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Beats of chenda bind prisoners together

Staff Reporter
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Aim to make their debut as a chenda team on September 16

A new rhythm:Inmates of the Central Prison at Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram start their first lessons on the chenda.— Photo: S. Gopakumar
A new rhythm:Inmates of the Central Prison at Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram start their first lessons on the chenda.— Photo: S. Gopakumar

The closed environs of the Central Prison in Poojappura here will now resonate with the beats of the chenda as the inmates have started taking lessons from a professional chenda artiste. The aim is to master the basics and make their debut as a chenda team on September 16.

The chenda training, which began on Wednesday under the watchful eyes of Prakashan Pazhambalacode, an artiste who has made his presence felt in several venues, including at the Thrissur Pooram, had 12 prisoners on the first day, and is expected to have about 20 soon.

The aim, Mr. Pazhambalacode said, was to teach the inmates basics, that too in the classical mode, make them play as a team, and perform at the Onam celebrations in September.

The decision to go the classical way, devoid of pomp, was to enable them to make a living out of the musical instrument, if they wanted, once they were out of prison, he said.

The nuances of holding the drumsticks, the traditional grip, and the play on the wrists were among the lessons eagerly lapped up by the students, most of them life-term prisoners. “I’m sure that if they cooperate, we can put together a good performance and make their debut a grand one on September 16,” Mr. Pazhambalacode said.

The Central Prison, Welfare Officer V. Chandrababu and jail Superintendent Sam Thankayyan said, already had most of the musical instruments required for a conventional orchestra, and there were a few inmates and officers too who knew the basics. However, to get them together as a team and present a musical programme was the aim, for which the prison was on the lookout for teachers. That was when Mr. Pazhambalacode came along.

With the chenda lessons being taken care of now, the attempt was to manage the rest till professional teachers were available, and till then, make do with whatever they could string together for the Onam celebrations, Mr. Chandrababu said.

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