Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Chenda ensemble

Most popular among Kerala’s instrumental music forms is chenda. In chenda, there is no difference between south and north chendas.  Chenda ensemble is appreciated throughout the length and breadth of Kerala. For hours together artistes play chenda faultlessly and without compromising on the laid down rules. Chenda playing is a thrill to watch during festivals and other celebrations. The panchari and pandi forms are very popular. (Thayambaka is presented with chenda, so in a sense it can be referred to as chenda ensemble).  Chembada, Anchadatta, Chamba, Adantha, Dhruvam are some other chendamelas. The expert of chenda leads the ensemble. His position is in the middle. In a special way he communicates with other chenda artistes so as to play according to the rules.

The rules and tala vinyasam are very complicated. One can grasp it only through perseverance and continuous practice. Only when the ensemble is at its zenith (finale), the audience get to know the tala (rhythm) that was played. Except for Pandimelam, all other ensembles are played in the chempada tala. That is why all other melas are referred to as Chempada mela.

The above mentioned chendamelas (ensemble) have a common style. Two kinds of chendas are used – uruttu chenda and veekan chenda. These are also known as idanthala chenda (left head) and valanthala chenda (right head). While uruttu chenda is used for sruthi, veekan chenda is used for tala. Veekan chenda is thrice the size of uruttu chenda. The main accompaniments are kurumkuzhal, ilathalam, kombu etc. The ilathalam’s main function is to provide tala. The other two instruments bridge or fill the gap while playing uruttu chenda.

While Panchari melam is impressive Pandimelam is highly majestic.

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