Two-hour long ‘Pandi Melam’ triggers frenzy at KMB’14 inaugural

By: K. G. SREENIVAS             Dated: December 13, 2014

Kochi Muziris Biennale Inaguration

Kochi, Dec 13: The Second Edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) got off to a spectacular start with the port city of Kochi witnessing one of the world’s biggest orchestral performances yesterday when the inaugural ceremony hosted a traditional Kerala ensemble featuring over 300 artistes.

Exponents of drums, cymbals, pipes, and horns stood in more than six-deep long rows to unravel the ancient ‘Pandi Melam’ that lasted two hours under the command of chenda maestro Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, shortly before Chief Minister Oommen Chandy formally opened the 108-day extravaganza.

The Melam drove the crowd at the Parade Ground in Fort Kochi into frenzy as the ensemble, believed to have originated more than 1,500 years ago, exploded in fast-paced rhythmic cycles of 7 beats. Typically starting with a slow-paced first chapter (onnaam kaalam), the recital on a raised stage saw 21 chenda players in one row ahead of 101 bass drums (valamthala) and cymbals (ilathalam) each, besides 41 pipes (kurumkuzhal) and as many horns (kombu).

Kuttan Marar, a Padma awardee, said it was only at Kerala’s famed annual Thrissur Pooram that he has by far led an orchestra of nearly this size. “Even at the Ilanjithara Melam, the total number of participants doesn’t generally cross 300,” the 61-year-old drummer said excitedly.

The Pandi recital was preceded by an introductory chembada melam which lasted 20 minutes.

Kochi Biennale Foundation has said it will continue to include the country’s traditional arts in the festival ending on March 29, 2015.

“The idea is to reflect our composite culture,” said artist Riyas Komu, who is the secretary of the 2010-founded Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit seeking the uplift of traditional art forms besides conservation of heritage properties and monuments.

CB

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