Showcasing the expertise of prodigy turned seasoned maestro Mattannur Sreeraj, the Keli Classical Rhythm Competition 2020 brings to Mumbai a reverberant show of indigenous percussion within the vaunted Thayambaka custom. Sreeraj’s honorific refers to Mattannur, the municipality in Kerala’s Kannur district that’s identified for its wealthy roster of performers classically educated in chenda, the ethnic drum that lies on the very coronary heart of a Thayambaka recital. Over three days, Sreeraj will lead performances by improvising rhythm patterns to the beats supplied by supporting percussionists. Within the course of he’ll regularly unveil the evolution of the artwork kind itself.
Pillars of percussion
The son of the nationally reknowned Thayambaka doyen, Mattannur Sankarankutty, the 37-year-old Sreeraj has come into his personal quite spectacularly previously decade and a half. In accordance with Ramachandran Keli, the prime mover behind the Keli cultural festivals he’s tirelessly been organising in Mumbai since 1992, it rivals the style during which tabla exponent Zakir Hussain took the torch ahead from his illustrious father, Alla Rakha. “Sreeraj is the genius of the century. Nobody can replicate or challenge his rhythms and the spontaneity and ease of his improvisations,” gushes Ramachandran. Sreeraj stands on the shoulders of different giants as effectively.
This version, the tenth within the Keli’s Classical Rhythm sequence since 1999, is devoted to the reminiscence of yet one more Thayambaka legend, Thrithala Kesava Poduval, who handed away in 1989, at a younger age. In accordance with the Malayalam author Manoj Kuroor, who wrote a poem on Poduval, “He [subverted] the rigid conventional structure of Thayambaka and revelled in wild flights of imagination while performing on stage.” These are attributes greater than shared by Sreeraj, a performer within the mould of Poduval, given to electrifying theatrics (‘throwing his stick into the air mid-performance’) and modern beat cycles.
“In the arts of percussion unique to Kerala only the drums speak. There is no barrier of language or community. The beats, that lie within all of us, are arranged into patterns in all manner of permutations and combinations,” says Ramachandran. Within the very first Classical Rhythm Competition, held in 1999 on the Horniman Circle Gardens in Fort, three conventional types of percussion have been offered, particularly Thayambaka, Melappadam and Panchavadyam. Famous critic and author Shanta Gokhale wrote, “Over five dozen players played as one, creating constantly changing sound patterns that rose up to greet the gods themselves. For me, the performance was like a rolling ocean of rhythmic sound, but for many it was clearly a reverberating call from home.”
Widening the canvas
Though the Keli festivals have been commonly courting audiences past the big Malayali diaspora in Mumbai, kinds like Thayambaka stay lesser identified regardless of being immensely gratifying to audiences who’ve skilled recitals first-hand. One of many causes they haven’t crossed over into the nationwide house, aside from sheer regional insularity, is as a result of they’ve solely just lately (very regularly, from the 1970s onwards) emerged out of the temple premises during which they’ve thrived for hundreds of years, albeit not essentially as a part of rituals.
Sreeraj’s first outing to Mumbai was throughout the 2007 competition the place he was felicitated with the Promising Artiste of the 12 months Award. He and his brother, Mattannur Srikanth offered the Malamakkavu type of Thayambaka on the second day, following their father’s majestic opening-day act. His father’s efficiency — a seven-beat cycle known as Adantha Kooru — will probably be emulated by Sreeraj on the primary day of this yr’s competition. Even when every day’s itinerary takes place at completely different venues throughout town, from Nariman Level to Anushakthi Nagar to Nerul, the performances are thematically linked and needs to be savoured in succession.
Keli Classical Rhythm Competition 2020: February 28 at Y.B Chavan Centre, 6. 45 p.m.; February 29 at Anushakthi Nagar, 6.30 p.m.; March 1 at 7 p.m. at Terna auditorium, Nerul. Free entry on all days. Passes can be found at venues.