Remembering Annamanada Parameswara Marar, the master of rhythm

With the passing of percussion maestro Annamanada Parameswara Marar, an era comes to an end in the history of Panchavadyam

In the history of Panchavadyam, the traditional percussion ensembles in temples, Annamanada trio of Achutha Marar, Peethambara Marar and Parameswara Marar enjoyed a pre-eminent position in the latter half of the 20th century. The baani the three titans established and fostered on the thimila by means of their talent and perseverance became almost extinct with the passing of Parameswara Marar in the 1980s.

His nephew and disciple, Kalamandalam Parameswaran, continued to be the last link to a glorious heritage. With the passing away of Parameswaran, widely known in artistic circles as Annamanada Parameswara Marar (Junior), the legacy of Annamanada village in Panchavadyam has become part of Kerala’s cultural history.

Although Parameswaran grew up in the culturally vibrant village of Annamanada in Thrissur district, he did not formally pursue any art form under a guru. But in 1965, he joined Kerala Kalamandalam as the first student of the thimila when the institution added Panchavadyam to its curriculum. He received intense tutelage under the titan Annamanada Parameswara Marar for four years.

The guru was a disciplinarian who soon realised that his nephew had the potential to blossom into an acclaimed percussionist. On completion of training, young Parameswaran became part of the freelance Panchavadyam troupes and gained star status as a prodigious percussionist within a short period. Simultaneously, he spent a lot of time listening to and learning from legendary percussionists such as Pallavoor Appu Marar, Maniyan Marar and Kunhikuttan Marar.

The southern school of Panchavadyam to which Parameswaran originally belonged to follows a solid structure, which does not offer sufficient room for melody, be it on the thimila, maddalam or edakka.

Precisely for the same reason, he approached the Pallavoor trios for advanced lessons on the thimila. His interactions with them had the desired effect. The ennams he performed on the thimila from then onwards became a bewitching synthesis of solidity and mellifluousness. The surface of the thimila can accommodate only two syllables: ‘tha’ and ‘thom’. Yet celebrated percussionists have surmounted this constraint by exploring the many different tonal possibilities. Parameswaran is undoubtedly one among them.

Cherpulassery Sivan, the monarch of maddalam in Panchavadyam, comments on the distinguishing qualities of his colleague based on his long-standing association with him. “With the demise of Annamanada, Kuzhoor and Pallavoor trios, Parameswaran rose to become the Pramani of the leading Panchavadyams. He had the ability to coordinate various components of a Panchavadyam recital and ensure harmony through and through. He was co-percussionist of Pallavoor Kunhikuttan Marar in countless recitals, which helped him imbibe the multiple layers of improvisation on the thimila”.

Years of experience of playing with stalwarts in the field refined the artistry of Parameswaran. Through a process of trial and error, he could easily identify the pros and cons of each and every phrase he played on the thimila. Parameswaran had a sense of discretion in employing various nataas (phrases involving rhythmic variation). As the tempo of the Panchavadyam progressed, he revelled in thishram (6 beats), mishram (7 beats) and khandam (10 beats). Cherpulassery Sivan feels that his beats on the thimila in thishram sounded more melodious than the rest.

As homage to his guru, the late Annamanada Parameswara Marar, Parameswaran started a Panchavadyam recital at the Annamanada temple as an annual event. To honour his guru’s wish, Parameswaran took special care to see that the Panchavadyam began in the slowest tempo of 1,792 beats rather than the usual slow-tempo of 896 beats. This proved to be a big challenge to present-day percussionists. But Parameswaran did not relent.

Parameswaran silently, but firmly, fought against the caste hierarchy prevailing in the temples where people who did not belong to communities associated with temple arts were discriminated against when it came to playing certain musical instruments. He staunchly believed that lineage could not be the sole determinant of talent. Pallavoor Appu Marar Puraskaram, the State Government’s highest honour, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Fellowship and Kerala Kalamandalam Awards were bestowed on Parameswaran for his contributions to Panchavadyam. In the last several years, his health deteriorated considerably. Those fingers that accentuated the inimitable grace of thriputa fell silent for ever. As one who consistently played for the leading Panchavadyams in eminently known festivals of central Kerala such as the Madathil Varavu of Thrissur Pooram, he will long be remembered.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 7:18:52 AM |

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