Resonance Music

The divine drone

This time the destination was the Big Temple in Thanjavur. We were in time for the conclusion of the annual festival and listened to the Velli Nayanam being played.

Enquiring about the various musical instruments of the temple, we came to know about the tutti/titti, a bagpipe that produced a single drone note and was once performed at the temple, according to dance teacher and mridangam vidwan Herambhanathan.

Instruments are categorised into Tata vadyas, Sushira vadyas, Avanaddha vadyas and Ghana vadyas. Tutti comes under Sushira Vadyas (wind instruments). Sruti upanga and tutti are Bagpipes and belong to the Sruti Vadyas as they provide a drone accompaniment, that is, drones of the blown variety — such as ottu and ottu sanku.

Sruti upanga was played in Tamil Nadu, while tutti was mainly performed in Kerala and Andra Pradesh.

Tutti was once played as part of the chinna melam ensemble at the Big Temple.

It had a long pipe, made from the wood of Aacha maram, and had a bag fixed at the end. It was controlled by the breath of the performer.

During Thiruvadirai in Margazhi, Natarajar purappadu takes place. Here till the Nadavaana Pandal, Periya Melam accompanied the procession, after which chinna melam took over. Today there is no one to play the tutti and it has become obsolete. The tutti performer was called Tuttikarar.

Tutti was an accompaniment for Katha singers, along with a drum and a crescent-shaped brass horn known as the Kommu. It was also played during the village’s dance dramas.

The tutti had two pipes, one long and the other short, attached to a large bag. Air was blown into the bag through the short pipe until it bloated. Then the end pipe was opened and the bag pressed slowly. The air thus released would come out through the longer cane pipe, and the reed attached to it would vibrate, producing the drone.

Closed with wax

The holes in the pipe were wholly or partially closed with wax so that the instrument could be tuned to the desired pitch. The vibrations were also controlled by a piece of wire or fine twine tied to the tongue. Black wax was used to make the tutti air-tight.

It is learnt that Bagpipes first originated from ancient Egypt. In Kerala, there are quite a number of paintings from the 18th century probably illustrating bagpipes. Tutti was a part of the orchestra for Mohiniyattom and other small stage ensembles.

It was played at the Adikesavaperumal temple, Tiruvattar, and was a part of the orchestra for the temple dancers at the Tripunithura temple.

There is a similar instrument known as mashak that is performed in Garhwal (Uttarakhand), Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Pakistan and in Afganistan.Also known as Masak, mishek, moshug, Moshaq, Moshuq, mushak baja, Meshek, mashak bin and bin baji, this instrument is associated with weddings and festive occasions.

There are bagpipes that belong to different global music traditions including the Scottish great highland bagpipe, Estonian tourpill, Northumbrian smallpipes, Bulgarian kaba gaida, the Hungarian duda, German huemmelchen, Italian zampogna, Irish uilleann pipes, Swedish sackpipa and Turkish tulum.

The writers are well-known Carnatic musicians


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Printable version | May 16, 2022 3:15:32 am | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/tracing-the-tune-of-tutti/article19055134.ece