Fifth grader Goutham B couldn’t carry the heavy ‘chenda’ on his shoulders. But nothing could thwart his spirit as the experience of performing four ‘melams’ gives him the much-needed impetus to reach the rhythmic heights played by his fellows.
Including the experienced and the beginners, 260 students of St Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Pattom have been striking hard on the traditional percussion instrument ‘chenda’ for the past one week; they have rolled up their sleeves to showcase their first performance together on this Kerala Piravi Day, which falls on Thursday.
In congruity, they have been trying the ‘thullal’, ‘eka’ and ‘oottiperukku’ rhythms as guided by their master Baiju R on the musical instruments lying suspended from their shoulders. The enthused bunch of children have such a penchant for the instrument that many have hired the instruments on their own to practise.
“The inclination of children towards playing ‘chenda’ has been visible from their participation in competitions. Along with promoting their interest towards that, we are encouraging them to be self-employed through this venture. We hope more students will join the training gradually,” says Fr Nelson Valiyaveettil, a higher secondary teacher who coordinates the training.
Without disturbing the classes, the students have been practising during interval time and when the classes are over in the afternoon. “To get all the 260 students together was not possible. Hence, they were trained in groups of 50 or 60. Once the classes are over, they would practise for one hour,” says Baiju.
“We teachers are offering them full support for practice. The school principal and headmistress are also encouraging,” says Manoj Abraham, a teacher.
“Through this programme, we also aim to promote a quintessential art form against the backdrop of the dwindling significance of other art forms,” says Asha Annie George, school headmistress. The students would present a half-an-hour-long performance at Thursday’s programme, to be attended by Cardinal Baselios Mar Cleemis, Agriculture Minister K P Mohanan, Health Minister V S Sivakumar and Port and Excise Minister K Babu.