Trikkampuram Krishnankutty Marar was a metaphor for his favourite timila
Kerala’s classical percussion world lost a pair of glorious hands and a fine mind in the death of timila maestro Trikkampuram Krishnankutty Marar, 77.
The diminutive artist would wobble a bit when he walked even without the weight of any of those ethnic instruments hanging down on a sling from his bony shoulder, but while leading a massive panchavadyam concert, Trikkampuram Krishnankutty Marar was nothing less than a colossus capable of only steady taps and rolls on the timila.
In a way, Trikkampuram was a metaphor for his own favourite instrument. From some angles, he appeared almost as thin as the timila. More importantly, his mind had the vibrancy akin to the resonance of the longish drum. For hours, the maestro would churn out insightful ideas and festive observations about Kerala’s classical ensembles, much like a fascinating verbal reproduction of his enormous talent and skill in handling quite a few traditional instrumental and music idioms of the slender state.
Indisputably, Trikkampuram was not just a timila exponent. As one’s temple-allied profession would demand from an archetypal Marar, Trikkampuram handled quite a few instruments ranging from chenda, maddalam and ilathalam to the others that earned him bigger reputation for long. In short, an all-roundish quality apart, Trikkampuram enjoyed unmistakable mastery in the instruments he specialised.
Prime among them was the timila, the key instrument in panchavadyam. Canonically requiring roughly 150 minutes to sound it full-fledged, this melody-laden symphony would be safely flexible when Trikkampuram would anchor it from the centre of the show featuring 75-odd artistes. The master might sometimes be forced to condense it to barely an hour — dishing out a sense of completeness for the listener. Invariably, his own passages of beats on and off would be defined by streaks of innovative and impulsive forays.
But such was the softness of his personality that when Trikkampuram would anchor a panchavadyam, no maddalam maestro standing opposite him would feel either threatened — or pampered either. “It was always a nice feel to be led by Trikkampuram; he’d do it without hurting your ego,” recalls maddalam icon Trikkur Rajan. On his side, Trikkampuram, a legatee of the Shadkala Govinda Marar style of Sopanam music that evolved more than two centuries ago in Ramamangalam village along the banks of the Muvattupuzha, used to hail Trikkur as the ‘rajan’ of maddalam.
All the same, unease would dawn upon Trikkampuram’s face when he sensed fellow artistes proving incapable of expected standards of artistry or cooperation. “Yet every panchavadyam of his would end only happily,” notes the late artiste’s son Trikkampuram Jayadevan, an idakka artiste. “For, my father knew how to weather adversities and discover eventual victory.”
Not surprisingly, Trikkampuram-led panchavadyam delivered a cutting-edge quality to the admirers in the districts of Thrissur and Palakkad — two other nerve-centres of the art-form. “His idachil numbers in rhythmic cycles of panchari, champa and chembada — a magical deviation from the customary adanta — used to stun the freaks,” notes timila master Annamanada Parameswara Marar, who has rubbed shoulders with Trikkampuram.
His Sopanam music was fine-tuned to the pitch of the glasshour-shaped idakka — a hallmark of the Ramamangalam style Trikkampuram inherited from his father-tutor Vadakkedath Appu Marar. The bohemian scholar had his explanation when he described the essentially folksy Parishavadyam as the forerunner to 20th century’s classical Panchavadyam. Equally daringly, he sought to play on stage the kudukkaveena, otherwise only a practice instrument for the sonorous idakka.
While expounding upon a split-second nuance about a percussion concert, Trikkampuram could simultaneously zoom out of it to say how the evening sun lent yellow tint to its grand panoramic visual. The master knew that lenses of varied power were essential to grasping an art in its entirety.