K Kerala’s ‘Tala’ tradition of rhythm music, with a heritage of over 1000 years, was zealously guarded, preserved and developed by artistes belonging to 2 communities: Marar and Poduval. It was in one of the most renowned Marar families that ‘M Sankara Narayanan’ alias Peruvanam Kuttan Marar was born on November 25, 1953, as the son of Melakalanidhi Peruvanam Appu Marar and Gouri Marassiar. The scion of an illustrious lineage of percussionists from the village Peruvanam, in Thrissur District, Kerala, India.
A life for ‘Tala’.
Peruvanam Kuttan Marar began to study Chenda Melam from his father Peruvanam Appu Marar at the age of 10. Later, Sri Kumarapuram Appu Marar taught him Thayambaka and Kelikkottu in Chenda. Sri Sreenarayanapuram Appu Marar was his guru in Melappadam and Purappadu of Kathakali. He mastered Edaka in the Sopanam of Temples and as a participant in the Panchavadyam ensembles there.
With the rigorous practical training under his father and his gurus, he mastered all types of
Melams: Chamba, Chembada, Anchadantha, Adantha, and Druvom, besides the familiar Panchari and Pandi Melams. Peruvanam Kuttan Marar made his debut with Chenda at the tender age of 10 by joining a concert in a temple nearby. After 1982, he became the Mela Pramani (Conductor of Melams) at Guruvayoor, Peruvanam, Arattupuzha, Irinjalakkuda, Thripunithura, etc.
Balancing art and life.
Though his father, Peruvanam Appu Marar, a doyen in the field felt that Kuttan is a natural legate, considering the social economic conditions, he thought that his son Kuttan should have a job for a regular income. Thus at the age of 20, Kuttan got a job in a nearby school as a non teaching staff. He was thus a government servant for three and a half decades. His penchant for the melam only grew and under the tutelage of his father he became a perfect percussionist.
After the demise of his father Sri Peruvanam Appu Marar in 1987, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar had to shoulder all the programs which his father was attending. Kuttan Marar’s mastery over the art form and leadership qualities as a
melam conductor made him famous and he was invited to lead the prestigious Chenda Melams of important festivals and Poorams across Kerala.
Destined to be the Maestro.
When he was barely 28, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar was invited to be the Pramani – the conductor of the large rhythm ensemble, for the first time, both at the festivals at the Guruvayoor Temple and at the Chathakudam Sastha Temple. There are not many artists in the history of rhythm music in Kerala, who were assigned this difficult role of controlling an ensemble of over 150 artists of a 100 year old classical tradition, at such a young age. From then on, for the last 41 years, Kuttan Marar’s name is synonymous with the development of rhythm music in Kerala. He leads the rhythm ensembles in nearly 84 temple festivals on a permanent basis. Also, he is the conductor for over 300 Melams every year!
Peruvanam, the Place and the Maestro.
Padma Shri Peruvanam Kuttan Marar’s homeland Peruvanam is a scenic village with a rich cultural heritage. Peruvanam is situated 12 kms south to Thrissur town, in the Cherpu Grama Panchayath, one of the most renowned epic centers of Kerala culture. As per the legends, out of 64 Gramams creatd by Parasuraman, Peruvanam gramam remained the greatest for centuries.
Peruvanam is the heartland and hotbed of percussion and some of the most popular artists and Pramanis hail from this village. Late Peruvanam Narayana Marar, Late Peruvanam Appu Marar and now his son Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, are the renowned Mastero’s from this land of melams. Peruvanam Nadavazhi, is a unique destination where the Panchari Melam is performed continuously for long 16 hrs, during the Peruvanam Pooram, the world's second oldest socio-religious festival, still in observance.
Peruvanam Mahadeva Temple which is one of the biggest in South India, is the central point
of Peruvanam Arattupuzha Pooram which has a history of 1427 years. Arattupuzha Pooram is known as ‘Gods Festival on Earth’ and Pervanam is known as ‘Land of Melams’. Panchari Melam and Pandi Melam is blended in the blood of the villagers.
Now, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar, the son of Peruvanam’s own Appu Marar leads most of the Chenda Melams of Peruvanam, Arattupuzha and Thrissur Poorams. He has successfully completed 12 years as the Pramani of ‘Ilanjithra Melam’ of the world famous Thrissur Pooram and Pandi-Panchari Melams of Arattupuzha Sastha Pooram.
Well, this was just a short note on the festivals and Melams in and around the Mastro’s homeland, the Peruvanam village. In fact, Peruvanam Kuttan Marar’s utmost sincerity and dedication to the traditional art form of Melams, has enabled him to grace all the major Melam stages inside and outside Kerala.
Nontraditional stages of the Maestro.
Peruvanam Kuttan Marar performed Thayambaka in several festivals including
‘Bharath Festival in the USSR - 1987’ representing Kerala. For India’s Republic Day Parades at New Delhi in 1986 and 1987, he represented Kerala with 40 artists of Chenda Melam. They group also participated in the National Integration Programme ‘Drums of India’ (1986) and ‘Winds of India’ (1987) which were choreographed by Sri Kavalam Narayana Panikkar, for the Republic Day Parade.
International Film Festivals, Tourism Festivals, Kerala Kalamandalam Jubilee Festival, Golden Jubilee Festival of Kerala Piravi, Bhasamaholsavam, Samskarikolsavam, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, etc. had Chenda Melams under his leadership.
The President of India, Prime Minister, Vice President, Ministers of State and Central Government, distinguished delegates from many nations has witnessed his programmes. He cooperated with the contemporary dance group Attakkalari of Bangalore and performed at the Rashtrapathy Bhavan in 2008.