Villu Paatu

Name: Villu Paatu.
Type: Chordophones > Bows > Idiochords > Percussive.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 311.121.21
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: Villu Paatu [in Tamil: வில்லுப்பாட்டு and English: Bow Song] another alternative name of the villu paatu is [in Tamil: வில்லடிச்சம்பாடு Villadichampaatu], is an ancient form of musical story-telling in India where narration is interspersed with music, an art of southern state of Kerala and Thovalai in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

This art form is popular among Nadar and Chettiar castes of erstwhile Travancore kingdom. Simple tunes and verses make the story to be followed easily. The villu [bow] likely having its origins from the bow as used by warriors. This paradoxically lends itself to be used as a primary musical instrument for the Villu Paatu artists.

Repertoire: Throughout Tamil villages, performers narrate stories ranging from mythological to social. The main storyteller narrates the story striking the bow. The bow rests on a clay pot kept facing downwards. A co-performer beats the pot while singing. There is usually another co-singer who acts as active listener to the narration, uttering appropriate oral responses. The local government sometime utilize this as a vehicle for social messages and propaganda.

When the villu paatu is being played, in accompaniment with Udukku [In Tamil: உடுக்கை], Kudam [In Tamil: குடம்], Thala, Kattai [In Tamil: கட்டை], which are used as supplementary instruments in performances. Udukku is a small drum with a slender middle portion which is held in the left hand and played by the fingers of the right hand. Occasionally, the Villu Pattu team divides itself into two groups, each trying to prove opposite points-of-view of a subject.

This is called Lavani Pattu. The songs used by the Villu Pattu artists are mostly traditional folk-songs.They are played during occasions of temple festivals in villages. The songs sung mostly in Villu Paatu praise a god or tell a story. These days the number of artists performing Villu Paatu is tremendously reduced as the income earned from it is never enough for running one’s life.


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