Yesterday within Kerala Fest at Bharat Nivas, Pavilion of India in International Zone we had a chance to listen at Chenda Melam Drums by Kalanilayam UnniKrishnan at SAWCHU. That was an evening with the beats from Kerala to celebrate Onam Festival. Known artist who has performed with chenda melam drums all over the world, shared with us with his group energetic yet hypnotic beats of drums. Following is a part of his performance since those groups are known to play even up to four hours.
The Chenda (Malayalam: ?????, [t?e??a]) is a cylindrical percussion instrument used widely in the state of Kerala, and Tulu Nadu of Karnataka State in India. In Tulu Nadu it is known as chande.
A Chenda is a cylindrical wooden drum, and has a length of two feet and a diameter of one foot. Both ends are covered (usually with animal’s skin) with the “Chenda Vattam”. The animal skin is usually of a cow (Heifer), in a traditional Chenda other skins are not used (skin of bull, ox etc. are not used), to have a quality sound the skin from the abdominal part of the cow is taken. The Chenda is suspended from the drummers neck so that it hangs vertically. Though both sides can be used for playing, only one is actually beaten. Using two sticks, the drummer strikes the upper parchment.
This instrument is famous for its loud and rigid sound. A Chenda has two sides, the left side called “Edamthala” (??? ??)(Left Head) and the right side “Valamthala” (??? ??)(Right Head). The “Edamthala” is made of only one/two layer of cow skin and the “Valamthala” will have a five/seven layer skin, so as to have a bass sound.
The Chenda is mainly played in Hindu temple festivals and as an accompaniment in the religious art forms of Kerala. The chenda is used as an accompaniment for Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Kannyar Kali, Theyyam and among many forms of dances and rituals in Kerala. It is also played in a dance-drama called Yakshagana (Tenku Thittu) which is popular in Tulu Nadu of Karnataka