This was the first lec dem for this year. I managed to record a small 30 sec clip –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgQSXZ1Otpg
I reached the Academy quite late (8.40 am), thanks to all kinds of domestic crises (maid could not find the milk card, boys could not find the uniform and while I cant help in anyway, such capabilities being in superior hands, I like to get flustered). Walking in into the newly redone mini hall, I find three burly and bare-chested men in red and black bordered dhoties. The one in the middle had a deceptively soft way of speaking and that was Marar. The other two were his sons. He spoke on some of the tala cycles that are followed while playing the Chenda. These were chambata (8 beats), Adanta (14), Panjari (6) and Chamba (10). He explained the structure of the chenda, which is essentially a jackwood cylinder topped with bamboo rings on both ends which are covered with hide. The leather can be one piece or several concentric pieces to make for different sounds. The drum is beaten with a wooden stick and also the hand. The instrument weighs 12 kilos and is strapped to the shoulder.
The trio were joined by four other performers (all burly), of which two had cymbals while the others had the chenda. The group performed what was called thayambaka in which the various talas referred to above were performed with varying gaits. It was wonderful and lasted 45 minutes. Marar said that to experience the real chenda mela it is necessary to be present at the Trissoor Pooram festival. The performance is best done outdoor and within the mini hall the sound was powerful despite the mics being turned off. Some of the more delicately nurtured were seen to be shutting their ears.
When the sound reached a crescendo, a senior lady member seated next to me nodded off. I feared the worst but it transpired that she was snatching 40 winks. At the end of the performance, VP Dhananjayan who had just come in, spoke warmly of Marar and how the two had collaborated. Trichy Sankaran spoke of his own experiences with reference to chenda melam. He complimented Marar for a wonderful performance which it was indeed.