Saturday, January 24, 2009

Energetic music

Even with an extremely limited knowledge about music and its forms, I would still argue that a definition of folk music must be something approximating a spontaneous harmony of related noises which would be completely jarring by themselves. I like that, because it is broad enough to include any set of noises that makes sense (even if only to a few people) and by forewarning the listener to the possibility of discordant notes, forces her to appreciate harmony when it occurs. Most of all, it is the invitation it holds out to anyone who is willing to join in, which brings out the true folksiness. No compositions, not too much of practice, no set-pieces, the rythyms unfold in some swarm-intelligence-like fashion, each performer taking his cue from the next, twisting and turning, volume and tempo changing with the mood of the performers, or more likely the enthusiasm of the audience.

Paraiyattam is one of the oldest form of music/dance out of Tamil Nadu; spontanity is a given; the original instrument, the parai was very basic; a bit of cowhide stretched over a circular wooden frame. Supposedly, only neem wood is to be used in its making and the frame shouldn't have more than three pieces. Two wooden sticks, one short and thick, the other - preferably of bamboo - long and thin are used to beat on the parai, which is normally hung over the shoulder. It may have originated as a noise-making mechanism used by village night-watchmen to scare wild animals away from fields; but over the centuries the instrument has evolved even while the music remains pretty much the same.

If it is during festival times, even the folks of the city would be tempted to join in to the drum beats - as seen from this picture of a paraiyattam street performance during the Chennai Sangamam!

Click here for a 3 minute clip of the stage performance; click here for a stylized rendering, in a recent hit song!


Hilda said...

I love almost all kinds of percussion music and my favorite band is a neo-ethnic Filipino percussion band. I've heard Japanese taiko drummers too and I love them. I'll probably like yours too. You caught the energy of this group wonderfully!
Please vote for the March theme, if you haven't yet. And please help spread the word too! :)

Shantaram said...

@ Hilda: I'm sure you will... it is slightly 'slow burn', but gets to be infectious!