Court order on loud music brings drummers back in fashion

Kendrapara: The legal bar on loud music has brought traditional drummers back in business here after they were nearly forgotten owing to easy availability of electronic music at the push of a button.

Once again the roll of a drum can be heard in social occasions, specially in the rural areas of Odisha or for that matter Bengal and other states, like in the past when drums were an inseparable part of programmes.

Their sway was broken when electronic means of playing music made their appearance and band parties put the record players and amplifiers on.

R Ramamurthy, owner of a Berhampur-based band, said he was facing tough competititon from traditonal drum beaters because of court restrictions limiting sound levels.

"The number of shows has gone down. We had procured amplifiers before the imposition of legal restrictions on sound limits. We are performing under constant fear of police crackdown," he said.

Traditonal drummer Harihar Goud said playing the dholki is still a part time profession, but he is now in great demand, thanks to the court direction rstricting noise levels.

"We were getting hardly two to three orders for performance. Now it has tripled," he said.

Local musician Damodar Sadangi said the drum-beating art that was pushed to the background not long ago, is apparently on the path to revival.

The services of traditional drum-beaters were much sought during the Dussehra and Laxmi Puja festivities and the immersion ceremonies of goddesses.

"Dholki mridangas and madalas are traditional drums. Beating them genertaes a rhythmic resonance that is soothing to human ears. Drum beaters are dexterous in their inimitable style while dancing to the tune of drum-beating. For the observers, it's a treat to watch," Sadangi noted.

Nirakar Puhana, the head of a traditional drum-beating group, said their performances used to be limited to periodic religious functions in villages.

"For the past year or so, our troupes are performing in immersion processions in Dusshera, Laxmi puja, Ganesh Puja and Khudurkuni puja," Sadangi said.

"In Laxmi Puja immersion processions, musical band parties ran the show till mid-night. Thereafter, they were withdrawn by the puja committee as per an administrative order. We took over till the Mrinmayas were immersed at the river ghat. Our performance lacked cacophony and an appreciative audience watched us performing," he said.

Explained puja organiser Harilal Agarwal, "Side by side with band parties, we had engaged the traditional dholki beaters. We paid regard to the 65 decibel ambient sound limits. After mid-night, drum beaters performed as the procession marched on," he said.

Researcher Basudev Das said, "It is hearterning to note that the art is now beginning to get noticed in the rock music era. It's a melodious fusion of music and dance. This form of art needs to be patronised."