THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Experimenting with edakka, widely regarded as a temple percussion instrument, is easier said than done, with only a handful of performers having attempted it in the past. It is the mathematical progression (perukkal) that comes to mind when the name edakka flashes in the subconscious.
Now, on Independence Day, Thrissur Krishnakumar, an edakka artist from Kerala’s cultural capital, has come up with a melodious rendering of National Anthem Jana Gana Mana. This is billed as the first such attempt by an edakka artist. A protege of Tripunithara Krishnadas, who played edakka for the hit number ‘Vande Mukunda Hare’ in the box office hit ‘Devasuram’ -- it showed the public that edakka is not a mere percussion instrument -- Krishnakumar draws his inspiration from his Guru.
Stalwarts like Pattarath Sankara Marar, a colossus of the Edakka, too had experimented with the instrument in the past, but it was ‘Vande Mukunda Hare...’ accompanied by edakka notes, which proved the turning point.
Since he played the ‘swaras’ of the National Anthem on the edakka, just about anyone with a ear for music can relish the song without the barriers of language or musical traditions. Krishnakumar told Express, “It is highly difficult for a percussion instrument to obtain a definite pitch with several harmonic overtones. Though edakka is one of the ingenious drum designs which makes it possible to obtain a definite pitch with several harmonic overtones, only a handful have tried to experiment with it,” he said.
Listen to the melodious rendering of our National Anthem Jana Gana Mana by Thrissur Krishnakumar, an edakka artist from Kerala. @xpresskerala @Dinesh_TNIE— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) August 15, 2020
Read | https://t.co/FRL6YpS2Wz#IndependenceDayIndia2020 pic.twitter.com/T4j5rmcB8L
Being a Brahmin, Krishnakumar was not allowed to perform Sopana Sangeetham in front of the sanctum sanctorum as traditionally it is sung by men belonging to the Marar and Poduval communities. This got him to explore other avenues outside the traditional setting, leading to his entry into the musical world of edakka. And he experimented with intricate raga-based melodies, swiftly moving its fundamentals in a range of about two octaves. This helped carve a niche for himself on the playback music scene in Mollywood.He has now played Edakka for about 30 films and accompanied vocalists like Yesudas, Jayachandran, P Suseela, S Janaki, K S Chitra on stage and studio recordings.
It is filmmaker Jayaraj — with whom Krishnakumar worked for the first time in the 1994 release ‘Deshadanam’ — who has tapped into his talent the most. He has even performed Sopana Sangeetham in temples like 1,010-year-old Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur and Chidambaram Nataraja temple, both in Tamil Nadu.
“The beautiful rendering of the National Anthem is my humble attempt to show the prowess of the edakka to those in other states. Edakka has a future beyond the Sopanam of a temple or as a temple instrument which often gets drowned out in the noise of the panchavadyam ensemble,” he said.