Kombu Pattu

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Kombu Pattu is one of the few instrumental temple art forms in which the melody instruments dominate. Even this is only partly true, as the C-shaped trumpet, the kombu, is regarded as a rhythm instrument by its players, with the function of embellishing the beats of the drums. The kombu can only produce three notes (sa, pa, and higher sa). The genre is played by a group of kombu players (3, 5, 7, or 9), led by the kombu leader. Within a given tala (rhythmic cycle), the leader improvises kombu patterns on the spot to be repeated by the chorus players.

Kumath Raman Nair (2001), the most famous solo kombu artist from Trichur, states that kombu pattu can be played in six talams (beats in brackets): chempata (8), atanta (14), dhruvam (14), chempha (10), anchatantha (16), and thriputa (7). Each cycle is accented with the accompanying ilatalam cymbals. For instance, thriputa talam is played x . x . . x . x . x . x . . (broken down to 14 pulses for diagrammatic presentation), and chempata x . x . x . u . (represented as eight pulses; 'u' indicates a silent beat). Like the other kshetram genres, kombu pattu is played in a steadily increasing tempo with decreasing rhythm units.

From: Killius, Rolf. 2006 ’Ritual Music and Hindu Rituals of Kerala.’ New Delhi: BR Rhythms. ISBN 81-88827-07-X; with author permission


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