“Culture nourishes in nature. Without nature, culture can’t exist. Without culture, society can’t [either],” said Kerala-based Vinod Nambiar of the Vayali Folklore Group, the first bamboo band in the country.
Started in 2004 on the banks of the Nila River (Bharathapuzha), Vayali was initiated by a group of young men to preserve the dying culture of Valluvanadan, a former princely state that presently covers Palakkad, Malappuram and Thrissur districts. The region is well-known for its folk art culture, folklore and classical dance forms such as Kathakali and Mohiniyattam.
Over 40 members of the band make use of percussion instruments made entirely out of bamboos, such as flute, dan truong, ‘seven holes’, bagu, short drums and peepi.
However, It wasn’t until 2007 that Vayali members started making use of the ‘poor man’s timber’ for its musical compositions. A Japanese artist named Tomoe had met them in Irinjalakuda, eventually inviting them to the Rhythm Festival. “We stayed with Japanese bamboo artists at Mount Fuji and came back with new ideas,” recalled Vinod.
The band, which has given as many as 500 performances across India, is also affiliated with cultural organisations such as Kerala Folklore Academy, Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA), South Zone Cultural Center (SZCC) and National Folklore Support Centre.