Friday, January 16, 2004

Mridangam Language

South Indian drumming has a language all of its own. For every sound produced by the mridangam, there is a corresponding syllable. These syllables, known as solkattu, are combined to form innumerable rhythms. The solkattu language becomes almost inseparable from the drumming itself.

One might assume, therefore, that one could assign a MIDI note for each syllable, and then use a mridangam sample of each syllable to play back these solkattu compositions. However, there is considerable flexibility in the system of interpreting the solkattu for the drums. For example, the syllable ta is used for 11 different strokes. Over the years, the solkattu system has evolved to serve as a structure for many different drums, and so many different interpretations are possible.

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