Arakavyuuham a 10-member percussion band from Kerala Kalamandalam experiments with traditional and Western instruments

‘We are cooking some delicious dishes with our instruments,’ this culinary metaphor richly encapsulates the creative essence of Arakavyuuham, the percussion band birthed within the hallowed walls of the Kerala Kalamandalam Deemed University, a prestigious facility for the performing arts located in Cheruthuruthy, Thrissur district. This inventive group of musicians, all postgraduate students, is stirring up the traditional music scene with an audacious blend of classical and contemporary instrumental flavors.

Arakavyuuham is composed of ten members, bound together not just by their love for music but also by the powerful ties of companionship formed over years of cohabitating in the institution’s hostel. Adithya Krishna, the founder and a proficient chenda student, joyfully acknowledges this bond, as the members have known each other since their adolescent enrollment in Class VIII. Now, as some of these artist-friends approach the completion of their courses, the group has become more like a family, having navigated the rhythms of life and music together for more than a decade.

The pioneering spirit that fuels this ensemble’s musical journey owes its inspiration to a senior who once dabbled with multiple percussion instruments, blending divergent sounds in joyous jamming sessions. This innovative approach resonated with the young musicians, compelling them to create their unique symphonic recipe with an ensemble boasting of traditional drums like the chenda, mridangam, thimila, mizhavu, edakka, and western instruments like drums, cajon, and darbuka.

Arakavyuuham’s distinctiveness lies in the soul of Kathakali Sangeetham, the music paradigm integral to the Kathakali dance drama. Venturing beyond the boundaries of both classical and popular music, the group endeavors to infuse this genre with a contemporary, western twist. The challenge was in harmonizing the acoustic output of culturally and ritually tied instruments, mastering their limited sound variations to synergize with the polyrhythmic patterns from their western counterparts. It’s a delicate balancing act that Adithya and his comrades have embraced with fervor.

Interestingly, the ensemble’s structure during performances bears an improvisational approach that stands apart from taniavarthanam, where percussionists individually showcase their rhythmic prowess. Arakavyuuham, instead, opts for a collective narrative, with each section commanded by an instrument, but not predetermined, ensuring a spontaneous and engaging musical conversation among the members.

Deriving its name from the confluence of Sanskrit words ‘arakam’, meaning cacophony, and ‘vyooham’, denoting a group, the band playfully engages with the expectation of dissonance when diverse sounds are blended only to artfully subvert it. With Arakavyuuham, the supposed cacophony transforms into a harmonious and innovative soundscape.

Their repertoire extends beyond Kathakali padams to Carnatic music-infused film songs, showcasing their ability to straddle diverse musical worlds with ease. Their performances, starting with a debut on the Kalamandalam campus, have been a feast for the ears, and their upcoming schedule includes appearances at esteemed cultural festivals across Kannur, Kollam, and Alappuzha.

This fascinating story of Arakavyuuham—a chronicle of musical impressionism and heartfelt camaraderie—continues undeterred, as the members affirm their collective commitment to this audacious project, even as some graduate and move on from their Kalamandalam chapter. Reflecting on the road ahead, Adithya reassures fans and patrons alike that despite the educational transitions, the band will go on, inviting audiences to savor the rich, aural dishes they have so passionately prepared.

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