Rhythm of cultures.

Dec 11, 2013

Every community has it's own unique art forms. In India, festivals, birthdays and weddings are never devoid of music.  

I will give you a glimpse of the way music is celebrated amongst the people in my community - Mappilas from the Malabar region of Kerala (southern Indian state)  

The most common and enjoyed music in any Mappila household is the 'Mappila Pattu'. These songs have a unique rhythm, symphony and style. Heavily influenced by the Arab culture, due to trade relations between the Arabs and the merchants of Calicuts during the pre-British and British era, these songs are usually sung in Malayalam (native language) or in Arabi-Malayalam ( Mixture of both the languages with the script written in Arabic). They deal with themes such as religion, love, satire, social issues, folklore, heroism, even anti-colonial struggles and the trend of migrations to the "Gulf" and are often sung at weddings, family get togethers and meetings. Over the years, the Mappila pattu has undergone its own metamorphosis with it being influenced by popular cultures and recent trends, now.  

Oppana -  Where mappila pattu is talked about, oppana has to be mentioned. A dance form performed by the ladies (or bridesmaids) around the bride who is seated on a bridal chair in the centre. The mappila pattu is sung live or played as the group claps, performs simple steps according to the music  and  move around the bride. In short,  the oppana adds to the celebration of the wedding and wishes the couple a lifetime filled with happiness and joy.

Katha prasangam - A mappila version  of the musical where a story  is told with the help of both prose and poetry. It usually talks of inspirational stories, fables of the glorious past and stories of religious significance.  

Daffu muttu - An art form performed to commemorate festivals and for social entertainment with the help of a musical instrument called "Daffu" made of wood. ( Imagine a miniature version of the drum which is open on one side). Around 8-10 boys stand either in U shape or form a complete ciricle with a leader singing songs, the chorus following him and the group drumming on the daffu and playing steps, all in symphony with the song. Similar to the mappila pattu, the daffu muttu talks of Lord's praise, a tribute to heroes or sometimes, addresses issues relevant to the community at present.  

Kolkalli - Similar to the daffu muttu, instead of the daffu, there are two sticks with the dancers, which they strike in unison according to the rhythm of the song. The circle of dancers expands and contracts as the song progresses.  

Music transcends boundaries. Any language or any story, as long as there is a melodious and soulful song to it, our ears are attuned to appreciate them.

( I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words 8th – 14th December 2013. This is the fourth post in the 7 day series. The prompt was 'Music' and I was wondering what would I write, since I have stopped listening to most forms of music around 3+ years now and hence really not aware of the current music scene  besides related tweets that come on my Twitter timeline! :D)


  1. iwrotethose said...:

    Now that's something you don't see everyday. Love the explanation and how you linked it to the music prompt :)

  1. Michelle Liew said...:

    Thanks for the definitions...I've learned more about Indian music from you!

  1. vishalbheeroo said...:

    Music transcends all barriers, rightly said and it's such a unifying factor to the human race. Glad to get an insight of music in your community.

  1. As a fellow Malabar resident, I so know these by heart... loved how u described them :D

    My take on the prompt: http://www.godyears.net/2013/12/sing-to-me.html

  1. Kalpana Solsi said...:

    The Arabic influence speaks in Malabar. I had never known about this music and dance. thanks for educating a different culture.

  1. Obsessivemom said...:

    That's interesting.. Malayalam music with Arabic influences. Thanks for that glimpse of your music.

  1. That was a different take on the prompt.! :) Good one.

  1. Mysoul said...:

    I think I know what you are talking off and if the songs from the old Malayalam movie Chemeen is anything to go by. :)

  1. Richa Singh said...:

    Each community has its own rich culture, thank you for introducing us to malabar's musical ways :)


  1. iihahs said...:

    @iwrothethose - Thank you for the lovely comment.

    @ Michelle - My pleasure :)

    @Vishal - Thank you.

  1. iihahs said...:

    @Roshan :D

    @Kalpana & OM - We do have influence of Arabs in soe of our cuisines and customs too.

    @Sheethal- Thank you.

  1. iihahs said...:

    @Mysoul - This Malayali has a poor knowledge of Malayalam movies ! :D

    @Richa Thank you for stopping by.

  1. Suzy said...:

    Wow I never knew there were so many kinds of music. Shows how little I know about Indian music even though I was born there and lived there for many years. Thanks for the info.