FRIDAY REVIEW

Rhythm of the edakka

G.S. PAUL

GIFTED PERCUSSIONIST: Thripunithura Krishnadas.

GIFTED PERCUSSIONIST: Thripunithura Krishnadas.  

Thripunithura Krishnadas' 15-minute recital on the edakka was a piece of consummate artistry. His programme in connection with the Chembai Music Festival at Guruvayur saw musicians and music fans make a beeline to meet him and express their admiration.

He played the Swati kirtanam, `Deva deva kalayami' (Mayamalavagoula raga, Rupaka tala) accompanied by the violin, mridangam and ghatam. Amazing purity of shruti and gamakas punctuated by skilful improvisation made the rendition a memorable one.

Edakka has been the soul of Kerala music. It is usually used to accompany Sopana Sangaeetham; its potential as a musico-percussion instrument has been rarely explored in the past.

"But I was determined to change this `accompaniment status' right from the time I began to play the instrument," said Krishnadas, one of the heirs to the Mundempally Krishna Marar linegage, references to whom are replete in Kottarathil Sankunny's `Ithihyamaala.'

The gurukula disciplining under the doyen Ramamangalam Rama Marar helped him master all the kshetra vadyas as necessitated by tradition. An innate taste for classical music made him a fan of Carnatic music and he made it a point to listen to concerts by masters. This helped him learn the ragas and kirtanas.

Attempts to reproduce them on the edakka were successful and eventually a formal arangetram of an edakka concert was held. Since then Krishnadas never had to look back. He went on to produce two albums that have already gone into several editions.

What makes the edakka an intricate instrument to play is the absence of any fixed key or fret. One has to solely depend on the pressure exerted by the palm for the selection of swaras. For the same reason, it has to be self- taught. But a keen sense of shruti is a must. The instrument is highly sensitive to temperature variations too.

"Perhaps the edakka is the only instrument that is a unique symbol of our hoary culture," Krishnadas pointed out. Believed to be Siva's gift to Banasura, in response to the former's intense penance, it has 64 podippus (coloured woollen balls) that represent the 64 fine art forms.

The four jeeva kols (short rods) from which they are suspended stand for the four Vedas and the two leather surfaces depict the sun and the moon. The six shastras are represented by the six holes on the circular frame.

The kacha on which the instrument is suspended is believed to be the naga (snake) on Siva's neck.

As it has religious connotations, the instrument, once assembled, is never kept on the floor, he explained.

Krishnadas' artistry received a boost when he was presented in Chennai during the December season a few years back by violinist V.V. Ravi.

Seasoned connoisseurs in Chennai were spellbound when Krishnadas beat out Carnatic kirtanas in different ragas accompanied by the violin and the mridangam.

Thripunithura Krishnadas has played for songs in `Ashtapadi,' `Devasuram,' `Kamaladalam, Kalyanaraman,' `Dada Sahib,' and `Achaneyanenikkishtam,' to mention only a few.

The Mohanlal-starrer `Vadakkunnathan' is the latest among them.

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