ALAPPUZHA: Many believe ghatam, among the most ancient percussion instruments in India, is suitable only for classical rendition. But Manjoor Unnikrishnan, now based at Pattanakkad in Cherthala, is proving them wrong by creating new sounds on ghatam. And he is doing covers of famous compositions using the instrument -- a clay pot with a narrow mouth.
The latest in a series of creations by the 50-year-old is the sound of fireworks display. This, along with his other works, has made him a hit on social media. A ghatam player for the past 40 years, Unnikrishnan hit upon the idea of creating new sounds from the instrument just last year, after being forced indoors by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Though I have taken part in musical programmes across the world, I never tried creating a particular sound. Following the lockdown last March, I was rendered jobless. But that inspired me to create something different from the instrument, which lacks an independent identity in musical programmes,” said Unnikrishnan. He first recreated the popular song ‘Kanikanum Neram, Kamala Nethrante’ during Vishu last year.
“I used seven ghatams each with a different pitch for the two-minute song. Later, I experimented with the national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’, ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Rasoole Nin Kanivale’ and several others in connection with various Indian festivals in the past one year,” he said.This Vishu inspired him to go for something different. “I trained myself to replicate the sound of fireworks and recreated the one-minute-long fireworks display held at Dubai Marina.
Though the visuals of the display were used, the entire sound was created using ghatams,” said Unnikrishnan.Coming from a family of music lovers, he started participating in ghatam programmes independently at 16. Later, he joined the RLV College of Music at Tripunithura and is now an ‘A’ grade artist with Akashvani. He has performed in 22 countries, besides making over 100 albums and playing the ghatam for five films.