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One Man Heavy Metal Band!

Coppersmith Barbet, Coorg

Psychedelic yellowish-green outfits. Black bordered yellow face paint with black stripes. A crimson sash on the throat and forehead, teamed with red stockings. Scraggly, unkempt whiskers that haven’t seen a barber for ages! The hero of this piece is the quintessential rock star, down to the manic jerking of his head to his own beat. If there are heavy metal fans out there, allow us to introduce you to the Coppersmith, a Barbet (sounds like a little barb, methinks) who is both Vocalist and Oral Percussionist of his own one man band. Hanging around in trees with deadwood, where he can scoop out a personal studio, he is renowned (or notorious, depending on your perspective) for his metronomic call that has been often likened to a copper worker beating a metal sheet with a rhythmic tuk-tuk-tuk. This loud, metallic monotone changes pitch and tempo, cruising at 108 to 121 notes per minute, and at times, exceeding 200. The only respite from this aural terrorism is in winter when the Coppersmith goes strangely silent and can’t be coaxed to call (presuming someone is tone deaf enough to even attempt it). Perhaps the intensity and manic energy can be explained as a caffeine-induced high, considering they flourish in the canopy provided by the fig and berry trees in the shade-grown coffee plantations of Coorg. While the caffeine haze permeates the air, the berries hanging overhead are like manna from heaven and the Barbets easily consume up to three times their body weight each day. But then, they need the nourishment, for the next day promises to be another non-stop, stamina-sapping session of metal-bashing.

Photograph: Kiran Poonacha Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy



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