Bookmark: Meet the makers of mrdangam music1 min read 21 Jan 2020, 10:22 PM IST
T.M. Krishna tells the story of a family of master drum-makers while critically examining caste rules that govern the working relationship between musicians and instrument makers
Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna is known for his outspoken efforts against inequality, intolerance and the entrenched caste hierarchy in classical music. For him, art has become a tool to question status quo, a way to investigate and discover. He’s written two books, apart from a number of articles, that question the many beliefs in the arts world. In the latest, Sebastian And Sons: A Brief History Of Mrdangam Makers, Krishna traces the life and work of six generations of a family that made the percussion instrument central to the Carnatic music tradition. The mrdangam is played mostly by Brahmins. Its makers, however, belong to the marginal sections of society, which, as Krishna points out, makes for an uneasy working relationship. The instrument is made of wood, cow and goat hide, and it’s usually Dalits who work with the skin. The sound the artist wants from the drum depends largely on how innovative and understanding the creator is. Yet, the relationship between the instrument maker and the player is never one of equals. The caste rules are never broken, but merely stretched or bent to accommodate the need to work together. It’s a co-dependent relationship, and in writing about the history and technique of making an instrument, Krishna also exposes the many flaws and hypocrisies of the world of Carnatic music.