Glossary

THE MRIDANGAM PLAYER’S VOCABULARY

Aadi-thaalam – the most commonly used Thaalam. Consists of eight Maathras. Technical name, Chaturashra-jaati Triputa Thaalam.

Aavartanam – one cycle of a Thaalam.

Aksharam – denotes a subdivision of a Maathra. For example, in Chaturashra-nadai, each Maathra has four Aksharams.

Anu-dhrutam – one of the building blocks of Thaalas. It denotes a beat with your palm facing downwards. Symbol: U.

Arai-edam – denotes the actual starting point of a Kriti after the Samam. The terminology is with respect to a Randu-kalai version of a Thaalam. Arai(half)-edam means that the starting point is half a Maathra after the Samam. Also, look at Eduppu, Kaal-edam, and Mukkaal-edam.

Ata-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Laghu-Laghu-Dhrutam-Dhrutam or 1100.

Chaapu Thaalam – is a family of three Thaalas that do not exactly fit the “Suladi Sapta Thaala” system. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page.

Chaturashram – to do with the number four.

Chauka-thaalam – a slow-tempo version of a Thaalam, such that it necessitates splitting each Maathra into two or more beats.

Chore – cooked rice in Malayaalam. Same as Saadam.

Corvei – is one of the pre-composed items played in a Tani-aavartanam. It can be mathematically quite complex and challenging and is usually played three times.

Dhrutam – 1) one of the building blocks of Thaalas. It denotes a set of two beats, the first beat with your palm facing downwards and a second with your palm facing upwards. Symbol: 0. 2) Dhrutam also denotes a fast tempo or kaala-pramanam.

Dhruva-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Laghu-Laghu-Dhrutam-Laghu or 1101.

Eduppu – denotes the starting point of the Kriti with respect to the Samam.

Eka-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Laghu or 1.

Gati – signifies the number of Aksharams making up a Maathra. Same as Nadai.

Ghatam – specially made clay pot. Used as an accompanying instrument in concerts. Produces a beautiful, crisp and metallic sound.

Jaati – means type. For example, Khanda-jaati means ‘of a type to do with the number five’.

Jati – pattern that exemplifies the basic feel of a thaalam. Similar to Sarva-laghu.

Jhampa-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Laghu-Anu-dhrutam-Dhrutam or 1U0.

Kaala-pramanam – tempo, of a song (say).

Kaal-edam – denotes the actual starting point of a Kriti after the Samam. The terminology is with respect to a Randu-kalai version of a Thaalam. Kaal(quarter)-edam means that the starting point is a quarter Maathra after the Samam. Also, look at Eduppu, Arai-edam, and Mukkaal-edam.

Kaarini – is the central black circle in the right hand side[1] of the Mridangam. It consists of granite powder, Manganese dioxide made into a paste using cooked rice. It is the heart of the Mridangam.

Kaarvai – is a length of time (gap, number of Aksharams) between two strokes.

Kalle – the stone used to tune the Mridangam along with the Kattai.

Kanjira – an instrument that looks like a Tambourine. The skin is special and is of a monitor lizard (Varanus; mini iguanas). It is played with one hand and give a nice bass sound. It also has a few copper coins fixed to the edge which give the sound some treble.

Kappi – is a coarse powder, of the same material as the Kaarini, which is inserted in between the two layers of skin to provide sustain. Also, look at Kuchchi.

Kattai – a piece of wood (cylindrical and about 3-4 inches long) used to tune the Mridangam along with the Kalle and also to increase the tension in the Vaaru if needed.

Khanda-chaapu thaalam – is a Chaapu thaalam of 2 1/2 Maathras, which, in Chaturashra-nadai yield 10 Aksharams. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page.

Khandam – to do with the number five.

Konnakkol – is the art of speaking the sounds of the mridangam.

Kuchchi – is a two inch long slice of a particular grass or straw that is inserted between the two layers of skin on the right hand side[1] to give sustain.

Laghu – one of the building blocks of Thaalas.

Layam – denotes the inherent rhythmic content of the music (song or Mridangam patterns).

Maathra – One beat of a Thaalam

Madhyama-kaalam – denotes a medium speed tempo or kaala-pramanam.

Matya-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Laghu-Dhrutam-Laghu, or 101.

Mishra-chaapu thaalam – is a Chaapu thaalam of 3 1/2 Maathras, which, in Chaturashra-nadai yield 14 Aksharams. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page.

Mishram – to do with the number seven.

Mohra – is a specific type of composition that is played towards the end of a Tani-aavartanam. For more details refer to the writeup on Tani-aavartanam in the main page.

Morsing – a small instrument made up of a metallic vibrating slender rod. The instrument is tuned by sticking some carpenter’s wax at the tip of the rod. It is placed close to the mouth and is played by plucking the rod with one’s finger and inhaling and exhaling.

Mridangam – The instrument under discussion. Mrit + angam meaning clay + body => the clay-bodied instrument. Nowadays it is made out of wood (particularly the roots of trees like Jack, Mahogany, Coconut palm etc.).

Mukkaal-edam – denotes the actual starting point of a Kriti after the Samam. The terminology is with respect to a Randu-kalai version of a Thaalam. Mukkaal(three quarters)-edam means that the starting point is three quarters of a Maathra after the Samam.

Mutharippu – Same as Theerumanam.

Naadam – refers to a certain timbre of the sound that can be produced from the right hand side of the Mridangam.

Nadai – same as Gati.

Ravai – cream of wheat. A paste of Ravai with water is applied to the Thoppi to create the bass sound. Nowadays silicon-rubber or Silly Putty(TM) is also used.

Roopaka-thaalam – one of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation, Dhrutam-Laghu or 01.

Saadam – means cooked rice in Tamil. In this context it refers to the black center of the right hand side head, since cooked rice is used as the gum to stick it to the leather.

Samam – the starting point of a Thaalam

Sankeerna-chaapu thaalam – is a Chaapu thaalam of 4 1/2 Maathras, which, in Chaturashra-nadai yield 18 Aksharams. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page.

Sankeernam – to do with the number nine. Used as a prefix, for example, Sankeerna-jaati Triputa Thaalam.

Sarva-laghu – is a pattern that exemplifies the basic running rhythm of a Thaalam. The feeling induced when playing the Sarva-laghu is that of peace or Sowkhyam.

Silicon-rubber – nowadays used instead of Ravai-paste in the left hand side of the Mridangam as a semi-permanent substitute.

Silly Putty – is a Silicon based material that kids play with in the USA. It is quite suitable to be used instead of a Ravai-paste in the left hand side[2] as a semi-permanent substitute.

Suladi Sapta Thaala – is the commonly used classification of Thaalas in Karnatic music. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page.

Tani-aavartanam – Mridangam solo part of a concert. For more details refer to the writeup on Tani-aavartanam in the main page.

Theerumanam – is a short pattern played three times to signify the end of a song, part of a song, or a corvei.

Thaalam – is the basic recurring unit of rhythm. For more details refer to the writeup on Thaalam in the main page

Thaala-vadya kacheri – is a concert featuring the rhythmic part of Karnatic music. It usually has a percussion ensemble consisting of Mridangam, Ghatam, Kanjira, Konnakkol, Morsing, Thavil etc. along with some vocal or melodic instrumental support.

Thoppi – usually refers to the left hand side (the bass side) of the Mridangam. Actually means ‘a cap’ in Tamil

Triputa-thaalam – One of the seven basic Thaalas. Notation Laghu-Dhrutam-Dhrutam or 100.

Trishram – to do with the number three.

Vaaru – the rope that connects the two drum heads. Made of Buffalo hide.

Vilambita-kaalam – denotes the kaala-pramanam. Vilambitam means slow.