical tradition from beyond its borders.

The Thaalam Mahotsav will also honour the seasoned practitioners Kalanilayam Babu (Panchavadyam and Kathakali melam), Panmana Manoharan (kurumkuzhal), Kunnathu Raman (kombu), Manjeri Haridas (melam) and Cherpu Mani (elathalam).

World of Rhythm

“The Thaalam Mahotsav is an initiative undertaken to make it a window to the complex yet fascinating world of sounds and rhythms of indigenous percussion instruments to the public. Unlike dance and theatre traditions, percussion-music does not call for an intimate understanding of the techniques by the listeners. Still a little familiarisation with the techniques and aesthetic uniqueness of the different genres such as Thayambaka, Panchavadyam and Melam would help the audience deepen their interest in and concern towards the rhythmic ensembles of Kerala in particular. The festival also attempts to highlight the various applications of string and percussion instruments in the dance traditions such as Kuchipudi and folk-ritual forms like Padayani,” says V. Kaladharan, co-ordinator of Thaalam Mahotsav.