Ethnic art, now in safe hands

Ethnic art, now in safe hands

Preserving culture

In a non-descript corner of an ISRO canteen, Chandran Nair used to make tea for the employees. An alumnus of Viswa Kala Kendram, a dance school in Thiruvananthapuram, the 54 year-old man had taken to this menial job for a living. But, a few years ago, his chance meeting with the members of Kshethra Kala Kendram, opened up a new world for him. The Kala Kendram is a Thiruvananthapuram-based cultural organisation, which promotes ethnic arts of Kerala and has taken under its wings dozens of artistes like Nair.

The unique feature of the organisation formed 18 years ago is: just name a  traditional art form, it will line up before  you artistes who are talented in that genre. Thus the organisation has in its roster, people who can perform Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Ottanthullal, Chakyarkoothu, Nangyarkoothu, Thiruvathirakali, Padayani, Theyyam, Kalamezhuthu pattu, Sopana Sangeetham, Kalaripayattu and more.

A treat for Mysoreans

A team from this centre was in Mysore recently to add gaiety to the annual Dasara procession popularly known as jumboo savari. Clad in traditional mundu, the ensemble of 20 artistes gave a resounding performance on chenda (a traditional percussion instrument).

“The presentation was Sinkarimelam, a derivative of chendamelam (chenda ensemble). This old temple art form is usually used to jazz up the festive mood,” explains Sreevaraham Ashok kumar, who led the team and is the secretary of Kshethra Kala Kendram. For this item, the artistes  play chenda, Veekan chenda (a modified form of chenda), Kombu (horn-shaped wind instrument) and elathalam (round shaped metallic instrument), and do some footwork in sync with the rhythm, he adds.

Kshethra Kala Kendram also offers other kinds of percussion ensemble like Chendamelam, Pancharimelam, Panchavadyam, and Edakkamelam. For some of these categories, wind instruments such as kombu and kuzhal are  add-ons.  Now, what has kept these artistes bonded together for years to salvage these vanishing  art forms?

“More than anything else, it’s our common love for them...” they say unequivocally.  The cultural group has travelled across the country and to places like New York, Singapore and France for stage shows.

And, its special, three-hour all-in-one programme named Keraleeyam has been a recent hit among the people, especially foreigners.