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!
The Thayampaka starts with an introductory phase or prelude called the “Kotti Vaikkal” in which all the artistes other than the main artiste participate, playing the bass side of the Chenda first in tha laya pattern of Triputa, a 7-beat cycle, and then in Ekathaalam, 1-beat cycle. At the last stroke of the kotti vaikkal, the main artiste takes position in front of the oil lamp and starts his performance with two beats on the drum with the stick. At this time the two artistes standing on either side changes their playing side from bass to treble. Thayampaka has three phases. Phase I is called Pathikal, Phase II is called Koor and Phase III is divided into Etavattam, Moonnam Vattam, Etanila and Irukita.
Phase I: Pathikal.
Pathikal is played in the laya pattern of chempatta (8-beat cycle). Pathikal has three stages. These three stages cover the first four parts of the time-tempo in slow (vilamba) and middle (Madhya) kaalams. The fourth part has a 64 beat cycle (thaalavattam).
In this phase, though the nata (pace) is “chaturasram” (4-beat cycle), “thrisram” (3-beat cycle) is also at times taken up, if the artiste so chooses before proceeding to the second phase, the Koor.
Phase II: Koor.
There are nine Koors, of which the three main ones are Panchaari Koor (thrisra nata-3-beats), Chempa Koor (khanda nata-5- beats) and Atantha Koor (misra nata). Each of this has in addition the slow (patinja) and the rapid (murukiya) koors, thus making a total of nine.
The Thayampaka performance here starts with Panchaari Koor in the slow tempo and gradually goes on to the middle tempo and rises in majesty and grandeur. Towards the end, the artiste has to play on the four tones of the drums. It is in the koor stage of the performance that the artiste has the opportunity to demonstrate his talent and skill on the drum. After the koor is over, the performance moves to the next phase.
This phase is played in Ekathaalam (single beat cycle) and has four stages. The first stage is called Etavattam. Here the thrisram and chaturasram natas are used and play is continued till the tempo reaches the right speed to move on to the next stage. The second stage is called the “Moonnam vattam” (third round), because it is the third round of the time tempo. After sufficient play in this stage the performance moves to the third stage. The third stage is called “Etanila” which means dense or unbroken. After this comes the fourth and final stage.
The fourth and the last stage is called “Irukita”, where the rhythm patterns are played at twice the speed. This part is aptly compared to a heavy downpour. Here, indeed in a lively shower of sound, the Thayampaka concludes.
The first two rhythm pattern sin Keli serves as a very important prelude called Alankaara Kai and Mukham. Alankaaram means decoration or ornamental, Kai refers to hand, Mukham means exhibition.
At the end of the Mukham, the maddalam takes up the 8 beat Chempata cycle, which is repeated by the chenda. At the completion of this stage the third stage is played in the “Chathurasra Nata” (4 beat cycle), referred to as “ara chempata vattam” (half chempata cycle). It starts at the slow tempo and speeds up and merges into the next phase of ‘Ekathaalam’. After this the performance sequence is same as in Thayampaka described before.
After the Thayampaka and Keli, it is now the turn of the two wind instruments, the trumpet (Kombu) and pipe (Kurum Kuzhal).
The performance is lead by the main Kombu artiste who plays a laya pattern in atantha (14-beat cycle) in the slow tempo, which is then taken up by the other artistes. This is repeated with each cycle at a faster tempo than the previous one.
When the tempo reaches the intermediate tempo the laya pattern of Chempata of 8 beats in the medium tempo. The Kombupattu ends here.
The performance starts with the Kuzhal artiste elaborating the raga of Naatta and then passing onto Aarabhi. After that the raga Kamboji is taken up. Here once the elaboration is over a chenda, playing on the treble side, and a pair of cymbals joins the performance. These two instruments are played with closed beats.
The next step is ‘Pallavi’ in the laya pattern of aadithaalam -8 beat cycle. After pallavi the performance moves on to “Madhyamaavathi” in the laya pattern of ekathaalam.
After Madhya maavathi, the laya pattern of Chempatta is taken up, at which time another chenda playing on the bass side also joins the performance for time keeping. The performance ends in a finale of, the waxing and waning, chempata kalaasam (also called natapura kalaasam).