MUSIC Guess which musical instrument has floored the aborigines?
The corroborees of the aboriginal Wugularr community — who inhabit the dense forest of Beswick, Australia — are a cultural attraction. International tourists descend on their pristine land during the annual ‘Walking With Spirits' (WWS) festival, which presents a slice of Australian aboriginal life and music.
Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation (DAAC), the brain behind WWS, invites musicians to facilitate exchange of skills.
Probably the only Indian musician to perform at the festival for two successive years, percussionist K.V. Bala Krishnan has popularised the ‘tabla' among these aborigines.
As a result of the long association with Australian world music band Rivertribe and his friendship with Tom E. Lewis, DAAC's artistic director, Balu (as he is popularly known) received an invitation to Beswick for the 2010 edition of festival.
When he returned this year, he noticed that the Wugularrs' had developed a deep interest in the beats of the tabla.
Given Australia's curbs on bringing skin instruments into the country and its insistence on their fumigation, Balu had sourced a tabla through a friend in Australia in 2010. “The Wugularrs' enthusiasm for learning the instrument was reflected in the fact that a tabla — bought from a music showroom in Melbourne — was waiting for me this year,” says Balu.
“A programme aimed at building bridges of music between countries took me to Beswick, and I believe my visit did justice to it,” says Balu, who is smitten with the didgeridoo, a hand-crafted wind instrument, considered a symbol of aboriginal life. With its mesmerising vibration, the didgeridoo supports the songs of the Wugularrs that are largely a pantheistic celebration of Nature.
Balu — who plays mridangam, tabla, dholak, ghanjira, dandiya, darbuka, djembe and pakhawaj — is a percussionist with a good standing in the South Indian film industry. He, however, sets aside time for world music projects — he has associated with EarthSync for its Laya Project, and is a key member of Kartick & Gotam as well as Bony Chakravarthy's Oikyotaan.