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Little musicians go big

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From a narrow lane in Triplicane, members of a children’s orchestra have marched into the hearts of music lovers across the city.LALITHASAI reports

Children hurry into a narrow lane in Triplicane carrying thin notebooks. Next, they enter a house, where they are ushered into a small room.

Already, some children are seated there and waiting for their grand master, Madhusudhanan. Besides the chatty youngsters, the most striking feature in the room is a scatter of instruments, including many indigenous ones.

Novel instruments

A kidki created using an aluminium vessel and a small brass jug. The mouths of both the vessels have been closed with plastic and secured tightly with ropes in such a way that they resemble a tabla. A mud pot whose mouth has been sealed tight with a cow’s skin and a fibre pipe closed similarly

with plastic. Madhu steps in and demystifies these unusual-looking instruments. He says, “Basically these are laya instruments and help to give different effects to a song. All these are handled manually and one has to be really skilled in their use to produce the right kind of sound,” he says. The master demonstrates the uniqueness of each of these instruments and tells his little students they will create instruments better than these if they diligently learn their regular lessons involving common instruments.

Madhu’s ability as a teacher of music is underscored by the success of ‘Madhu’s Little Masters’, the children’s orchestra he is running since 2006. Madhu’s Little Masters have performed in show on many TV channels and at a number of famous temples across Chennai and beyond. The popularity of the orchestra has fuelled the growth of the school. “With numbers having grown to 250, we have opened a new branch on Car Street in Triplicane,” says Madhu. The school also functions in its original venue on T.P. Koil Street. A plan is afoot to start another branch at Valasarawakkam.

After three decades in film industry, serving almost all the popular music directors, and establishing a mastery over a variety of instruments, including Thumba, Jambei, Darbuka, Murasu and Bangoes, he launched himself into this role as a teacher.

Talented lot

He began to train children in the age-group 6 - 16 to play instruments, sing and dance. “Some of my students are so talented that they can handle the drums, keyboard, tabla, guitar and the mridungam with ease. Some others have lovely voices,” he says.

Well-trained, the troupe was invited to put up shows across the city.

And then, requests poured in from other parts of the State. The children put up three-hour shows, performing hits of doyens of music including Illayaraja, S. P. B. and P. B. Srinivas. And over the last seven years, they have kept adding to their repertoire.

Madhu gets his troupe to perform for us. Swaying, smiling and tapping rhythm, the little ones deliver ‘Devuda Devuda’ and ‘Ammavum neeye’ ( from Kalathur Kannamma). Madhu says the young musicians get on top of even complicated drumbeats and background scores.

A group of 25 - 30 children participate in an event and each one is given a role to play according to his / her talent. Madhusudhanan is assisted by his wife Shanthakumari, who is a trained dancer and handles the Bharatanatyam classes. She gives special training in nattuvangum. Their 21-year-old son V. M. Bharath is a instrumentalist who scores music in the Telugu film industry.

(A column about entities that have outgrown neighbourhoods)

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