Kurumkuzhal exponent - Late Kombathu Kuttan Panicker : Global Organisation for Pravasis Urakam (GOPUR)

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Published On: Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kurumkuzhal exponent - Late Kombathu Kuttan Panicker


KOCHI: Pallavu Puraskaram, the award instituted by the state government to honour maestros in traditional percussion ensemble, in memory of legendary chenda artist Pallavur Appu Marar, turned out a blessing in disguise for many little known melam artists all over Kerala.
The previous recipients of this award, like Thrippekkulam Achutha Marar, Thrikkamburam Krishnankutty Marar and the late Chakkamkulam Appu Marar, had proved their talent in their respective fields. This year the award goes to Kombathu Kuttan Panicker, the kurumkuzhal maestro, who has headed many famous melams including the panchari melam of the famous Perumanam Pooram, Edakkunni Uthram Vilakku, Aaraattupuzha Pooram and Vrischikolsavam of the Tripunithura Sree Poornathrayeesha Temple.
This is the first time a kurumkuzhal artist is being selected for the Pallavur Puraskaram. Among the myriad melams in Kerala, the kurumkuzhal plays a pivotal role. Many stalwarts of yesteryear like Pozhankandathu Rama Panicker, Kodakara Sivaraman Nair and others proved their talent in it. Of the 120 artists in a melam, the kurumkuzhal artist’s position is in the front of the chenda artists who play the prominent edamthala (the chenda which plays variations with stick and palm). In the normal course, the number of kurumkuzhal artists will be the same as that of chenda players in the front row, around fifteen. For the various melams, the style of playing the kurumkuzhal is quite different.
For the panchari melam the kurumkuzhal accompanies the percussion ensemble from the melodious pathikaalam itself. A wind instrument accompanying a percussion ensemble is not imaginable in the conventional musical system followed by our neighbouring states.
In the panchari melam the raga meant for the kurumkuzhal is very similar to that of the gambheera naatta.
The kurumkuzhal starts in a mellifluous manner but as the melam progresses, it just links the beats of the basic rhythm. The interesting fact is that it is the leader of the kurumkuzhal team who decides the kalasham of each repeated rhythmic circle, the ‘thaalavattam’. This is done by giving a signal to the team leader of the melam. When the melam attains the climax, the anchaamkaalam, the kurumkuzhal players also adopt a frantic style with their repeated kalaashams.
When played solo, the kurumkuzhal pattu resembles a shehnai concert, but as an accompaniment, it can control the rest of the melam. Kombathu Kuttan Panicker is an exponent in presenting the kurumkuzhal pattu. Panicker presents sensitive ragas like the Shankarabharanam and the Sudha Dhanyasi effortlessly, accompanied by the rhythmic support from the chenda of the renowned chenda maestro and another recipient of the Pallavur Puraskaram, Thrippekkulam Achutha Marar. “While presenting the kurumkuzhal pattu, we elaborate the basic mood of each raga in two distinct styles,” says Kuttan Panicker. The beginning session of the kuzhal pattu is designed in such a way as to delineate the mood of the raga. In this stage the solo performer is accompanied by another kurumkuzhal artist who provides the sruthi with the help of a miniature form of the kurumkuzhal.
Kuttan Panicker recalls with gratitude the late Pappunni Panicker, who played the kurumkuzhal as sruthi in those days during the Vilakku (night procession) at the Vrischikolsavam of the Tripunithura Sree Poornathrayeesha Temple. “Nowadays the young performers have replaced this with electronic sruthi boxes,” he adds.
Later when the pattu reaches the concluding session of the delineation of the ragas, the percussionist accompanies him, first with a traditional thoppi maddalam and then on the chenda, Panicker elaborates. An elathalam player will also accompany the chenda artist to provide the basic rhythm.
Thus by all means the selection of Kuttan Panicker’s name for this year’s Pallavur Puraskaram can be considered mark of approval for the little known wind instrument which plays a pivotal role in controlling the typical Kerala percussion ensemble, which also has an identity of its own in the ritualistic kurumkuzhal pattu.
This will certainly be an inspiration for young kurumkuzhal artists like Kombathu Anilkumar and Velappaya Nandanan to do innovative experiments with this short pipe which has infinite possibilities as an accompaniment to Kerala’s own melams, edakka pradakshinam.


Reed that set the tone of a drum


23rd January 2011 02:14 AM
For the sheer size of its crew and the length of their performance, there is something curious about the traditional percussion concerts of Kerala. It is a core slice of truth that only connoisseurs largely know: the four-hour melam, as it is called in the coastal state, with performers typically totalling around 125, is actually anchored by a small, slender wind instrument. That is, by the artiste playing the Kurumkuzhal in the centre of the row featuring the 15-odd pipers in the band. In short, it is not the chief drummer of the ethnic instrument called chenda who really runs the show — though the overwhelming presence and high-decibel sound of beats and rolls from it can give you such an impression.
It is in this context that melam buffs will hugely miss Kombathu Kuttan Panicker. Till old age caught up with him and he died last week at 81, the Kurumkuzhal maestro had been an overwhelming and reassuring presence in his state’s temples that mostly played venue to the ancient drum ensembles. And it was not just by authentically leading the concerts — usually melams either called Panchari (with pendulum beats counting six and their multiplications) or Pandi (comprising seven-beat cycles) — that Kuttan Panicker gained awesome an reputation. He would, ahead of such events, render pipe concerts of fairly long durations (say, 45 minutes to sometimes almost double that time). Such performances called Kuzhalpattu, where he would be mostly giving solo renditions in front of a row of caparisoned elephants in the dead of night, would light up the musical ideas in the mind of the maestro.
Panicker’s little pipe would look more like the Hindustani shehnai which is played  upcountry in concert circuits besides on auspicious occasions, but it is Carnatic ragas (melody types) that the Kurumkuzhal would take up and delineate in a big way — what with the instrument’s origin in peninsular India. Sankarabharanam used to be one of his favourite tunes. Essaying that as the main suite, Kuttan Panicker’s freewheeling and gurgling alapanam would unveil not just the beauty of the raga, but his own propensity to rub shoulders with a professional nagaswaram maestro on the dais — if one were to convene a jugalbandi of sorts.
Even when it comes to leading the massive chenda melams, Kuttan Panicker would  ensure that the tone of the Kurumkuzhal was in tune with the general pitch of the percussion ensemble. It was a delight to watch that bit of dramatics, where the maestro, bending his bare-chested body a bit downward, would swirl the pipe in a small and crisp circle ahead of kalaasams — rhythmic passages that indicated a change of chapter ahead. And, once the next set of beats resumed, Kuttan Panicker would sway his head sideways with dynamic, one-second-long grace in sync with each beat you heard.
It isn’t that Kuttan Panicker was just reproducing what gurus taught him as a young man. In fact, if the small Kerala pipe has  attained an identity of its own, it is basically through the strenuous efforts of Kuttan Panicker — and some of his contemporaries, like the late Pozhankandathu Rama Panicker and Kodakara Parameswaran Nair. Not surprisingly, when Kuttan Panicker chose to essay, say, Naattakurinji and Kalyani, the often-heard ragas lent an entirely different feeling to the listeners. In peak-form nights, he would pep up the show with racy numbers like Himagiri Thanaye, a composition in Suddha Dhanyasi raga that would sound more East Asian. Overall, more than as a ritualistic prelude, Kuzhalpattu, when performed by Kuttan Panicker, effectively seemed to set the basic tone for the melam that would succeed it.
The vitality of his contribution to the art is accentuated also, considering that Kuttan Panicker presented his art form at various temples in Kerala — and rarely in venues outside — for more than half a century.

Kurumkuzhal maestro Kombath Kuttan Panicker pass


14th January 2011 
THRISSUR: Noted Kurumkuzhal artiste Kombath Kuttan Panicker, 82, passed away at his residence around 5.30 a.m on Thursday. Panicker was an indispensable presence at all the major temple festivals in the state, including the Thrissur Pooram.
Born in 1929, Panicker has performed along with the legends of vadyakala, including Peruvanam Narayana Marar, Peruvanam Appu Marar, Thrippekkulam Achutha Marar, Chakkamkulam Appu Marar, Pallavur Appu Marar and Peruvanam Kuttan Marar.
Panicker had been bestowed with many awards and recognition, including the Pallavur Appu Marar Puraskaram, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi Award, Pullamkuzhal Appu Marar Award, Peruvayurappan Puraskaram, Sree Poornathriye esyan Puraskaram, Arattupuzha Sree Sastha Puraskaram and the Paramekkavu Devaswom Award.
A highly respected artist of his times, Panicker has also performed during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi and the Bharatholsavam held in Moscow.
Panicker is survived by wife Vilasiniyamma and children Girija and Unnikrishnan.
The cremation will be held on his house premises here at 10 a.m.
on Friday.

Full Credits and Thanks to Express News Service and Sivadas Varma  

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Posted on Thursday, June 21, 2012. Labelled under , . Feel free to leave a response

1 comments for "Kurumkuzhal exponent - Late Kombathu Kuttan Panicker"

  1. വളരെ നല്ല ആര്‍ട്ടിക്കിള്‍...കുരുംകുഴലിനെ കുറിച്ച് വിശദമായി പ്രതിപാദിച്ചത് കൂടുതല്‍ അറിയാന്‍ സഹായകമായി.കൊമ്പത്ത് കുട്ടന്‍ പണിക്കര്‍ എന്ന മഹാനെ വരും തലമുറ മറക്കാതിരിക്കാന്‍ ഈ ആര്‍ട്ടിക്കിള്‍ ഉപകരിക്കും .
    അദേഹത്തിന്റെ ആത്മാവിനു നിത്യ ശാന്തി നേരുന്നു.

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