The beats of the chenda will blend with the voice of New York and London-based musician M.I.A. to rivet the audience at the opening of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale at the Parade Grounds in Fort Kochi on Wednesday. 

Oscar-nominated M.I.A., an artist of Sri Lankan origin, will perform with 44 panchavadyam artistes led by chenda artiste Panamanna Sasi, said a communication from the organisers of the event.

The panchavadyam team will comprise 30 chenda artistes, five on the Ilathalam (cymbals), three Kuzhal artistes, three on the Kombu, and three Nadaswaram artistes.

“It was an interesting challenge for both M.I.A. and me to work together,” said Panamanna Sasi, who hails from Vellinezhi in Palakkad, which has produced several renowned panchavadyam performers.

“For one, there is a vast difference in the cultures of her art and ours. Two, there was the language problem.Yet, we succeeded in collaborating,” he said.

“There will be a five-minute piece where my team will stick to a completely conventional format. We will play a passage from the  acham kalam  (fifth chapter) of the panchari melam (a traditional ensemble),” said Sasi, who also presented a Thayambaka concert at Fort Kochi last month in the run-up to the biennale.

“I’m highly impressed by the potential of the chenda drum,” M.I.A. said. “That you produce the rolls by using your wrist while holding the slender stick is wonderful.”

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