The frogs are croaking and filling in the silence of the night. The rain has just stopped, but one can still hear the occasional drops falling on the ground from high trees. I am sitting with a small group of musicians in a village in central Kerala. One of them manages to hook up a weak halogen lamp from a broken electric socket. A yellow pool of light creates an island in the darkness.
The musicians begin to open black canvas bags. They take out long bamboo sticks. Thick bamboo stems. A black leather case with steel clips clicks open. It reveals an array of neatly packed bamboo flutes in varying shapes and sizes. Slowly the band sets up their bamboo instruments.
The first instrument is a thick bamboo stem with a series of notches cut into it. A stick runs over the notches and a curious sound emerges. It mimics the frogs croaking. The other members join in with their instruments. The percussionists pick up the rhythm with their bamboo drums. A large hollow bamboo section has been filled with seeds. It’s called the rain stick. The seeds fall from one end of the bamboo to the other and create the sound of falling rain. The flautists join in. Their eyes are closed and a tune, hauntingly beautiful manifests itself into the dark jungle that surrounds us.
Music. One of the 2 universal languages. A language that has the power to bridge cultures and bring people together. I have traveled to a small village named Arangottukara in Kerala. Someone had told me about the Vayali folklore group and their amazing bamboo band. So I have come to see whether we can create a small music video and take their music to a larger audience across the world. I do not speak their language, but we understand each other.
Most of the band members are daily wage earners. Carpenters, painters, odd jobs at construction etc. But those jobs are for the day. When the sun sets and night covers their village, they come back to their music. Back in their village, they are masters of the bamboo band and owners of a rich folk heritage.
The bamboo band’s performance extends far into the night. There are many songs, many tunes and many stories. We end with a round of smiles. Black tea is served. I sit in silence and listen to the night. The frogs are still croaking, but the bamboo band’s music continues to play in my head.
Vayali is a registered non-profit. It consists of a group of young people, engaged in preserving their folk roots. Please share their music far and wide and if possible invite the band for shows and performances. Know more about them by visiting their web-site: http://www.vayali.org
Nitin Das is a space time traveler from another dimension. He comes from a planet where people live in harmony with nature. Temporarily stuck on Earth, he is trying unsuccessfully to use films to get people to think and act on creating a better world.