She was not the only girl to come bearing a Chenda to the Thayambaka competition; but Meera Krishnan was the only one who came alone and gave a stellar performance. For this Plus 1 student of RVSMHSS Prayar, Alappuzha, the State School Arts Festival is just another performance, much like the ones she does with her father on a daily basis.
Meera’s father Kandallur Unnikrishnan is a well known percussionist and guru to hundreds of students in Chenda. Moreover, he has also bagged a doctorate for his thesis titled ‘Chenda vadyavum Malayala lipiyum’ (Chenda and the Malayalam script). He trained C.R. Mahesh, MLA from Karunagappally, and with his students, including Meera, performed alongside the MLA for his ‘arangettam’ recently.
Being the fourth generation member in a family of percussionists, Meera too started learning the art form quite young, at four years to be specific. “During the earlier years, I could not even sway a Chenda, let alone carry it. My father used to keep it on a stool for me to practise,” Meera said.
Playing for Kathakali
Nowadays, Meera performs alongside her father in temple festivals and Kathakali performances. “Playing for Kathakali is quite tricky. One has to have knowledge of the story, the literature and play accordingly. Besides, the percussionist needs to pay close attention to the movements and facial expressions of the actor, because the music should go accordingly,” Mr. Unnikrishnan explained. He appreciated the support provided to percussionists in the northern districts of Kerala, recounting the number of artistes who hail from those parts of the State.
Meera’s brother Harikrishnan is also a percussionist. He had taken part in the State School Arts Festival continuously for five years and even won the first prize once. Advaith Krishna, a disciple of Mr. Unnikrishnan had also competed in Chenda (HS) this year and bagged an A Grade.