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Standalone Beats

The city is opening up to music festivals and gigs exclusively dedicated to percussion based performances.

Written by Debjani Paul |
September 25, 2012 6:04:01 am

The city is opening up to music festivals and gigs exclusively dedicated to percussion based performances

When legendary sitar player Pandit Ravi Shankar performed at the Woodstock Festival in 1969,there was no fanfare around the accompanying tabla player,tabla maestro Alla Rakha,father of Zakir Hussain. Percussion,often considered the heartbeat or backbone of any performance,hardly hogged any limelight back then. But things began to change around that time,when Ringo Starr became famous not just as one of the Beatles members ,but as a talented drummer in his own right.

Back home,percussionists such as Zakir Hussain,Sivamani and Trilok Gurtu burst on to the music scene,bringing percussion to the forefront for the first time. Often lost in the background as an essential but unglamorous part of any concert or performance,percussion seems to have come into its own now. It is being appreciated for the flavour,rhythm and life it brings to music.

Lately,in Pune as well,which is known more for its vibrant art,theatre and music scene,independent percussion events and gigs are being organised. For instance,when the first edition of three-day Dumru Festival was held last year,it was attended by 24,000 people from across the country. “Every day,we had over 8,000 people attending the concerts. Clearly,perceptions are changing. A few years ago,people would have had trouble imagining a concert with just drums or tabla or other such instruments. Now,they are more appreciative of it,” says Aditya Prabhu,the founder of India’s first percussion festival,Dumru.

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Pune-based percussionist,Dhyan Vatayan has recorded with artistes such as Sivamani and Bikramjit Singh in the past and has performed at over 40 different gigs that solely feature percussion. “I have been performing at percussion nights since 1998 in the city. However,it is only recently that I can see more people willing to appreciate it as a standalone genre. While earlier,they were willing to attend a concert only if it was a famous name,now they are willing to experiment with new artistes as well,” he says.

The second edition of the festival is scheduled for Pune again in November and this time,it will feature several renowned international and Indian artistes such as Pete Lockett from UK,who will collaborate with Rajasthani folk drummers; Greg Ellis from the US,who has composed rhythms for movies such as 300 and Matrix Revolution; and Guru Karaikudi Mani,considered as the father of the mridangam.

Every month,Taal Inc organises drum circles,in which several drummers come together to create a group rhythm with hand drums,congas,djembe and bongos. One of their most memorable drum circles was organised in honour of President Obama’s visit in 2010,at the Mumbai University,where Michelle Obama could be spotted participating in the circle. The academy also represents India in a worldwide campaign to form the largest international drum circle. “While earlier,drummers and other percussion artistes were virtually unknown to people outside the industry,they are now earning a name for themselves. Even local artistes such as Agneya Chikte,Dhir Mody and Shreyas Iyengar are doing well for themselves,” says Varun Venkit,the founder of Taal Inc.

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