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Peruvemp village plays a dolorous tune

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TRADITIONAL CRAFT: Making musical instruments.
TRADITIONAL CRAFT: Making musical instruments.

Peruvemp, just 10 km from Palakkad town, is famous for its traditional musical instruments, such as tabla, maddalam, chenda, edakka and so on.

Instrumental musicians from different parts of the country and abroad come to this village to buy musical instruments. Half a dozen families here are engaged in making these wonder creations that produce music.

These master craftsmen follow a tradition, gifted by their ancestors. Kerala Kalamandalam and various music colleges in the State rely on this small village to get their musical instruments, which need high quality and perfection, a hallmark of Peruvemp.

A number of foreigners visit the village to learn about the making of these instruments and buy them. Most of the artistes and musicians who visit institutions such as Kalamandalam make it a point to visit Peruvemp.

But this tradition is facing a crisis because only a few people know about the craft. Only a few among them are coming forward to continue the vocation since it needs hard work and high perfection. The remuneration is not attractive to continue in the profession.

One of the master craftsmen of Peruvemp, Rajan, told The Hindu that they were continuing the tradition despite much hardship because of the recognition they got from musicians from far and wide. They saw it as a gifted tradition, which brought joy not only to the musicians but also to listeners.

He said the cost of the jackfruit wood and hide of animals, such as cow, goat, and buffalo, used for making the instruments had gone up. Making these instruments needed hard labour and specialised skill. Thus, income-wise, it was not a lucrative vocation. But they did not want to leave this unique tradition.

The work is a family affair, handed down from generation to generation. Rajan, his brother and his two small children are engaged in making the instruments.

He said that he would be only too happy to teach his children this tradition. But the Government should provide some help to these craftsmen so that the tradition did not get extinct.

The artisans have no facility to dry the hide. Drying it in open place invited protest from local people.

Another craftsman of Peruvemp, Prasanth Babu, who has been in this profession for the last 18 years, said they wanted to continue the tradition of his forefathers. But the job required good health and it could be pursued only till the age of 50 years. Beyond that, this hard labour could not be continued. So the Government should extend some social security measures for the artisans engaged in this profession. He would not like his son to continue this traditional craft because it is difficult to get a decent income from this profession.

The craftsmen have no organisational mechanism or society set up to promote the products. They are not covered by any welfare schemes. Though the heritage value and the quality of the products are matchless, it has not been effectively promoted.

The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) has submitted a proposal to the State Government for setting up a musical instruments making unit at Peruvemp for promoting rural tourism.

DTPC Secretary S. Vijaya Kumar said the Government had agreed in principle to take up the project. This traditional craft was almost on the verge of extinction. Thus, the idea was to promote the traditional process of making musical instruments as a unique tourism experience to tourists and ensure new avenues for the growth of this vocation and the welfare of the craftsmen engaged in it.

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