- Natalie M. Webber
Term used extensively in ancient and medieval Sri Lanka for the instrumental ensemble used for courtly music, and especially for Buddhist ritual. Occasional mention of the term is found as early as the 1st century bce.
The idea of a ‘fivefold music’ is derived from the Sinhalese classification of instruments, which borrowed Sanskrit names for the groups but assigned different meanings, to accommodate the lack of string instruments in the Sinhalese tradition. Scholars differ in their interpretation of the terms. Raghavan (1967) believed their use to have been as follows: ātata, drums beaten with the hands only; vitata, drums beaten with sticks only; ātata-vitata, drums beaten with hand and stick; gana, all idiophones; susira, all aerophones. Later scholars, such as Kulatillake (1980), believe the term ātata denoted drums with a single head; vitata double- headed drums; and ātata-vitata drums with a string snare. The pancatūrya nāda...