Watching the Chenda melam at the temple festival in Maradu, my thoughts went to percussion maestro late Pallavur Appu Marar. He was considered a genius, equally proficient in Edakka, Chenda and Thimila.
I had seen his performance only thrice in my life, though I’ve read and heard about him lot more. First time I saw him was in Thiruvananthapuram in the eighties when I was in college. Marar was performing on Edakka at a jugalbandhi with other percussion artistes at the Central stadium during one Onam celebration. Somebody from the audience became restless at the slow build-up of tempo and let out a catcall. This upset Marar who immediately stopped the performance saying that he didn’t want to perform before such an unappreciative audience.
Second time I saw him was in the nineties during the Ilanjithara melam at Thrissur Pooram. Marar was leading the melam standing in the middle. He cut an imposing figure with a long chain and gold locket shining on his ample bare chest. I took many photos with my camera and completely enjoyed the melam forgetting the unbearable heat.
Our last meeting was I think during the late nineties, when he came to perform on Edakka at the Maradu temple festival. This time I got to talk to him. Along with my colleague Pradeep, I went to interview him for the Indian Express. He was tightening the cord around Edakka. After all those countless melams, he was hard of hearing and we had to repeat our questions again and again but he answered all of them with a smile. Later I got to listen to his skill on Edakka