Students hope to stage their arangettam for Onam

Mastering chembada thalam, the primary eight-beat rhythmic cycle, is only the beginning. But the children at the government-run Sree Chitra Home here have already listed out their future plans – a chenda melam troupe from the home.

And preparations are in full swing with a group of students perfecting their ‘chembada’ under edakka artiste Pazhambalakkodu Prakashan. The students, who have been undergoing free classes for a couple months now, hope to stage their arangettam, the first stage performance, for Onam.

Despite the numbness in her thumb from continuous drumming, 12-year-old Aparna, the youngest of the lot, shows no sign of backing out, while twins Praveena and Praseetha are determined to make it to the band. The teacher is strict, often loses his temper and it is really hard to keep up with his speed but the team of 11 girls and four boys are determined to complete the training.

“There is genuine interest among the children to learn chenda. Three were 40 children at first but it takes real dedication to learn chenda and finally we have ended with 11. And if they are serious about it, this could be a means for livelihood for them in the future,” says Mr. Prakashan, who have been participating in Thrissur Pooram for more than 15 years.

Once the chenda artistes are finalised, selection would be made for other instruments in the troupe including elathalam, kombu and valanthala, he explains.

Of course, the children do see a future and at least two among them are seriously considering career option as a chenda artiste. For instance, 17-year-old Manju has already done his research.

“There are many chenda melam groups who professionally earn good money. We also have all-woman groups participating in festivals,” she says.

Currently training on wooden logs, these children are pinning their hopes on potential sponsors for chenda and other instruments so that the team would become a reality.