M.S. Martin’s show Samarpan featuring 229 children on the keyboard was an attempt to create a new Guinness World Record

Two hundred and twenty nine electronic keyboard players from 25 city schools took centre-stage at the Chennai Trade Centre’s Convention Hall recently to present Samarpan, which was formally advertised as a musical concert for ‘world peace’, but was actually an attempt to create a new Guinness World Record for largest ensemble of electronic keyboard players. It was an effort by M.S. Martin, the man responsible for auditioning and tutoring the young participants, to reclaim the record that he and his students previously held before a New York-based group broke it by bringing together 175 keyboard players. “When I heard that my record was broken in New York, I wanted to do something more. I had performed a Carnatic concert with 109 keyboard players. This time around I wanted to perform popular songs of A.R. Rahman and Ilaiyaraja with 229 keyboard players,” said Martin.

After drawing up an ambitious plan, Martin, who has been teaching children to play the keyboard for the last two decades at his school Mellifluous Melodies on Keyboard, went from school to school scouting for talented keyboard players. “At least 80 children from every school I went to auditioned to be a part of this concert, out of which 20 from each school were selected.” Then came the most difficult part — to train 229 children — some of them as young as six. They had to learn to play in tandem with the others in the group. 

What were the technical challenges that Martin faced? “The biggest challenge was seamless integration of different groups playing different notes. Those who were quick learners were given complicated notes while the others were given simpler. We also wanted to stick to the theme of music for world peace, which is why we chose songs such as A.R. Rahman’s ‘Vande Maataram’ and ‘Jai Ho’,” he added. 

The children practised for three hours on Sundays over the last six months. “I divided them into two groups; one good in Western and the other in Carnatic music and trained them separately. After four months, they began practising together.”

The concert demonstrated the proficiency of the children to keep beat and play in sync. The participants may have to wait for at least 45 days to receive confirmation from the adjudicators of the Guinness World Records, but, according to Martin, that would just be an official recognition. “We already feel like we have broken the record.”

Industrialist Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, veteran singer S. Janaki and playback singer A.R. Reihana were the chief guests for the event.