Traditional Drums of Sri Lanka

The widespread development of music and dance in Sri Lanka has been greatly influencend and sustained by the production of high-qulaty musical instruments by the gifted carftspeople.The making of musical instruments is a traditional craft that has continued uninetrrupted among certain communities,the requisite have been passed on from generation to generatation

Drums, Tambourines and Percussion Instruments

The ancient classification of ther five-fold instrumental ensemble or panchaturya bhanada consisted of a variety of drums(percussion), cymals,flutes, and trumpets(wind and brass instruments).The Sri Lankan historical treatise Mahavamsa has recorded the existence of musical preformance in ancient Sri Lanka.Music was studied seriously, with a lot of attention given to the codes and principles regulating its practice.In the mediaeval period, royal courts had specially appointed officials who supervised the performing arts:music, dancing and singing.There are special reference made to the performers using drums and trumpets (tamboru purampettukara) who performed in glorification of the king and also on ceremonial occasions

Drums were-and still are-considered the most important component of Sri Lankan music. A wide variety of drums have been used for various purposes, ceremonial and otherwise drums also had a special role to play in the battlefield.Drums were used frequently in religious occasions-the drum beats . it was felt, accorded auspiciousness and sense of solemnity.Drums have also been associated with dance-forms, different types of drums were/are associated with each dance form.

Types of drums

There are several types of drums made for the professional drummers playing hevisi music; the critical ones are the davula from Sabaragamuwa province, the kettle drum, and the tammattamma (combined with the trumpet, horanava), all of which are played as an ensemble at Buddhist functions. The geta beraya or magul beraya is the typical Kandyan drum and the ruhunu beraya is its counterpart, played in the southern coastal areas; also known as the yak beraya, this is used during exorcising rituals. There are other important drums, whose names indicate the presence of foreign influence(s); these drums are, however, well-integrated into local musical culture. The udekki - an hour-glass shaped drum used by the dancers who participate in the Perahera or the annual Kandyan pageant held in honour of the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic - resembles a north Indian drum; the bummadiya - the pot drum made out of clay and iguana skin which is played at harvest festivals is linked to the Dravidian pot drum; the rabana- a small tambourine-type drum used by dancing performers in a group in villages -is similar to the Malaysian rabana. The mrdanga, which is Indian in origin, is popular among local musicians and it is used in performances of the bharatanatya dance form. The maddala drum is, in all probability, south Indian in origin; it is used to play the rhythms for nadagam music. (Nadagam refers to the plays staged by troupes - either rural folk or urban theatre.)

Raw Materials, Craft Techniques and Processes

This craft requires a lot of skill and expertise: each instrument needs to function in a particular manner, and the craftspersons have to be extremely sensitive to creating the requisite sound and tone. All the raw materials have to be treated, including the skins of animals used for the sides of the drums and the selections of tree trunks used. The types of wood used by the drum-makers are the jak or Artocarpus Integrifolia, the kitul or Caryota Urens, the mara or Albizzia Moluccana, the coconut or Coco Nucifera and, occasionally, the suriya or Thespesia Populnea. These varieties of wood are not difficult to obtain. The crafting of most types of drums follows a fairly similar process and uses common techniques.

Further Reading: