Catching them young

RHYTHMIC HARMONY Students of Korambu Mridanga Kalari performing at Hotel de l'Orient. Photo : T. Singaravelou

RHYTHMIC HARMONY Students of Korambu Mridanga Kalari performing at Hotel de l'Orient. Photo : T. Singaravelou  

Students of Kurambu Mridanga Kalari impressed the audience with their percussion play

The Korambu Mridanga Kalari! No, it's not any martial art. To most of us the word `Kalari' relates to Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial art of Kerala. "In Malayalam, `kalari' means a place of learning, a classroom and that's why our mridangam school is called a kalari", said Guru Vikraman Namboodiri, whose 32 students performed an amazing hour-long thaniaavarthanam (a solo piece by the mridangam artiste in Carnatic concerts) at Hotel de l'Orient in Pondicherry. It was nice to see all the children dressed in traditional mundus (dhotis) and playing the mridangam in unison.

Korambu Mridanga Kalari's students, who performed the `Mridanga Mela', enthralled the audience, which comprised mostly of foreigners, with their non-stop playing. They played at different speeds and rhythms with their guru Vikraman Namboodiri on the konnakkol, chanting the rhythms and guiding the recital.

The boys aged between 4 and 15 made the audience sit right through the performance, unlike in most thaniaavarthanam where the audience melts away. "Yes, an hour is a long period for these youngsters." said Namboodiri.

The boys changed the talam according to konnakkol sollus recited by their master. "There are two styles of playing the mridangam - Tanjore and Pudukottai - and we follow Pudukottai style, popularised by Palani Subramania Pillai from whom my father Korambu Subramanian Namboodiri learnt," added Namboodiri.

The boys were excited by the audience's reaction. Sabarinath, Jishnu, Vikraman, Vimal and Arun said that they wanted to perform in concerts, though they didn't want to pursue it as a profession. They go for the mridangam classes on weekends.

Hotel de L'Orient on Rue Romain Rolland is a well-preserved heritage building, which was renovated through the efforts of Francis Wacziarg of the Neemrana Group of Hotels. The concert was followed by a dinner, the menu for which was a mix of French and Indian cuisine. Creole dishes like Creole chicken curry, mutton vindaloo and Pondicherry Creole salad were also served.

"We want to provide our guests good music along with delicious food. We will have more of such cultural programmes. These programmes are open to the public as well," said Edwin WilfredD'criz, manager, south zone, Neemrana Hotels.

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