Ace drummer Sivamani turns music director with the Tamil film Arima Nambi. He talks to Chitra Swaminathan about his rendezvous with rhythm
Drum wizard he is, but never treads the beaten track. To Anandan Sivamani, medium or material hardly matters. In his hands, mundane objects such as a wok, tumbler, water bottle or even a worn-out suitcase gain a unique resonance. He is on a sonic exploration be it at a concert hall, cricket stadium, the cold Mount Kailash or a kindergarten school.
From staging mock performances for his friends in a stationary bullock cart near his modest Basin Bridge house to sharing stage with star musicians Zakir Hussain, Billy Cobham and Noel Grant, the self-taught Sivamani’s journey in sound is as fascinating as his percussive paraphernalia.
And now he turns music director with Kalaipuli Thanu’s forthcoming Tamil film Arima Nambi. Talking excitedly, Sivamani known for his spiritual pursuits, says, “You know the best part is the offer came about when I met Thanu, also a good friend, at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Adyar. The turning points in my career have happened at the right time and place. So I happily agreed.”
The film directed by Anand Shankar, an assistant of A.R. Murugadoss, will once again take Sivamani back to his idols, inspirations and hands-on studio lessons. “As a young boy I would sneak into the studios on the pretext of taking lunch for my drummer-father. The music-making process has always intrigued me. I would stand there for hours watching many of those legends play and replay till they perfected the tune. Initially my father wasn’t happy to see me hanging around but relented when he realised my passion for music. At age 12 when I got the chance to be a part of maestro K.V. Mahadevan’s team I went berserk with excitement.”
Master of non-formulaic music, Sivamani insists when it comes to films one has to go by the script and the director’s vision. “I have composed two songs. One is a purely melodic piece while the other will be high on percussion. I will soon be doing some of the recording in the U.S. where I am also performing a few shows.”
Looking back on his musical journey, he says, “I had just the passion. No money, no influence, no great set of instruments. The sundry things that you see me creating rhythms from on stage are not an attempt to be different. I have reached where I am today, practising on utensils and boxes. Even if I can buy the best instruments from around the world I still enjoy performing on these ‘household instruments’.”
Playing an impromptu otha adi, his concert staple, on his car’s bonnet, Sivamani says he cannot thank Thanu enough for this opportunity. “Though I never went to a guru for formal training, there have been quite a few masters such as Ustad Zakir Hussain, who introduced me to a border-free world of music and helped me traverse the beat-street with conviction,” smiles Sivamani.