Velu Aasaan

  • Madurai never fails to give vivid personalities who take their art to the next level. One such personality is Velu Aasan, who is a well-known Parai artist.
  • Parai is one of the important instruments of Tamil Nadu, and there are several historical evidence to support that. No occasion or mourning was complete without Parai. Even war scenes and moments of love involved the music of Parai. Parai holds such significance in our cultural history. The proof for this is a mention of parai in Thirukkural. Such heritage is what inspired Velu Aasaan to spread the fame of this instrument to every nook and corner of the world.
  • It was 1982. At the tender age of 13, Velu Aasaan started practising this art. It can be said that from then onwards, Parai was his third hand.
  • He learnt Parai under the tutelage of Malaichaami Vaadhiyaar and Saegu Vaadhiyaar, his elder brothers. He learnt the art with utmost dedication. His first performance was at the village festival of Alanganallur, Madurai. With his very first public performance, the audience knew that he was going to take this art to the next level.
  • Despite the warm reception he got from the public, his talent wasn’t recognised at home. Their comments were mostly discouraging. Owing to the constant discouragement, he stopped performing and didn’t agree to a public performance until after 8 years. During those 8 years, he performed several jobs, but his love for the instrument never left him. He didn’t need a parai everywhere. He managed to play with whatever object he could find immediately. He recalls ‘I might not have touched Parai for 8 years, but I never stopped creating music.’
  • Today there is a huge market for gaanaa songs. We have ‘Vaadhi Coming’, ‘Petta Paraak’, and similar groups budding in this field. But it was Velu Aasaan who directed the masses’ attention to this field that didn’t have much recognition before that. He is determined to bring Parai the amount of fandom enjoyed by Hip Hop and Gaana.
  • His Alanganallur Thappisai Kuzhu is the largest Parai music crew in Tamil Nadu. There is not a function in that circle that goes on without Velu Aasaan’s Parai music. Try looking up ‘Alanganallur Thappisai Kuzhu’ on YouTube. You will find yourself dancing involuntarily to those beats!
  • Any form of music needs a definite beat structure to survive through all times. The reason Carnatic music stands strong till date is the structure Thyagarajar gave to it. Velu Aasaan is doing the same with Paraiyisai. He’s compiling the works of the yesteryear masters and trying to standardise the art form.
  • Though parai is enjoyed by most, an unfair bias of associating this music with a single sect has been going on for quite a while. This bias did not spare Velu Aasaan either. But he refused to succumb to such injustice and kept going forward with his musical prowess.
  • Parai may be a solo instrument, but in that single instrument one can find numerous variations. Through his incessant practice, Velu Aasaan mastered all such variations. 
  • One thing that differentiates Parai from other – no other instrument has the power to inject the sorrow of loss into your muscles and make them swing into motion. Such music played at mournings is called ‘Saavu Adi’. And to make it more interesting, there’s a variation for each district. Velu has every variation of such music at his fingertips.
  • We cannot compare Velu with other artists in the music field. The simple reason is that if one wants to learn Carnatic or hip hop, they have a lot of choices. That is not the scenario with Parai. Velu is the only master who’s well-versed with all styles and variations. This makes it all the more important to encourage him.
  • Despite being booked for a lot of performances, Velu still lives on the edge of poverty. That doesn’t deter him from his passion. He smilingly says “This is our art. We have the duty to preserve it.”
  • Paraiyisai was a male-dominated area before Velu’s entry. He eliminated this restriction and taught anyone with interest – be it a boy or a girl.
  • In an interview, Velu Aasaan remarked that art is immortal. The takeaway from Velu’s life is that not just art, the impact of an artist is also immortal!