Kerala village fears the music will stop

Cattle slaughter curbs shake craftsmen who make leather musical instruments

Updated - May 30, 2017 08:16 am IST

Published - May 29, 2017 09:43 pm IST - Peruvembu

Prized percussion: A craftsman works on a ‘chenda’ at Peruvembu in Palakkad.

Prized percussion: A craftsman works on a ‘chenda’ at Peruvembu in Palakkad.

At first glance, Peruvembu, on the outskirts of Palakkad looks like a tannery. Buffalo and cow hides dry under the sun. Take a closer look, and the real picture emerges. In the dexterous hands of the Kadayan community members, the hides get transformed into musical instruments that enthral music lovers.

Now, the Centre’s curbs on slaughter of buffaloes, camels and cows has got all of Peruvembu and its 85 leather processing families worried. Hides are already in short supply, and the villagers are bracing themselves for worse.

“We make the most number of leather-based musical instruments. Members of our families at Lakkidi Mangalam, near Ottappalam, Vellarakkad, near Thrissur, and Valappaya, near Irinjalakuda, are also in crisis. The restrictions will kill our vocation,” says K. Manikandan, secretary, Kerala State Thukal Vadyopakarana Nirmana Sanghom.

Recognition from greats

Palghat Mani Iyer, part of the mridangam trinity, was among the masters who identified the skills here.

“We buy hides from Palakkad, Pudunagaram, and Wadakkanchery. With the proposed restrictions we will be forced to stop production of musical instruments” said a craftsman, M. Velayudhan

Kadayan members do diverse tasks such as process leather and chip jackfruit tree logs. While some scrub buffalo hides, others apply black paste on the leather in the instruments.

Cow hide goes into chenda and maddalam , goat hide in mridangam, and cow’s intestine to the edakka . Instruments made in Peruvembu include mridangam, chenda, shudda maddalam, thoppi maddalam and tabala

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