Percussionist S.Murali Krishnan drums it up with city students

The affable and chatty S. Murali Krishnan has a mind for mathematics, even though his heart beats for music. This sought-after percussionist from Chennai had the students of Mahatma School in Madurai in a wild rapture over the weekend when he shared his skill of making music out of an ensemble of mundane and totally – what you thought – were unmusical things.

His 35-member team, whose ages range from five to 50, thumped, beat, crashed and thundered their way through the roaring applause from the young audience. Each item – including popular numbers such as ‘Poongathave thaal thiravai' and ‘Ilamai idho, idho', ‘Kankal irandal', ‘Kadhal Vandhale' – was played effortlessly and was met with loud clapping and cheering.

But the finale that stole the show was the ‘junk piece', which demonstrated that there is music in everything – from the mason's trowel and spreader to iron bars and steel pipes, plastic tubes and buckets, broken tiles and stone slabs. And this is what sets Murali apart – his penchant for breaking away from routine and creating sounds from just about anything.” “The emphasis should not be just on teaching an instrument but on the practical application of music,” he says.

He took to drums like fish to water and started playing the mrudangam at the age of six. By 11, he had mastered the classical nuances of percussion. As a teenager, he travelled for performances and by 25 had already established “Jus Drums”, a school in Chennai affiliated to the Trinity College of Music, London. He has himself completed eight grades of drum kit training offered by the college, online.

Smiles Murali, “As a kid when I could not afford a drum kit, I used to just play around with my fingers on any item inside or outside the house, from chairs and tables to pots, pans and pads and realised how different sounds could be brought out and even fine-tuned.” This has helped him in innovative thinking and every annual programme of his school boasts of a new highlight, like this year's junk piece. And his inspiration, he says, is the book titled “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki.

“My students come from all age-groups, professions and walks of life. I provide them with opportunities and motivate them to apply what they learn, and encourage them to work in compatibility,” says the Commerce graduate, with a burning passion for using music as therapy, for spreading social awareness and messages, and even linking it to maths.

“The accentuating tempo in music of any gharana is like a geometric progression,” he demonstrates, even as scores of inspired students queue up for his autograph and contact details.

Having trained 450-odd students in the last one decade, and now training a regular batch of 30, he is often hard pressed for time, holding concerts elsewhere, recording for films and playing in troupes of Shankar Mahadevan, Sivamani, Harish Jeyaraj as well. In the recently released movie, ‘Yadhumagi', Muralikrishnan has scored the music for a song only using junk.

Murali has broken the stereotyped image of heavily tattooed, long-haired or pony-tailed drummers loaded with funky accessories.

With his easy-going nature, he has gained easy and wider acceptance with “all those who hold potential” to package his kind of music for a cause.

“You should always share what you like or gives you happiness. Only then, can you inculcate positive thinking and development” – is his mantra.

If at all he finds free time, Murali loves to travel, read books and promote his band, “Fusion Music.”

He proposes to launch his summer course in Madurai next year; and a branch of ‘Jus Drums' in the city is also in the pipeline.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012