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!
Paandi Melam begins with an inaugural mode called “Olampal”. Two distinct notes of “gri” and “dhim” are combined and repeated at intervals of 14-beat time, the duration between two such gridhims are filled in by the kuzhal. The interval between the two gridhims is progressively reduced until until they become continuous and the tempo waxes to a crescendo and then wanes there after. This rise and fall of the tempo is repeated twice and slowly brought to a close without affecting the rhythm, Here there is a gap of 14-beats duration and this gap is filled with pipes and trumpets. Immediately after that the leader of the melam strikes his drum once which is followed after an interval of two beats time with a rotary note (trill or rolling) of two beats duration. This is followed by a stroke each, thrice at intervals of two beats. The melam then starts at the slow tempo (vilambakaalam). This is the beginning of Phase I and is called Pathikaal.
Phase I, Stage 1
Kalaasams of 4 rhythm cycles are played throughout the melam. One kalaasam comprises in the beginning called nila. Here one rhythm cycle has 14 beats. At the end of the fourth cycle nila is taken up. The rotary notes in the nila are called thakita. The nila has 28 beats. With the conclusion of the nila one kalaasam is over, and the next kalaasam starts with a nila of 14 beats. After the nila, rhythm round taken up. The tempo after each kalaasam progressively increases.
Stage 2 –
The name of Stage 2 is “thurannu pitikkal” (open beats). After completing a few kalaasams, the melam passes onto the third stage.
Stage 3 –
Stage 3 is called “eduthu kalaasam” (augmented finish). After sufficient number of kalaasams (determined by the total duration of the melam) are gone through stage 4 is taken up..
Stage 4 –
Stage 4 is called “atichu kalaasam” (Finish using strong beats), where the beats are more powerful. After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are completed, the melam passes on to the last and final stage of Phase 1.
Stage 5 –
The name of the stage is “thakirthakirtha”. The rotary (rolling) notes in this are called by this name (double of thakita). In the last kalaasam of this stage heavy rotary notes (thakita) are played with nila indicating the impending change of the first phase to the second phase.
Phase II –
Phase II is called “pathinja thriputa” (subdued thriputa). Here rhythm cycles are 14-bet lob. After sufficient numbers of kalaasams are played, the next stage is taken up.
The second stage of pathinja thriputa is known as “nerkol” (vertical strokes). Here with nila beginning the kalaasam, the front line drummers produce heavy notes by striking vertically while the drum itself is supported on the knees of the artistes. After completing sufficient number of kalaasams, the melam passes on to the third phase.
Phase III –
This phase is called “Etanila” (intermediate stand). Once cycle has 7 beats. At the end of the 4th rhythm cycle, a 14-beat nila in thakirthakirtha rolling is taken up. In the 7-beat nila starting the next kalaasam it is the vertical strokes again as was in the previous phase. At the proper stage the fourth and last phase of the melam is taken up.
Phase IV –
Phase 4 is called “Kootti thattu” (collective notes). Here a rhythm cycle has 7 beats. The nila has 14 beats in thakita. There is no nila in the beginning of the kalaasam.
After completing sufficient number of Kalaasams when the melam gains the appropriate tempo “theerukalaasam” or the grand finale is taken up. After enough duration of this cycle, the leader of the troupe stoops once at the beginning of each cycle for the duration of four such cycles, each succeeding segment diminishing by one cycle i.e.5, 4, 3, 2 and all the front line drummers stoop together at the beginning of the last segment, lasting five rhythm cycles thus creating a shower of melody in a fitting finish.