Sree Mattannur Sivaraman is my teacher in chenda (Kerala drums). During the celebrations of the 60th birthday of his brother, the grand percussion maestro Mattannur Sankarankutty Marar, his disciples and well-wishers decided to do an exhibition of his mementoes and certificates (hundreds in number). Automatically it fell into my hands to curate the show.


As I went through the mementos I had an idea to arrange the mementoes in a unique manner. Since this was about the percussion master’s birthday, the pieces were arranged in the fashion of Chenda artists positioning themselves for a concert. Two different arrangements, namely Melam and Thayambaka – being the most important numbers in Kerala percussion – seemed the best option. Each memento represented an individual performing this art. It was fun to select the correct mementoes for this, as many of them had distinct intrinsic resemblance to certain musical instruments and individuals! It required only a minor leap of imagination to see them as actual artists. For a moment all these trophies were simply objects of art in my hands, and it was an exhilarating experience to see them come alive this way: and it was also thrilling that such a great artist allowed me to use his plaudits in this fashion.


During the real show we put some Melam and Thayambaka music in the background for the arrangements so that the mood was correct. My background in the percussion arts enabled me to merge percussion and installation art so that even laymen could understand the concept behind the arrangement. The maestro himself was overjoyed to see his assets arranged this way.