m.rda.mga drum

Srinivasan Pichumani srini at engin.umich.edu
Fri Jul 19 19:40:19 UTC 1996

>>I should appreciate it if someone could give me a
>>description of that Indian m.rda.mga drum 

The mrdangam is a 2 faced drum/percussion instrument.
Whatever be the original material used for the instrument,
(the name seems to indicate it was made of clay/mud)
currently it is made out of a barrel of wood whose 
diameter is larger at the center compared to the edges.
I think the wood used is from a palA (Tamil... the Inglish
term for it is jackfruit) tree.

Over the right side face of the drum (called "valantarai" 
in Tamil), there are 3 layers of hide... I believe 2 layers 
are cowhide, and the central layer is something else... also, 
if I remember the great mrdangist Palghat Raghu's description 
correctly, the center layer is "suspended".  

In the center of the face, a mixture of cooked rice and a
black powder rich in ferrous content (known variedly as
karaNai, cOru...) is applied many times in thin layers, 
one over the other, and each layer is smoothed out with 
a piece of stone.  This has to be done very carefully
and thoroughly in order to get a good tone... Raghu mentioned 
that, if possible, he has this completely re-done before 
every concert.  The "normal" stroke on this produces a 
tone tuned to the AdhAra S of the performer. 

On the left side (known as toppi... lit. cap), the hide  
is stretched rather loosely and has a bass sound.  In order
to tune this to the lower P of the AdhAra S, a little bit 
of rava (sUji...semolina) is kneaded with some water, and 
the thick mixture is applied in a circle in the center of 
the face.  The mixture has to be kept a little moist... 
otherwise, it dries out and falls off the face.  Normally, 
this paste is completely removed at the end of a performance.


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