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date: 18 November 2019


  • Alastair Dick
  • , revised by Zoe C. Sherinian


The ancient south Indian Tamil name for circular drums, primarily of the frame drum type, found in literature of the 1st millennium ce. The name derives from paraidal (‘to announce’) and reflects the drums’ function in village culture to announce weddings, temple festivals, funerals, women’s life-cycle events, and to lead processions for these events. The drum had different names according to its function. These include por parai (war drum), munda parai (the king’s announcing drum), and sa parai (funeral drum). Each function or event had an associated rhythmic pattern (adi) recognized as an announcing code. Other types included the nāḻikaip-paṟai (played to indicate the time of day) and the smaller cirupaṟai (with a head of uṭumpu lizard skin), which has been compared to the modern kañjīrã. The parai is nowadays also called tappu (more common in Andhra Pradesh and related to dappu and daf) and kottu (literally ‘to beat’, a more derogatory vernacular). In Tamil Nadu the instrument is played primarily by the Paraiyar outcaste ...

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