Save Western Ghats or face the music!

Save Western Ghats or face the music!


Save Western Ghats or face the music!

Our Bamboo / Our Music / Our Planet / Save Bamboo / Save Athirappilly / Save the Western Ghats, sings Unnikrishnan Pakkanar.

Unnikrishnan Pakkanar and his team start their musical evening with this beautiful prayer. They use instruments made out of bamboo and sing wonderful folk tunes. “Music is our god, it is our life. Save Bamboo, save the Western Ghats,” they sing.

Unnikrishnan Pakkanar and his friends are from Thrissur district of Kerala. They live close to the Chalakudi river basin. For the past ten years, the group is working hard to create environmental awareness through their music. 

There are ten expert artistes in the team. They have created over 80 bamboo instruments and have named each instrument on the basis of the kind of sound it produces.

They have also evolved different tunes - the tune of nature, song of the environment, the voice of god, and the rhythm of music.

Unnikrishnan lives in the jungle. His sources of entertainment are the trees, greenery, chirping birds, buzzing bees, pitter-patter of raindrops and waterfalls.
It was this music inherent in nature that inspired Unnikrishnan to join the chorus and eventually start the bamboo music orchestra.

Saving Athirappilly

Bamboo music started off as a hobby. But, later it came to be associated with the campaign to save the environment. One such instance was when the Kerala government’s plan to harness energy from the Chalakudi river, Athirappilly falls. This river is the lifeline of Kerala. Several people in the state protested in order to save their river. “We believe that nature is our mother. We therefore joined the battle against the power project through our bamboo music. We voiced our messages through songs,” says Unnikrishnan.

But then, there were detractors too. Like one time when someone asked him, “For all this talk about saving the environment, why do you continue to chop bamboo to make your instruments?” Unnikrishnan had his answer ready, “Bamboo is a plant which grows more as you cut it. There is no harm in utilising such a tree. Over the ages, people have utilised bamboo.”

The bamboo music team is well-known throughout the country. The team has participated in several environment campaigns such as Kerala’s ‘Save Athirappilly movement’, and ‘Save the Western Ghats’ movement.

When Unnikrishnan performs at the bamboo music concerts for the sake of environmental awareness, he does it for free. But when he performs for entertainment, he does charge some fee. He talks about his devotion for nature.

“I’m happy with two meals a day. The rest of my time and money is for nature. We take money from private enterprises. They want our music for entertainment whereas conservationists use our services to spread awareness,” he explains.

From decades, he has been inspiring people through his bamboo music and has taught the art to several youngsters. He has founded the Institute of Bamboo Music (IBM) recently. Nineteen students are part of his school.

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