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30. 12. 2007


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The mridangam is a percussion instrument from South India. It is the primary rhythmic accompaniment in a Carnatic music ensemble. Alternate spellings include mridanga, mrudangam, mrdangam, mrithangam and miruthangam.



[edit] History

Carnatic music
IAST karṇāṭaka sangītam
IPA kʌrˈnɑːʈʌkʌ ˌsʌŋˈgiːt̪ʌ
Sanskrit कर्णाटक सङ्गीतं
Kannada ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ ಸಂಗೀತ
Malayalam കര്‍‌ണാടക സംഗീതം
Tamil கருநாடக இசை
Telugu కర్నాటక సంగీతం


Instruments Veena - Mridangam - Ghatam - Morsing - Kanjira - Violin
Awards Sangeetha Kalanidhi - Gayana Sarvabhouma - Sangeetha Kalarathna
Festivals Sangeet Natak AkademiThyagaraja AradhanaCleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana
Media Sruti, The Music Magazine
Compositions Geetham - Swarajati - Varnam - Kriti - Padam - Javali - Ragam Thanam Pallavi - Thillana - - Mangalam
Past Famous Carnatic Musicians
M. S. SubbulakshmiM. L. VasanthakumariD. K. PattammalD. K. JayaramanMaharajapuram SanthanamSemmangudi Srinivasa IyerG. N. BalasubramaniamAriyakudi Ramanuja IyengarMadurai Mani IyerPalghat Mani IyerT. R. MahalingamT. H. VinayakramVeena DhanammalT. ChowdiahMadurai SomasundaramSirkazhi GovindarajanPalani Subramaniam PillaiChembai Vaidyanatha BhagavatharK. V. NarayanaswamyMusiri Subramania IyerS. RamanathanM. D. RamanathanJon B. HigginsS. KalyanaramanDwaram Venkataswamy NaiduDoraiswamy IyengarEmani Sankara SastriT. K. Rangachari
Past-Present Famous Carnatic Musicians
Lalgudi JayaramanN. RamaniKunnakudi VaidyanathanM. BalamuralikrishnaYesudasT. N. SeshagopalanN. RavikiranKadri GopalnathE. GayathriKaraikkudi ManiUmayalpuram K. SivaramanT. K. MurthyGuruvayur DoraiMannargudi EaswaranA. KanyakumariNedunuri KrishnamurthyT. V. SankaranarayananR. VedavalliNeyveli SanthanagopalanJ. VaidyanathanKalpakam SwaminathanR. K. Srikantan
Current Famous Carnatic Musicians
Nithyasree MahadevanSudha RagunathanP. UnnikrishnanPriya SistersS. SowmyaSanjay Subrahmanyan • Bombay Jayashri RamnathAruna SairamO. S. ThyagarajanO. S. ArunMalladi BrothersGanesh & KumareshRanjani & GayatriThiruvarur VaidyanathanSikkil C. GurucharanVishakha HariJayanthi KumareshSreevalsan J. Menon

In ancient Hindu sculpture, painting, and mythology, the mridangam is often depicted as the instrument of choice for a number of deities including Ganesha (the protector) and Nandi, who is the vehicle and companion of Lord Shiva. Nandi is said to have played the mridangam during Shiva's arcane Tandava dance, causing a divine rhythm to resound across the heavens. The mridangam is thus also known as "Deva Vaadyam," or "Instrument of the Gods."

The word "mridangam" is derived from the two Sanskrit words "Mrid" (clay or earth) and "Ang," (body). Early mridangams were indeed made of hardened clay. Over the years, the mridangam evolved to be made of different kinds of wood due to its increased durability, and today, its body is constructed from wood of the jackfruit tree. It is widely believed that the tabla, the mridangam's North Indian musical counterpart, was first constructed by splitting a mridangam in half. With the development of the mridangam came the evolution of the tala (rhythmic) system. The system of talas (or taalams) in South Indian Carnatic music may be the most complex percussive rhythm system of any form of classical music.

Over the years and especially during the early 20th century, great maestros of mridangam also arose, inevitably defining "schools" of mridangam with distinct playing styles. Examples include the Puddukottai school and the Thanjavur school. The virtuosos Palani Subramaniam Pillai, Palghat Mani Iyer, and C.S. Murugabhupathy contributed so much to the art that they are often referred to as the Mridangam Trinity.There is also another style i.e., the blending of Saakotai Rangu Iyengar's and Kumbakonam Azhaganambi Pilla's taught to hundreds of disciples by the legendary Late Sri Kumbakonam Narayanaswamy Iyer and late Sri Kumbakonam Rajappa Iyer. Other prominent mridangam maestros of today include Umayalpuram Sivaraman, T. K. Murthy, Trichy Sankaran, Palghat Raghu, Guruvayur Dorai, Srimushnam Raja Rao, Karaikudi Mani, Vellore Ramabhadran, Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, and Mannargudi Easwaran.

[edit] Physical components

The mridangam is a double-sided drum whose body is usually made using a hollowed piece of jackfruit wood about an inch thick. The two mouths or apertures of the drum are covered with a goat skin leather and laced to each other with leather straps around the circumference of drum. These straps are put into a state of high tension to stretch out the circular membranes on either side of the hull, allowing them to resonate when struck. These two membranes are dissimilar in width to allow for the production of both bass and treble sounds from the same drum.

The bass aperture is known as the "thoppi" or "eda bhaaga" and the smaller aperture is known as the "valanthalai" or "bala bhaaga". The smaller membrane, when struck, produces higher pitched sounds with a metallic timbre. The wider aperture produces lower pitched sounds. The goat skin covering the smaller aperture is anointed in the center with a black disk made of rice flour, ferric oxide powder and starch. This black paste is known as the "sAtham" or "karnai" and gives the mridangam its distinct metallic timbre. The combination of two inhomogeneous circular membranes allows for the production of unique and distinct harmonics. Pioneering work on the mathematics of these harmonics was done by Nobel Prize winning physicist C. V. Raman.

[edit] Methods of use

Immediately prior to use in a performance, the leather covering the wider aperture is made moist and a spot of paste made from rice flour and water is applied to the center, which lowers the pitch of the left membrane and gives it a very powerful resonating bass sound. The artist tunes the instrument by varying the tension in the leather straps spanning the hull of the instrument. This is achieved by placing the mridangam upright with its larger side facing down, and then striking the tension-bearing straps located along of circumference of the right membrane with a heavy object (such as a stone). A wooden peg is sometimes placed between the stone and the mridangam during the tuning procedure to ensure that the force is exerted at precisely the point where it is needed. Striking the periphery of the right membrane in the direction toward the hull raises the pitch, while striking the periphery from the opposite side (moving away from the hull) lowers the pitch. The pitch must be uniform and balanced at all points along the circumference of the valanthalai for the sound to resonate perfectly. The pitch can be balanced with the aid of a pitch pipe or a tambura. The larger membrane can also be tuned in a similar manner, though it is not done as frequently. Note that since the leather straps are interwoven between both the smaller and larger aperture, adjusting the tension on one side often can affect the tension on the other.

[edit] Posture

The mridangam is played resting it parallel to the floor. A right-handed mridangam artist plays the smaller membrane with his or her right hand and the larger membrane with the left hand. This can be described in words as follows: The mridangam rests upon the right foot and ankle, the right leg being slightly extended, while the left leg is bent and rests against the hull of the drum and against the torso of the artist. For a left-handed percussionist, the legs and hands are switched.

[edit] Basics

Any beginner in the art learns four basic stokes (also known as "sollus"): Tha, Dhi, Thom, and Nam. These strokes are played with the fingers and palm of the hand. There is also a parallel set of rhythmic solfa passages (known as "solkattu") which is said by mouth to mimic the sounds of the mridangam. Students of this art are required to learn and vigorously practice both the fingering strokes and solfa passages to achieve proficiency and accuracy in this art. Many other strokes are also taught as the training becomes more advanced, which are generally used as aesthetic embellishments while playing. These notes include gumki (or gamakam), and chaapu. The combination of these finger strokes produces complex mathematical patterns that have both aesthetic and theoretical appeal. Complex calculations (kanakku) and metres (nadais) may be employed when the mridangam is played.

[edit] Modern usage

Today the mridangam is most widely used in Carnatic music performances. These performances take place all over Southern India and are now popular all over the world. As the principle rhythmic accompaniment (pakkavadyam), the mridangam has a place of utmost importance, ensuring all of the other artists are keeping their timing in check while providing support to the main artist. One of the highlights of a modern Carnatic music concert is the percussion solo (thani avarthanam), where the mridangam artist and other percussionists such as kanjira, morsing, and ghatam vidwans exchange various complex rhythmic patterns, culminating in a grand finale where the main artists resumes where he or she left off.

True to its humble beginnings as an instrument used in the musical processions and religious festivals, the mridangam is also used extensively within the Hare Krishna movement especially when singing and chanting in streets. It has been the drum of choice ever since the late 1400s when the movements founder called Chaitanya Mahaprabhu used the drums in a procession on the streets of Bengal. A modern fibre-glass version known as 'Balarama Mridangam' was designed in recent years as a result of this.

The significant player of the mridangam in modern times is Vidwan Umayalapuram K. Sivaraman who has been playing and advancing the technique since 1938. [1]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

[edit] General

[edit] Instruction

[edit] Players



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