Name: Chenda.
Type: Membranophones > Drums > Cylindrical > Double >
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 211.202.12
Area: Kerala.
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The Chenda [in Malayalam: ചെണ്ട ceṇḍa] is a double headed cylindrical drum, in Kerala it has the status of being the ‘the king of musical instruments’. The chenda is played across the musical spectrum from Hindu temple music to dance-dramas. The chenda drums are accompanied by italtalam cymbals, kulal shawms and kombu trumpets. Performances are held at temple festivals and may involve up to 45 chenda playing together.

Playing Techniques: The chenda drum is usually suspended from the left shoulder and hangs almost vertically with one drum head facing upwards. For ritual purposes it is held horizontally and played only on the lower pitched valantala head with a stick, chenda kol, held in the right hand. In performances of Kathakali dance-drama the drummer plays with sticks on the itantala head.

In the melam temple ensemble, complex rhythms are played on the itantala head by the leading musicians, each one using a stick held in the right hand and the palm and fingers of the left hand. The citte, is  a thimble-like finger cap that is made of cotton and rice paste, that is applied wet to the drummer’s left hand fingers and dry to an exact fit.

For ritual purposes the drum is only played on the valanthala side and the chenda is suspended rom the left shoulder, but held horizontally to the body. The chenda is played with either the bare left hand and one stick held in the right hand or sticks in both hands are used.

The left hand plays the stick straight like the right hand playing mode on a drum kit. The rotating [uruku] style is played with the right hand. If the bare left hand is used four sounds can be produced; by using a stick only two sounds can be produced.

A bass rhythm is played on the bass side [valanthala]; solo and accompanied on the treble side [etanthala]. The music is connected to the Hindu festivals and ritual in Kerala, India eg Chenda melams, keli, kuzhal pattu, parishavadyam [Killius, Rolf: 2001-04-24].

Construction: The shell [chenda kutti] of the chenda is carved from jackwood [Artocarpus heterophyllus] with two cow or ox hide membranes [tugal] secured with nylon rope, two brass rings and two hoops [valayel] made from joined pieces of wood of the fish tail or sago palm [Cycas revoluta]. Strings of cow or ox leather are attached to the nylon rope to fine tune the drum. A shoulder belt in green cotton with a red trim is attached to the drum with red nylon string.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Horniman Museum / Musical Instruments / Chenda ; Youtube: Kerala Chenda performance [Channel Movie Media] ;


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