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Music of Kerala

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Music of Kerala

Kerala has fabulous culture in music and forms a part of the wide variety of Indian music. Kerala, being a land of rich heritage and custom, had a highly developed system of music of distinct strata and a variety of old times. “Keliyaadum Kalakalkkellam Keralamennoru veedundivite”. This is a well known quotation about Kerala and is absolutely true. The Travancore area of Kerala is accepted to have inherited its musical heritage from the Aryans who predominated here.

The state of Tamil Nadu was a mixture of Kerala and Tamil Nadu renowned as Thamizhagom. The languages in Kerala had a close affinity with the Tamil language. Thamizhagom constituted of Chola, Chera, and Pandya kingdoms. All these kingdoms encouraged the same method of music renowned as Tamil music.

Kerala, being the bedrock of distinct fine art forms, combined with its various classical and folk art types. Kerala which is accepted to have been conceived by Parasurama, as per mythology, is a land of variegated fine art forms. Music in Travancore evolved from three sources such as, Temple music or Sopana Sangeetham, Karnatic music and Kathakali music.

Karnatic Music In Kerala


Kerala, through its course of development, had three styles of music blending such as religion, communal set up and folk culture. Karnatic music in Kerala evolved early on the base of Tamil music. In Kerala, the ragas common in Karnatic music now had been taken up from Tamil music, Sopana Sangeetham and those in Koodiyattom. Several ragas utilized in Kathakali, Koodiyattom, Chakiyarkoothu, Thullal and Mohiniyattom now are those from Karnatic music as well as from the Kerala system of very ancient temple music.

In the selection of ragas and talas in social religious musical forms, leverage of Karnatic music can be observed. In ritualistic music and dance, exact musical instruments were used as accompaniment, meant particularly for specific events. The marriage pieces of music, ritualistic pieces of music, agriculture pieces of music and labourer’s pieces of music. Made use of many ragas of Karnatic musics in crude pattern. Many of the instruments that developed in ancient times were taken up by Karnatic music.

Popular Musical Instruments of Kerala


The musical instruments of Kerala broadly fall under three categories, such as classical, traditional and folk. Among the classical instruments of Kerala are included violin, veena, tampuru, flute, gottu vadyam, nagaswaram, ganjira, mridangam, tavil and ghatam. Most of them are in use in the state, either as a solo or as accompanying instruments in the area of karnatic music and promenades like bharata natyam and mohiniyattom.

Since some of these instruments are common to all southern states where karnatic music prevails in a consistent nature and since their introduction into the state in their present day character happens to be a later event, a little before the time of Swati Tirunal, they are not treated here as typical instruments of Kerala.

The folk area has a kind of instruments like pulluvan kudom, pulluvan veena, udukku, sooryappira, ampilivalayam and tampattam, which are selectively used in non-Aryan temple rituals and in devout pieces of music and dances and furthermore in some social events. A couple of of these instruments are seen in certain areas of Tamil Nadu which were once part of old Tiruvitamkur.

The customary theatrical and ritualistic musical instruments of Kerala include chengala, chenda, maddalam, edakka, maram and thimila, they assist the ritualistic and festive music of the Aryan temples and traditional dance plays like koodiyattam, koothu and kathakali. Instruments like maddalam, chenda and kuzhal are popular with non-Aryan temple rituals and theatrical events also.
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