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Different kinds of Drum music of Kerala or Melam percussion concert using Chendaa drums

Updated on October 12, 2015
 sunset in the backwaters of Kerala
sunset in the backwaters of Kerala | Source

The tradition of the Chendaa drumming

The use of percussion instruments for rituals in Kerala is very common. One such traditional percussion instrument is the Chendaa drum.

The drum is long and big compared to other ethnic drums. It has one side of animal skin tightened to make the sound creating pad and the other side is sealed with wooden cover to create a vacuum.

The drum has two accompanying sticks that is hit on the skin to create a loud or lower sounds to create a powerful energizing music.

I recommend this music only for people who enjoy such loud music. For me it creates a deep impact in a few minutes and so I listen to it on youtube only when I am really ready for it, meaning I have the energy to take its positive effects.

Chendaa drum from Kerala

Chendaa | Source

The chendaa drum is placed vertical and played by drumming it using the sticks.

It creates a deep loud sound but stops sharply. That is the unique specialty of this drum.

Thrisur Pooram

Thrisur is a district in Kerala, India. Here every year the Pooram festival culminates during.

During this fair or pooram you can listen to lot of Melams.

Two of the videos below are taken from Thrisur pooram festival.


Kombu or Pipes or Trumpets
Kombu or Pipes or Trumpets | Source

The kombu is a pipe that is played during these Melams. It goes well with the powerful drumming.

It sounds like an elephant trumpeting happily.

Peruvanam Kuttan Maaraar


Peruvanam Kuttan Maarar is a well known Melam instructor and musician from Kerala. In these youtube videos you can see him playing the Chembada Melam and the Panchari Melam with actor Jayaram.

Thrisur Pooram Melam

Types of Chenda Melams

There are many types of Melams. In this article we listen to the five main varieties. the other types of lesser known Melams are mentioned below.

  1. The Panchari Melam
  2. The Pandi Melam
  3. The Ilanjithra Melam
  4. The Shinkari Melam
  5. The Chempada Melam
  6. The adanta Melam
  7. The anchatanta Melam
  8. The dhruvam Melam
  9. The chempha Melam
  10. The dhruvam Melam
  11. The navam Melam
  12. The kalpam Melam
  13. The ekadasam Melam

Information about Chendaa Melams

the proto-typical of panchari melam is the same for all the other Melams except the pandi Melam, though expressional wise the panchari and the above listed melams differ.

Chembada Melam

Panchari Melam

Panchari Melam

Panchari Melam has a six-beat thaalam (taal) with is equal to the Daadra found in the classical northern Hindustani music and Roopakam from south Indian music - Carnatic.

Panchari Melam is performed either in its sketchy detail to accompany the daily or weekly temple rituals or in its elaborate form during annual temple festivals. In both ways, they are strictly performed within the walls of the temple. It stands for the "Satthva Guna", and heightens the spiritual or musical mood of the listeners to greater levels.

The panchari Melam ensemble

The ensemble starts at the main entrance to the inner part of the temple, slowly circling the shrine clockwise while playing. A panchari melam has five stages, each of them based on beats totalling 96, 48, 24, 12 and 6 respectively. The first phase of the Panchari Melam, also called the "Pathikaalam" stands out for its unique blend of percussion and noted from the Kuzhal. The crescendo rises higher with each phase, eventually culminating in the fifth phase with a 6-beat cycle. For the culmination of the fifth phase, a unique 3-beat cycle called "Muri-Panchari" is also employed to take the Melam to an apt conclusion. The Melam thus starts with a broad base, and progresses completing the pyramid structure, culminating at the apex.

Pandi Melam

Pandi Melam Percussion ensemble

Pandi Melam is usually performed outside temple area.

Ilanjithra Melam

Shinkari Melam

Types of Melams

How many of these Melams have you heard?

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Enjoying the music of Melam

The best way to really enjoy the Melam drumming concert would be to go to Kerala in India. Here you would easily come across Kuttan Marar or other drummers playing this concert in temples.

So, when you feel bored or need an inspiration just fly down to Kerala, India. Try to listen to the Melam concert here.

Enjoy the lifting music and earthy drumming, which creates a deep impact.


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