Thrippekulam Achutha Marar was a titan in the percussion ensembles of Kerala. His genius and dedication endeared him to connoisseurs and laymen alike.

The demise of percussion maestro Thrippekulam Achutha Marar marks the end of an era in Melam. Born at Urakam, the cradle of Panchaari Melam, Marar, though short in physique, was a titan in the world of percussion. He effortlessly controlled the ensembles that are lengthy in structure for hours altogether.

A self-made and self-taught percussionist, he had attributed his success in the field to the presiding deity of the Urakam temple. Incidentally, his last performance was at the very same temple from which he had started his career by performing ‘kazhakam’ (temple duties). He was felicitated just two months ago with a Veerasringhala.

A seasoned thavil artiste who metamorphosed into a consummate ‘Mela pramaani’ (leader of the Melam), his departure came at a time when the festive season has just begun in central Kerala.

He inherited the ritualistic duties at the temple from his maternal uncles Govinda Marar and Krishna Marar and underwent training on the thavil from Nellikkal Narayanapanikkar. Versatility was his forte as the nuances of playing the chenda, the thimila and the edakka were in his genes. Until his mid-thirties he was a regular thavil artiste for many nadaswaram concerts in central Kerala and thimila player for Panchavadyam in northern parts. Later he gave up those for the sake of concentrating on the chenda. From thereon he blossomed and there was no looking back. He endeared himself to connoisseurs of the melam with his absolute command and control over the percussion ensemble.

Be it for the majestic Panchari of Poornathrayeesa temple or the reverberating one at Koodalmanikkam or at Peruvanam or Aaarattupuzha, he made his presence felt at every venue. His ability in calculating and allocating the duration of time for different stages of the Panchari melam and its execution right from the preliminary stage was amazing. He could smoothly navigate the whole team through the different stages – from the base to the pinnacle, thereby providing a rich and rewarding musical experience.

The expertise he acquired on the thavil helped him a lot in accompanying the kurumkuzhal for kuzhalpattu, the presentation of which, along with Kombath Kuttappa Panickar, was a treat to the ears. Aligning the pitch of the chenda with that of the kurumkuzhal, Achutha Marar used to accompany delicately with the left palm and stick in right hand. He has rubbed shoulders with the masters of yesteryear as well as with contemporary maestros. He had accompanied on the thimila a Koodiyattam performance of Ammannoor Madhavachakyar. He was the pramaani for the Thiruvambady side in Thrissur pooram for 14 years and voluntarily retired from that responsibility only at the age of 85. He had the rare privilege to perform the thimila (Panchavadyam) and the chenda (Pandimelam) for Thiruvambady in Pooram festivities. Ignoring his age and ailments, he had performed for a short time two years ago, at the age of 93, at the temple in Irinjalakuda.

Both the Central and State governments have been generous with awards and accolades for this consummate percussionist. His virtuosity, versatility and dedication should be a guiding spirit for young artistes.