Journey in Search of the Soul of Musical Instruments

May 01, 2017 | Vol 09 | Issue 03
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Over 20 years of search and research made just a guitarist and an instrument seller Joseph Fernandez aka Joy of Kunnukuzhy, Thiruvananthapuram to a man of ultimate authority in the world musical instruments.

The life and work of Joseph Fernandez aka Joy of Kunnukuzhy, Thiruvananthapuram can be shortly described as a journey in search for the soul musical instruments. Over 20 years of search and research made just a guitarist and an instrument seller to a man of ultimate authority in the world of musical instruments. A rare and vast collection of musical instruments can be seen at his home and his shop, Joy Musics.

 Joy explained that once Mr. Peter from America stepped into his shop to buy some musical instruments. The foreigner showed him a list of 35 traditional musical instruments of Kerala, of that most of them were unknown to Joy. As a trader he tried to find out about them which led to interaction with a traditional artist, Kunhu kunhu Pulluvar from Kottayam district. The interactions with Kunhu Puuluvar enlightened Joy and he was quite thrilled to learn on how diversified was the culture of musical instruments of Kerala. Then onwards he was on a frantic search through the length and breadth of Kerala- the tribal settlement areas like Agastyakoodam, Attappadi, Idukki, Wayanad etc, visiting traditional homes, meeting old traditional artists and so on. The search then took him to the other states of India and abroad and by 2004 his collection had   over 2000 instruments from Africa, America, Europe and Gulf countries of which about 200 were of Kerala.

According to Joy, tribes use a variety of instruments for different occasions and purposes - for communication, as a defense against wild animals and birds, for rituals and entertainment. He has collected the maximum information about the history and legend surrounding it and the crafting of it. During his travel he has interviewed over 1000 artists also.

When the state government approached him in 2014, for his collection of musical instruments to start a museum dedicated to the legendary Mrudangam player Palakkad Mani Iyer, at Olavakkode in Palakkad district, he sold about 2000 instruments, the major portion of his collection to them. This includes some of the rare instruments of Kerala like Chandra Valayam, Karadi Vadyam, Sinkari Vadyam, different types of Veena etc.

Joy has conducted several exhibitions of his collection of instruments, besides organizing seminars on music in various parts of Kerala. Joy has mastered the technique of making a large number of musical instruments and he claims that he knows to make as many as 7,000 instruments.

At his music school Joy Musics, over a hundred students, even from abroad are being trained. He is also running an institution 'Research Centre for World Musical Instruments' for research and documentation of the instruments. The book titled ' Vadyakala Vignaneeyam', published in Malayalam in 2007 featuring about 200 types of musical instruments from Kerala. According to Joy the Research Centre is also keen on giving free training on crafting instruments to the deserved and needy.  Now he has a collection of about 500 instruments and presently he is doing research on musical instruments made of coconut shell and bamboo. 

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