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The idakka (Malayalam: ഇടയ്ക്ക), also spelt edaykka/edakka, is an hourglass-shaped drum from Kerala in south India. This handy percussion instrument is very similar to the pan-Indian damaru. This drum is popularised by Njeralathu Ramapothuval in general public of Kerala which was very restricted to play only inside the temple walls.While the damaru is played by rattling knotted cords against the resonators, the idakka is played with a stick. Like the damaru, the idakka's pitch may be bent by squeezing the lacing in the middle.
The sanskrit word Dakka was misspelt by Kerala people (there are lot of sanskrit and other language words were misspelt same as this. Njeralathu Harigovindan has written, and done demonstration programmes, on Edakka (Idakka) in detail (www.sopanasangeetham.com). This is the one and only drum in the world which can express all the vocal notes. Owing to this tonal quality, there have been performers who have even used it as a singing instrument, to give full-fledged concerts, including Carnatic music.
The idakka is slung over the left shoulder and the right side of the instrument is gently beaten with a thin curve-ended stick. The left hand is used for moving the 'Kutti' in upward and downward directions to scale the base and top notes. Varying the tension from 'Thol Kacha' through the inter-laced chord to both the 'Vattams' produces variations in tones. Simple melodies extending over one octave can be played in this instrument. The idakka is considered to be Devavadyam (a divine instrument) and is customarily played standalone during the puja at temples or as the accompaniment to the Sopanam music just outside the sanctum sanctorum, customarily by the Ambalavasi community (especially Marar or Poduval communities). More popularly, it is one of the five instruments that constitute the panchavadhyam ensemble of Kerala.
Kathakali, the classical dance-drama from Kerala, also gives a slot to playing the idakka when a female character holds the stage (when the Chenda is not played). In Koodiyattam too, the Idakka gives good support to the mizhavu (pot drum). The idakka is an indispensable accompaniment for other dance forms, most notably Mohiniyattam and Krishnanattam. It has become an accepted member of several dance troupes outside Kerala. Idakka is also used to present the traditional concert called Thayambaka.
Idakka is regarded as a difficult instrument to master, given that the rolls are produced from a single stick (not two unlike in the case of the chenda) and that the practitioner should have a good sense of both rhythm and melody. There are many institutions in Kerala where idakka is being taught, the most important among them being Njeralathu Kalasramam at Shornur and Angadipuram Kerala Kalamandalam and Kshetra Kalapeetham in Vaikom.
Of the current lot of Idakka artists, the most famous include Vinu Baarath, Sujith Kottol,Subramanian Peringod,Sooranad Harikumar,Thiruvilvamala Hari, Tripunithura Krishnadas, Chottanikara Subhash Marar, Tichur Mohanan, Chendamangalam Unni,Thiruvillwamala Jayan, Tripunithura Harikrishnan and Anand k r. The one name that is always synonymous with idakka and Sopana sangeetham in the second half of the 20th century has been the legendary Pallavur Appu Marar—he, unlike many others, was an expert in using it both as a percussion and musical instrument.
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