Photos: Hang in Balance and Thaalavattam at Antisocial Khar, Mumbai
English handpan master Daniel Waples and ex-Swarathma drummer Montry Manuel come together for a psychedelic display of ‘junkyard’ percussion
In the infinite world of percussion, Bengaluru-based drummer Montry Manuel is a steady source of innovation. After leaving folk-rock band Swarathma, Manuel conceptualized Thaalavattam [which means ‘the circle of rhythm’ in Malayalam], a project that involves recycling trash like plastic bottles, paint cans and pipes to create musical instruments. The result is a unique and eco-friendly display of sound.
Earlier this week, Manuel started a three-city India tour, organized by The Humming Tree, with English handpan master Daniel Waples aka Hang in Balance and electronic producer Ashwin Nath on synthesizer. The performance at Antisocial Khar in Mumbai last evening marked the trio’s second stop on the tour.
The show was an impressive mix of the rehearsed and the spontaneous; the unexpected addition of guest musicians allowed the trio to jump from one genre to another, outlining the versatility of their respective instruments. For example, they paired Hindustani classical singer Umashankar Kathak’s vocals with hypnotic psychedelic beats and were able to effortlessly create a hip-hop based track for Mumbai rapper Shah RuLe later in the evening.
Manuel was an absolute powerhouse, pumping out a series of fiery percussion solos and keeping the crowd enthralled with his impossible energy and show of unique instruments. At one point he joined together two pieces of PVC pipe to recreate the sound of a didgeridoo. The audience were obviously blown away. Waples, on his par, charmed everyone with his cheerful and relaxed presence, keeping his beats light and almost ethereal, creating a fascinating contrast among the sounds.
The highlight of the night was the group’s detailed [untitled] track that combined synthesized bird calls and cheerful, tinkling beats from Waples’ hand pan to recreate what seemed to be the sounds in a forest. Manuel switched gears as well, shifting from heavier to lighter percussive combinations and providing echoing vocals.
Although the group had planned to stop shortly after that, thunderous applause from the audience and numerous demands for an encore led Waples to perform a delicate and almost cinematic solo track he referred to as a “lullaby”-a fitting end to the evening.
Photos: Bryan Jacob Daniel