Can you hear the drums of Peruvanam?

#1 Oct 15th, 2017, 10:16
Join Date:
Dec 2008
In the land of awesomeness
  • aarosh is offline

A video clip has recently been making the rounds of WhatsApp. There are people drifting in and out of the frame at what seems to be a temple festival somewhere in Kerala. In the middle of it all, lost to the world, stands a lean, middle-aged man in a blue shirt and dark trousers.

He is swaying intently to the sound of chenda melam, Kerala’s dramatic and very infectious percussion ensemble. For the first few seconds you could be forgiven for thinking that he is an attention seeker, perhaps inebriated. Then you start noticing the finer details of his movements: his finger movements are in perfect synchrony with the beats of the drum, almost as though he is conducting it. He allows his body to mime the slow early beats, steps up the shuddering with his arms akimbo, and then goes into absolute frenzy at the climax.

For the most part, his eyes are shut, in complete abandon, oblivious to the curious — and some clearly embarrassed — worshippers. But Titus chettan, as the excise official from Thrissur is fondly called, is beyond all that. He is what is called a melapremi, a Melam lover, more specifically a lover of the annual Melam festival at Peruvanam’s ancient Mahadeva temple.

Chenda love

This village sits 10 km off the bustling city of Thrissur, its entrance marked only by a kitschy banner announcing the stunning temple. Walk through its winding lanes, flanked by lovely foliage, fields and pretty houses, all ridiculously picture-postcardish, and you start noticing other signs of its love for the chenda. Perched atop gateposts and walls are chendas and other varieties of drums.

Peruvanam is, in short, mad about Melam. An average local is likely to either play the chenda or be a very discerning connoisseur. At the very least, he or she can “catch” the talam with an instinctive but unerring sense of the beat cycle.

The village heroes are its chenda wizards, men like the legendary Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, who has a massive, passionate fan following within and outside Kerala, Peruvanam Satheesan Marar, Cherusseri Kuttan Marar and Peruvanam Shankara Narayanan.

The village has some 250 drummers, varyingly skilled. Toss in the connoisseurs and you have a huge community of melapremis. They mayn’t all be as obsessive as Titus, but you can see them at Melams keeping time with hands waving in the air.
#2 Dec 10th, 2018, 18:27
Join Date:
Oct 2016
Aotearoa, NZ.
  • JayBlue is offline
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