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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS IN KERALA

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» South India
» Kerala
Location: Kerala
Main Forms of Music: Carnatic Music, Vadakkanpattu and Work Songs
Major Musical Instruments: Chenda, Maddalam, Kuzhal


Chenda
Chenda ,  KeralaA hollow cylindrical instrument made out of soft wood, the ends of which are covered with cowhide. Chief accompaniment in Kathakali and the most important instrument played in temple festivals. The notes are adjusted by strings and small bamboo rings. Played by beating the upper end with sticks. Deft use of the palms can produce four different tones.

Edakka
An extremely sensitive percussion instrument. Made of wood and about a quarter metre long, the drumheads are held in a position by interlacing cotton threads. The player beats the drum with one hand while simultaneously manipulating the strings with the other, thus creating a variety of musical notes. Ilathalam
Native version of the cymbals. Used in almost all types of orchestra.

Kombu
Literally meaning horn, it's a C-shaped wind instrument made of brass or copper. Part of Panchvadya ensemble, it is also played during religious processions. The shrill blare of the Kombu helps in subduing the pitch of the other instruments.

Kurum Kuzhal
A wind instrument, the name literally means a hollow pipe or tube. Blown in accompaniment to the Chenda during festivals or ritual processions.

Maddalam
Considered to be a divine instrument or 'Deva Vadya', on account of its inclusion as a major accompaniment in the dance of Shiva. References to Maddalam date back to the 13th century.

There are two varieties: Suddha Mandalam and Toppi Maddalam. The former is tied around the waist of the player with a cloth, while the latter is a smaller version suspended from the neck of the player. Barrel shaped and carved from jack wood, both ends of the Maddalam are covered with stretched hide and fastened by leather straps.

An important instrument in the Panchvadyam, Kathakali, Krishnattam, and Thullal ensemble.

Mizhavu
The most important percussion accompaniment in performing arts like Koothu, Koottiyattam and Nangiar Koothu. A large pot-shaped copper vessel, the mouth of which is covered with stretched hide.

The player strikes the hide with his bare hands to produce rhythmic notes. The 'mizhavu' is placed inside a wooden frame called the Mizhavana at the rear of the stage.

Shanku, KeralaPanchvadyam
'Pancha' (five) 'Vadyam' (orchestra) is an orchestra, typical of Kerala, consisting of five instruments: Kombu, Edakka, Thimila, Illathalam and Maddalam.

Pandimelam
An orchestra consisting of four instruments: Chenda, Kuzhal, Kombu and Illathalam. This combination is used mainly in major temple festivals of Kerala like the Thrissur Pooram.

Pulluvarkkudam
A string instrument with a percussion sound. Used by the women of the 'Pulluvar' caste during the ritual singing for propitiating serpent gods. Pulluvarveena
Used by the menfolk of the Pulluvar caste during the ritual singing to propitiate serpent deities. A native adaptation of the fiddle.

Shankhu
Using the conch shell or 'Shankhu' as a musical instrument is prevalent in the entire Indian sub continent. Once a heraldic instrument, it si now used mainly for worship rituals or 'pooja' and enjoys a prominent place in the 'Panchvadya'.

The natural shell is transformed into a musical conch by cutting off a closed end and creating an access into the spiral chamber. This instrument was once a part of the erstwhile kingdoms of Travancore and Kochi.

Thayambaka
A renowned orchestra of Kerala featuring a unique symphony of chendas beaten in a rousing rhythm.

Thimila
An hourglass shaped drum made from polished jackwood. A creeper is used to make the Frame or Valayam. The drumheads made of calf hide are held together by leather braces, which are also twined around the waist of the drum.
This mechanism helps in adjusting the tension and controlling the sound. Thimila is an important instrument in 'Panchvadyam', Kerala's traditional orchestra of five instruments. It is a must during temple rituals like 'seeveli', a ceremonial procession of deities.



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