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  Music from junk

Music from junk

| CRIS
Published : Jul 3, 2016, 6:46 am IST
Updated : Jul 3, 2016, 6:46 am IST

Montry Manuel tells the story behind Thaalavattam, an art project, creating music instruments from waste materials, and collaborating with Daniel Waples and his handpan

Scene from the rehearsal Don Quixote
 Scene from the rehearsal Don Quixote

Montry Manuel tells the story behind Thaalavattam, an art project, creating music instruments from waste materials, and collaborating with Daniel Waples and his handpan

Montry Manuel was sitting in his backyard with a cup of tea. He suddenly heard a sound that went ‘kudukudukudu’ from the large water pipes behind him, and realised it was the sound of someone flushing from a floor up top. And presto, Montry goes to make a new percussion instrument called pipe drums. His head becomes full of inspirations, beginning with his dad who’d create all the little stuff you see around him, his drums teacher Jerry Peter, his days working as a designer, and his days learning break dance. Montry the musician’s story begins in Kochi. And on Sunday, his dad and mom will watch him perform for the first time when he comes back to Kochi with his art project Thaalavattam and with Daniel Waples.

 

“It is their 40th marriage anniversary on the 30th and this is my gift to them,” he says, laughing. It is also Montry’s first proper gig in his hometown.

Years ago — 2002 to be specific — he had left Kochi in search of better opportunities, or in his words -—’when I got bored of Kochi’. He is like that, he says, getting bored of things pretty easily. When he got to class 12 — or pre degree in those days — he was bored of studies and dropped out. He joined a hardware company as an office boy. Music happened as performances in small clubs in Kochi. “But I knew this was not the music I wanted to play or the job I wanted to do. I needed to do something interesting with art.” He picked up basic computer skills and became a DTP operator. “I started dealing with black and white but I got bored after a year.” Next was an ad agency that let him have a small room behind the studio to practise his drums. “Drums had come to my life during my days learning break dance at Kalabhavan. My teacher Jerry Peter was next door. I knocked on his door and said I wanted to learn drums. He said go and play. I was under him for only six months but he has been a huge inspiration. His biggest lesson was always to be original.”

 

So when Montry got tired of playing covers over and over in Kochi, he listened to a friend’s suggestion to go to Mumbai or Bengaluru. “It was John Thomas of Motherjane. I packed my drum kit and went to Bengaluru.” He began his days there again at a DTP centre while also playing with metal bands. Two years later he found an opening in Mudra Communication ad agency as visualiser. He started making it big there. The turning point came when he met a Mysore based band called Swarathma. They were a small fusion rock band then. “It had come through Raghu Dixit whose album cover design I had done. He introduced me to his brother Vasu Dixit of Swarathma.” A month later they took part in a contest for Bengaluru’s best band by Radio City Live and won. Montry became a rock star in his ad agency. But then the band began touring nationwide and became popular and the ad agency said Montry has to pick one of the two — music or design. He left his job the next day and went with Swarathma.

 

They toured different countries and that’s when the idea of Thaalavattam struck Montry. “I met artistes creating music out of paint buckets.” He could also do something for this world. He could reduce, reuse and retune. He suggested the idea of creating instruments from waste materials to Swarathama but that didn’t happen. Two years later he left with a slogan in his head: “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).” When others went to shop at malls, Montry spent his weekends at junkyards. He has created about 35-40 percussion instruments. “Once I found 25 water jugs and put together an instrument called floating jug, inspired by the handpan that Daniel plays.”

 

Daniel is also with him as they practice together for the Kochi show. “I have been in Kannur before but without my instruments. This is the first time I am also playing the guitar after ten years.” His famous handpan, he says is a form of steel pans (steel drums) created in Trinidad in the 1930s. By 1980s, steelpans were introduced to jazz fusion. Together, Daniel and Montry will ‘choose the best ingredients from a full salad of instruments’ on Sunday, at Café Papaya.