CHENNAI: Rhythm is the first form of music that comes naturally to human beings,” says percussionist Murali Krishnan, founder of Jus Drums music school. “The way you talk and walk has a certain tempo. Your heart beats in a particular rhythm. The first instrument that came into being is definitely not a violin or a veena but a percussion instrument,” he says.
Growing up listening to Ilayaraja and then a bit of A R Rahman, the self-made man says he stormed all culturals by the time he was in Class 10. For the next two years, he even used to play for a college. His luck ran out, though, when a same set of people organised a school culturals and gave Murali several awards. A week later, they organised a college culturals — and found our man there too!
At the end of his school days in the mid-90s came a showdown at home, when Murali wanted to take up music as a profession. Hailing from a conservative family, his father initially refused, but later accepted it. “I got a lot of support from my grandparents,” says Murali.
To buy his first drum pad costing `25,000 at the time, he recalls, he worked for a year in the accounts department of a hotel. Since he lived in a second-floor apartment, he had hardly any room for a drum set. “When I got back from shows, late at night, my sister would sometimes help me carry the drums. That’s where I started teaching too. I taught five students from 6am to 9am on Sundays. They would help me take the instruments to the terrace and the last one down would help me carry them back,” he says.
In 2014, when he went to Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (SAM), he was stunned by the infrastructure the place had. “I wish there had been something like this when I was student. There is absolute peace, no distraction. You have all the space and no restrictions. No neighbours to tell you, ‘Hey don’t play the drums after 6 pm’,” he laughs. Murali is the guest of honour for a five-day drum workshop in SAM, where he will also be conducting a few classes.
Murali never had any scholarships, was never part of any exchange programme and never had any ‘recommendations. Playing drums is so dear to him that he even played at a friend’s wedding reception…on his own wedding day! “I literally went from my marriage hall to his because I had promised him I would play at his wedding, and it so happened that we got married on the same day,” he says.
But there were pitfalls to such dedication. The day his grandmother died (“And you know how grandmothers are — so close to you”), he had to play at a show, thereby feeling contrasting moods of grief and joy on the same day.
According to Murali, rhythm has always been associated with culture. “To know how culturally rich a place is, just tune into its music,” he says. He has broken the definition of tradition by playing the drums in front of temples too. Recently, he played in front of the Mookambika Temple in Karnataka; he has also played them in front of the Sabarimala temple. “Music by itself has a lot of divinity,” he points out.
Guard Clears Trinity College Exam
Murali has taught students from 5-year-olds to 70-year-olds. “I have even taught our building’s security guard, who is from Bihar. I sponsored him and he has cleared the Trinity College exam!” beams Murali, recalling how it all started when the guard would come in and have a peek everyday at what was happening in class