Kshetram vadyam

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Percussion Dominated Music: The structure and genres of kshetram vadyamEven in comparison to the classical Karnatik music of South India the hallmark of Kerala music lies in the dominance of percussion instruments, its roots in the traditional kavu ritual music and the natural environment. Modern Kerala gives us hints of the sources from which these early musicians had created such a mighty and powerful music: the hammering sound of the woodpecker; the various sounds of falling rain on leafs or thatched roofs in the long rainy season; the croaking of the frogs after heavy rainfall; storm and wind moving the leafs of trees, bushes and grass. Or the man-made sounds: the regular noise of wood cutting and chopping; the washer women beating the dirty clothes onto the stones at the river or temple pond. The Malayalees only distinguish two forms of music kutuka (to drum) and pattu (to sing). It is interesting that the term pattu is also used for solo instrumental genres kuzhal (oboe) and kombu pattu (horn).

Percussion domination means that the musical framework of the pieces is not determined by a melody or raga, but consists of a very sophisticated rhythmical structure and content. The ‘melody’ of a piece is formed through a prominent rhythmic sound. Depending on the ritual this rhythm melody is more or less elaborated, and more or fewer compositional or improvisational elements are employed. A melody or raga, where it is used, is usually subordinated to the rhythm (an...
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