Yesterday evening, I attended an unusual and incredible percussion recital, conun:DRUM. The night featured five talented percussionists—Eugene Toh, Lim Rei, Trivandrum D. Rajagopal, Tan Lee Ying, and Bernard Yong—and was perhaps one of the most memorable musical performances I have attended in a very long time. On display was a dazzling display of skill and bravura in a wide variety of musical genres, from traditional South Indian to contemporary Chinese, from Middle Eastern frame drumming to Western theatrical percussion.
The entire program was spectacular, and while other composers’ works, such as “Duo 77” by Yousif Sheronack, a duet based on South Indian (Carnatic) rhythmic patterns which featured Toh and Lim on frame drums, and “戏” by Guo Winjing, a contemporary Chinese piece composed in the style of Beijing opera which featured Toh, Lim, and Tan on cymbals, were rendered with incredible precision and beauty, it was “Nada Laya,” composed by Rajagopal especially for conun:DRUM, that was particularly impressive.
“Nada Laya,” a duet for mridungam and tar, was played in adi taal, an eight-beat rhythmic cycle, and also featured Carnatic laya patterns (namely korraipu, mohra, korvai, and arudhi). Rajagopal, Toh, and Lim opened the number by demonstrating the taal visually by using a series of rhythmic hand gestures, and then invited the audience to participate and “keep the beat” while Rajagopal on mridungam and Toh on tar startled and delighted.