Padma Shri Peruvanam

Kuttan Marar

Kerala
Rhythm

Temple Arts of Kerala, Panchari Melam, Pandi Melam, Chempata Melam, Panchavadhyam, Thayampaka and all that you ever needed to know about the rich rhythm tradition of Kerala!

Panchari Melam

Phase I- Pathikaalam

The performance begins with a prelude called etuppu (take up). In the etuppu, comprising of 96 beats (aksharakaalam) [12 chempata cycles], only the frontline treble drummers participate. In the 12 chempata cycles played, there is a koottikottu (collective beats) at the 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th chempata cycles. At the end of the etuppu, the tempo of the performance would have reached the tempo of the vilambakaalam (slow tempo). The rest of the artistes then join. In this phase, the beats during the 11th and 12th chempata cycles are distinctively different from the previous 10 cycles to indicate that the etuppu phase is coming to an end. At the end of etuppu (also referred to as kaalamidal or setting the time tempo), the performance of the pathikaalam proper begins.

Stage 1 –

The melam with the full compliment starts in the slow tempo. The number of kalaasams (crescendos) to be gone through during this stage will depend on how long the melem is to last. The duration of a full Panchaari melam is four hours and the pathikaalam will take up half of that time. In any case the minimum time to render full justice to the pathikaalam phase requires approximately an hour. With each kalaasam the tempo goes up and when it reaches the intermediate tempo the second stage, called etakaalam, is taken up.

Stage 2 – Etakaalam (Intermediate Tempo):

For an effective performance in this stage the beats with the open palm by the front line drummers should be powerful. After sufficient kalaasams are taken up the performance moves to the final stage of pathikaalam – kuzhamarichil.

Stage 3 – kuzhamarichil (Rotary movement of the wrists).

This phase is called kuzhamarichil because throughout this stage the performance is with non-stop rotary movement of the wrist.

After completing sufficient number of kalaasams in the 3rd stage, during the last rhythm round of the last kalaasam, all the front line drummers will stoop and on completion of the rhythm round rises up to play the finis of 16 aksharakaalam. At the end of the last beat of this kalaasam, the tempo of the next beat is changed to coincide with the desired tempo for the commencement of the second phase of the performance. With this the pathikaalam phase of the performance ends.

Care is taken by the leader of the troupe to give the correct time tempo in the beat immediately following the last beat of pathikaalam.

Phase II –

One rhythm cycle in Phase II is 48 aksharakaalam.

Stage 1: Urulukai (trill or rolling)

After a few rhythm cycles are completed, in the last cycle after completing 16 beats, urulukai in the “takita” style with a 24-beat cycle begins. In the 24-beat cycle of “rolling” stage the entire front line drummers stoop and on completing the 24-beats, rise up and play a finis of 8-beats. With this one kalaasam is over. One more kalaasam is played in the urulukai before passing on to the 2nd stage.

Stage 2: Etakaalam (Intermediate Tempo)

Here also the play is similar to that described in stage 1 except for the tempo. After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are played, the performance passes to the third stage.

Stage 3: kuzhamarichil (Rolling of the Wrists)

After completing sufficient number of kalaasams, in the last kalaasam all the front liners will stoop and rise to play the finis with a 16 beat cycle and then passing on to the third phase.

Phase III –

Stage 1: Urulukai (trill or rolling)

Here the rhythm cycle is 224 aksharakaalam. The rhythm patterns are similar to those played during Phase II with urulukai, etakaalam and kuzhamarichil. The main difference is in the way the time is reckoned by the bass drummers. After a few rhythm cycles, urulukai in the “takita” style with a 16-beat cycle is taken up. In the 16-beat cycle of “rolling” the entire front line drummers stoop and on completing the 16-beats, rise up and play a finis of 8-beats. With this one kalaasam is over. Two more kalaasam are played in the urulukai before passing on to the 2nd stage.

Stage 2: Etakaalam (Intermediate Tempo)

Here also the play is similar to that described in stage 1 except for the tempo. After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are gone through, the performance passes to the third stage.

Stage 3: kuzhamarichil (Rolling of the wrists)

After completing sufficient number of kalaasams, in the last kalaasam all the front liners will stoop and after rising up play the finis with a 16 beat cycle and then passes on to the 4th phase.

Phase IV –

Stage 1: Urulukai (trill or rolling)

THere the rhythm cycle is 12 aksharakaalams long. The rhythm patterns are similar to those played during Phase II with urulukai, etakaalam and kuzhamarichil. The main difference is in the way the time is reckoned by the bass drummers. After a few rhythm cycles are gone through, urulukai in the “takita” style with a 16-beat cycle is taken up. In the 16-beat cycle “rolling” stage the entire front line drummers stoop and on completing the 16-beats, rise up and play a finis of 8-beats. With this one kalaasam is over. Three more kalaasams are played in the urulukai before passing on to the 2nd stage.

Stage 2: Etakaalam (Intermediate Tempo)

Here also the play is similar to as described in stage 1 except for the tempo. After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are gone through, the performance passes to the third stage.

Stage 3: kuzhamarichil (Rolling of the wrists)

After completing sufficient number of kalaasams, in the last kalaasam all the front liners will stoop and after rising up play the finis with a 16 –beat cycle and then passes on to the 5th phase.

Phase V-

In this, the final phase, the rhythm cycle is 6 aksharakaalams long. The three stages of urulukai, etakaalam an dkuzhamarichil are taken up.

Stage 1: Urulukai (trill or rolling)

After going through sufficient number of rhythm cycles, a 16-beats in urulukai, they rise up and play a finis of 8 beats. With this one kalaasam is over. Four more kalaasams are played in the urulukai before passing on to the 2nd stage.

Stage 2: Etakaalam (Intermediate Tempo)

After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are gone through, the performance passes to the third stage.

Stage 3: kuzhamarichil (Rolling of the wrists)

After completing sufficient number of kalaasams, at the right tempo the stage is set for the grand finale.

After playing sufficient number of rhythm rounds, at the right tempo the leader of the melam, standing in the middle of the front line drummers, stoop for one rhythm cycle and steadies and each succeeding rhythm cycle diminishing by 5, 4, 3 and 2. After this all the front line drummers stoop and play 5 rhythm cycles with full gusto, creating a shower of melody ending in a fitting finish, the grand finale.



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