- Pribislav Pitoëff
Variable tension chordophone (‘plucked drum’) of the Pulluvān (astrologers, healers, and priests of the serpent cult) of Kerala, south India. A large, round, narrow-necked clay pot has a hole cut in its base, and the lower half of the pot, including the hole, is covered with a cow- or iguana-skin membrane. A thong encircles the neck of the pot, the membrane being stretched by W-lacing extending from the thong to the membrane. A thick gut string attached to a toggle beneath the skin passes outward (away from the pot) from the centre of the skin and is attached at the other end to a narrow board or stick 60 cm long, either directly to the board or through a slot in the board to the inside of a metal cup or half-coconut that is slipped upside down under the end of the board. The seated, cross-legged player places the pot, neck downwards, against the left thigh, and rests one arm on the side of the pot to hold that end of the string tight. The board slips under the left leg and the other end (to which the string is fixed) is held under the right foot or knee. The player plucks the string with a thick wooden plectrum while varying the string tension by pressure of the left arm on the pot. There are two sizes of this instrument, with pots 15 cm and 35 cm in diameter, respectively. The smaller one, played by women, accompanies collecting songs. The larger one, used in domestic rituals belonging to the serpent cult, is plucked by a singer while at the same time a woman beats the pot of the smaller one with her hands and does not pluck its string. These instruments are played together with a ...