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Ex Swarthama drummer Montry Manuel talks about his new gig

Former Swarathma drummer, Montry Manuel talks about making music using recycled objects and teaming up with handpan artiste Daniel Waples. Excerpts from an interview

 Q. Tell us about your gig with percussionist Daniel Waples.
A. It will be a mix of Electronic and organic music. I am going to play instruments made of recycled objects, whereas Daniel will be playing a handpan. The handpan is a new instrument, so people are excited, just like I am. I have created this new instrument using a water jug that I found in a junkyard in Bangalore. I put it together to create a new instrument. We call it floating jug; it’s sound is inspired by the handpan. We have put it together, in a fashionable way. It’s a new way of giving life to an object.

Montry Manuel of Thalavattam perform live on stage using his self-made instrument
Montry Manuel of Thalavattam perform live on stage using his self-made instrument

Q. How did the collaboration with Daniel Waples happen? Was it during or after Swarathma?
A. I left Swarathma in 2012. My last project with them was the Dewarist show. Soon after that I launched my solo project Thaalavattam. I met Daniel at the Ozora music festival in Hungary in 2014. Since then, we have performed together in many venues. We performed to a sold-out show at The Humming Tree in Bangalore in January. We have also jammed together in Goa, and are currently touring Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. It’s been a good flow.

Daniel Waples with a handpan
Daniel Waples with a handpan

Q. What does ‘Thalavattam’ stand for?
A. Thaalavattam is a solo percussion project I started four years ago, but as an idea, I have been working on it for the last 15 years. I named it Thaalavattam because the idea behind my music is to create new sounds by giving everyday objects a new life. ‘Thaalam’ in Malayalam means rhythm whereas ‘vattam’ means circle. It’s like a circle of rhythm (like a raaga), an analogy to the circle of life, which refers to recycling discarded objects and giving them a new lease of life.

Q. Sounds produced combining everyday objects seem like a lot of fun. What made you choose it? How is it different from your work with Swarathma?
A. Earlier, I used to play real drumsets, now I make music using everyday objects like paint buckets, pipe tubes, plastic objects, etc. It’s a very different sound. It’s a challenge, but Thaalavattam has allowed me to take my music to the next level, creating my instruments and find sounds in everyday objects. I can adapt to any setup — be it a group interactive session, a street performance or for a club. Sometimes, it’s a live performance without any amplification, and at other times, I mix it live on the stage with electronic samples of the instruments that I can’t carry with me.

Q. Is there an audience for this kind of music?
A. I am a self-taught musician with a background in advertising. So, my music is based on the experiences that have been passed on to me. It’s a mix-and-match. My sounds are not for Rock, and neither for Trance but for people to groove with them. I have seen five-year-olds as well as older people both dance along my music. I could connect with people. We don’t have any particular genre that we play.

Q. How many instruments have you made so far? What is the typical process of making instruments?
A. I have over 400 instruments in my studio in Bangalore. Some are small, others big. Usually, I travel with 30 of these. I am always looking at taking my music to the next level, and looking for objects to add to my collection. But it’s not me alone. Many artistes are involved in the making of instruments. Sometimes, I also involve a welder and a painter. It’s a very creative process.

On: Today, 8 pm onwards 
At: antiSOCIAL, Rohan Plaza, 5th Road, Khar (W).
Entry: Rs 500
Log on to: www.thaalavattam.in

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