The 22-member Shingarimelam band crossed the confines of Kuruvattoor panchayat. More income and fame followed.

If music makes a statement, find Kuruvattoor grama panchayat making it amply loud. From 2011, the serene rural locale has been drumming up a different identity, of being home to an all-woman band of Shingarimelam.

The band members, 22 of them, carrying 18-kilogram chenda and adding verve to celebrations, comprise housewives, working women, students and even a panchayat member.

Haseena Bhanu, who comes from a conservative Muslim family in the village, is also part of the team to tune up her life and earn some extra bucks for her family. The Shingarimelam band, called the ‘Swaralayam’, was formed under the aegis of Kudumbasree Mission as a platform for rural women to contribute to the family’s earnings.

But for the members, its not just ‘money’ now. They enjoy their profession, which gives them the space to travel and showcase the splendour of Kerala’s traditional percussion fervour. Their next jaunt is to Raichur in Karnataka for a performance on October 14.

For a four-hour performance, the team gets Rs.15,000, which is equally divided among the members. A team member gets an average of Rs.600 for a show. The balance amount is credited to a special account opened in the name of the team for its welfare.

Interestingly, the payment is not collected as daily wages by members. They are paid monthly.

Ajitha Kumari who leads the team gets an average of 150 programmes a year in addition to the opportunities outside the State. “In 2012, we got 139 major bookings in addition to the small programmes in the region. This year, we have completed 100 performances,” she says.

Haseena Bhanu, who has been part of the team from its inception, says she enjoys every bit of her work — be it the camaraderie she shares with her teammates while on the job or the reward she gets after each performance.

“For me, it offers a good income. My family, too, had no objection when I decided to be part of the crew,” she says.

The women have active support of their family, they claim. Some housewives bring their daughters for the performance. ‘Swaralaya’ now has four young performers — two degree students and two Plus Two students.

“Initially, we invested Rs.3 lakh for buying the drums, uniforms and other basic accessories for the team members. All of them were absorbed after giving an 11-month-long regular training under percussionist Sunil Kumar Payambra,” says P. Anil Kumar, a panchayat member and the manager of the team.

The team members are happy with the money they get and the work, and not even one has left the group till now, Mr. Anil Kumar claims.

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