Story: CHRISTINE MACHADO | 24th March 2017, 05:19 Hrs
Montry Manuel was having a good time. He was the drummer of popular Indian folk rock band Swarathma which was going places. But the artist in him could not rest. “I wanted to create something of my own,” recalls the Cochin born musician, who previously worked as a graphic designer and in the advertisement industry.
Buoyed by a desire to do something to clean up the environment, Manuel decided to fuse together his two great loves – art and music to launch a unique initiative – Thaalavattam
(Circle of rhythm) in 2011, where he creates new music instruments using junk items around him.
“For playing in a popular band with regular instruments to making my own instruments was strange in the beginning and people often wondered how this was possible,” he admits, adding that they were impressed once they heard him.
Over the years, Manuel, who is currently doing shows in Goa, has slowly taken his project to 20 countries so far and was the first live act from India to perform at the O.Z.O.R.A. Music Festival in Hungary in 2014 which is one of the fastest growing psytrance festivals in the world. He has been a part of the show every year since then.
Discarded tubes, paint cans, plastic bottles, bicycle parts all find a part to play in his music journey and are reborn as hybrid percussion kits, floating jugs, tubes, didgeridoos and more.
“I don’t plan the instruments. Instead of going to malls I visit junkyards in my free time and pick up objects that I can work with. This of course take a lot of time. I experiment by playing them by hand or with other materials until I find the notes I am searching for. Sometimes this takes just a few moments but sometimes it can take years. It is different for different mediums,” explains Manuel, who has so far created almost 50 new instruments like the floating jug, the tubela and mechanic drums. Manuel states that he names them based on the character and feel of the instrument.
Presently he is working on a beatar. “ Using industrial waste I am collaborating with an Austria artist to make string instruments. The first in the lot is the beatar which uses broken guitar parts, iron rods etc. I hope to launch it in a few months time,” he says.
Lagging these instruments around however can be a bit of problem, admits Manuel. “I have customized my travel kit so that I have the instruments to play anywhere in the world. But even so, it is difficult to transport it by air as the weight goes way over the permissible limits. Travelling by bus too can damage the instruments so precautions need to be taken,” he says. But these are small issues as compared to the joy he experiences while performing with these unique instruments.
“These instruments cannot be matched to your regular ones. You cannot hear these sounds anywhere else. They are not factory created and cannot be duplicated,” says Manuel, who is performing in Goa after two years. “I usually play in a lot of big open venues. But the Cube Gallery being an art space, this venue is special,” says Manuel of his last performance here in Goa this time around, adding that he hopes to collaborate with the gallery sometime in the future too to spread his environment message - ‘Bhoomiye nammal kaathusookshichaal, bhoomi nammaleyum nammalude makkalude makkalude makkalude makkaleyum kaathusookshikkum’ (If we take care of the earth, the earth will take care of us and our future generations)