Bera (drum)

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Bera , also beraya, bere (from Sanskrit bhèri , "drum"), is the general Sinhalese name for " tube drum " and also for " drum " in Sri Lanka , from which the Berava, a socially low-ranking professional class of drummers and ritual experts, got their name Has. The gata bera , a double-headed barrel drum, is indispensable for dances in the central highlands and for Buddhist rituals. Drum music and highland dances are considered the national style of the Sinhalese . The yak bera (ya) is a long double-headed cylinder drum that is used in the southern, lower parts of the country for mask dances and other rituals. The tammatta bera or tamattama consists of two flat kettle drums connected to one another . The dandu bera , with its body made of a bamboo tube without a skin covering, is not a membranophone , but a slit drum , i.e. an idiophone . It is also used for rituals.

The ceremonial drumming ( magul bera ) is one of the religious rituals of all three main cultural regions of the Sinhalese: the highlands around Kandy , the lowlands in the south on the coast and the area of ​​the province of Sabaragamuwa in between . The cylinder drum dawula is particularly common there, while the kettle drum pair tamattama occurs equally in all regions.

The cylinder drum
yak bera played in the south of Sri Lanka

Origin and Distribution

Barrel drum played in the central highlands gata bera

Sri Lanka has been culturally active since the middle of the 1st millennium BC. Influenced by north Indian immigrants, who have been living since the 3rd century BC. Chr. The Theravada -Buddhismus adhered to and to the ancestors of the Sinhalese were. In the 11th century the powerful Tamil Chola Empire from southern India dominated the island. In addition, due to its geographical location between the Arabian Sea in the west and the Bay of Bengal in the east , Sri Lanka was involved in trade relations between the East African coast, Arabia and Southeast Asia from the second half of the 1st millennium. As a result, the instruments used in folk music and ritual music by the Buddhist Sinhalese (around 75 percent of the total population), the mostly Hindu Tamils (around 11 percent), the Muslim-Tamil Moors (around 9 percent) and other population groups include the predominantly Indian influences, connections to Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are recognizable. In search of raw materials and spices, European colonists began to settle in the 16th century (Portuguese from 1505, Dutch from 1658 and finally British in 1796) and left musical traces. According to a report by Ibn Battuta , Africans were on the island in the 14th century as servants of the ruler of Colombo , others came in the 17th century as slaves of the Portuguese and at the beginning of the 19th century as soldiers in the British army.

In the ancient Indian times magical powers were ascribed to most drums and sacrifices were made to worship them. Mythical tales convey the magical-religious meaning of the drums, which shows itself in connection with gods or their use to drive away evil spirits. In the Atharvaveda the disastrous war drum ( dundubhi ) is praised in a hymn (Book 5, Hymn 20) . One of the revered drums is the hourglass-shaped rattle drum , which under the name damaru or udukkai among the Tamils in South India is an attribute of Shiva . The two and other hourglass drums belong to the field of religious music or folk music. Drums with this body shape are already on reliefs on the stupa of Bharhut from the 2nd century BC. Chr. Shown; in Sri Lanka they come in the form of the Tamil udukkai (as udekki, uddeukei or udekkiya ).

Cylinder drum dawula

The superordinate category of the double-headed tubular drums is represented in Sri Lanka in several variants with barrel-shaped or cylindrical bodies. The most common South Asian names for drums in the 1st millennium BC Were dundhubi and mrdanga (from Sanskrit mrd , "clay"). In southern India, the mridangam , with its related name, is a double-cone drum with two heads struck horizontally with both hands, similar to the gata bera . This type and slightly bellied barrel drums such as the dhol in north Indian folk music and the tavil in south India are common, while straight cylindrical drums with two equally sized heads are less common in India. The madal in the north-east Indian state of Assam (related to the south Indian double-cone drum maddale ) is a drum that is at least on the outside cylindrical with a length of around 60 centimeters and a diameter of 30 centimeters and similar in size to the yak bera . From the Naga there in Manipur , cylinder drums with much larger diameters and a V-shaped cord tension are known, which are similar to the tapan played in the Balkans . The double-skinned wooden cylinder drum daula, dawula , also daule in Sri Lanka is related to the tavil and the oriental davul .

Clay kettle drums can be seen on reliefs from the ancient Gandhara region (1st / 2nd century AD). The clay pots had short necks with wide openings that were covered with a membrane. One such type of drum is the ghumat in Goa . The name dundubhi , which has been handed down since the Rigveda (second half of the 2nd millennium BC) , functionally referred to large war drums, which probably had a wooden kettle-shaped or tubular body. The small south Indian dhanki still has a wooden body , while the kettle of the large old war drum dhamsa in the north is made of iron. Kettle drums are numerous in India and were common long before the kettle drum pairs tabla and naqqara , which came with the Muslim conquerors in the Middle Ages . In Sri Lanka, the small pair of kettle drums tamattama (Sinhala, in Tamil tampattam ) consists of two wooden bowls connected by strips of beef skin , and the tabla is called tablawa .

A musician in the Sri Dalada Maligawa ("Temple of the Tooth") in Kandy plays the bowling oboe
horanewa .

In ancient Indian Sanskrit texts, bhèri belongs to the group of membranophones ( avanaddha vadya ). With this meaning, bhèri (also bhairi, bahiri ) was adopted in the Old Javanese language and up to Balinese bèri . After the 11th century, bhèri referred to a kettle gong in Java or, like bèri to this day, a small gong . Sinhala bera is derived from Sanskrit and Pali bhèri .

The traditional classification of musical instruments in Sri Lanka differs from the Indian one and is contained in the Vamsattappakasini , the commentary on the Mahavamsa , the "Great (Family) Chronicle" from the 5th century, written in Pali at the end of the 7th century at the earliest . It mentions five types of musical instruments according to the preferred instruments on the island: atata , single-headed drums; vitata , double-headed drums; atatavitata , meaning unclear; ghana , metal idiophones ; and susira , wind instruments. The existence of string instruments ( vina ) has been documented elsewhere since the 1st millennium .

Frame drums are in India on reliefs from the 2nd / 1st. Century BC They only play a certain role in some regions apart from the kanjira in southern India, given the large number of Indian drum types . The single-headed frame drum parai used by the socially inferior Tamil professional caste of the Paraiyar in rituals is replaced by a cylinder drum of the same name by the same drummer caste in Sri Lanka. Single-headed, round frame drums covered with goat skin in several sizes are known under the name rabana . Frame drums called rabana or rebana made their way to Malaysia and Indonesia with the Arab-Islamic culture .

In addition to the drums yak bera, gata bera, dawula, tammattama, udekkiya, rabana and tablawa , the drums known from South India are used: double-cone drum maddalaya (in South India maddale or madhalam ), double-cone drum mridangam and fiber drum thavil . Otherwise, the island's traditional instruments are limited to flutes, the cone oboe horanewa ( horanava ) and cymbals . Only holy verses are recited at Buddhist temples, music to practice a cult is not required there according to Buddhist teaching. The drums played by the Sinhalese in Buddhist cults are primarily used to worship and invoke popular religious deified spirits, primeval heroes and ancestors. The Sinhalese have been ritualistic drumming since the 2nd century BC. Occupied. In the southern flat parts of the country, the S-shaped bent metal trumpet kombu is sometimes integrated into the rituals. The Tamils, on the other hand, cultivate their Hindu cults at the temples, as in South India, with a variety of religious musical styles and instruments.

The ritual drumming of the Sinhalese is the task of the largest caste of drummers and dancers in the country, whose name Berava is derived from the drum. Their counterparts among the Tamils ​​are the Paraiyar ( derived from the drum parai ). Both social groups are considered to be socially inferior, even if they carry out religious and ritual acts that are essential for the upper strata, and both maintain a myth of origin, according to which in earlier times they belonged to the highest stratum of Brahmins and only lost this status under certain circumstances. Another caste with a performing profession are the Korava, who perform the Kolam ritual dance theater .

Gata bera

Stage show
puja natuma with several dancers and gata bera drummers. Part of a presentation of traditional culture in Kandy.

The gata bera ( gata bere, geta bera, gäta beraya or gâ a bera ) of the central highlands is a double-skinned barrel drum that is beaten with both hands. It is about 67 centimeters long and has a maximum girth in the middle of 85 centimeters. The player fixes the drum in a horizontal position in front of his stomach with a band wrapped around his hips. The two membranes are covered with different skins, for example goat or monkey skin on the right side and cow skin on the left. The gata bera is similar to the double-cone drums mridangam in southern India and maththalam in the Tamil areas of Jaffna in the north and Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka, but the way it is played is different. The gata bera is struck with stretched arms and the balls of the hands on the skin, without the elaborate use of the fingers as in South Indian classical music .

Mahasona possession ritual

Dancers and gata bera players at the Buddhist Esala Perahera procession in Kandy .

The Buddhist priests ( kapurala ) recite religious prose or sing verse, while drum music is supposed to increase the effectiveness of the rituals. As lay ritual experts, who are called adura, yakadura or kattadiya , deal in popular religious practices with sacrifices ( bali ) to the planetary gods ( Navagrahas ) and with expulsion of spirits ( yak tovil ). The ritual experts come from the Berava drumming caste and, to a lesser extent, from the lower Oli dancer caste. The clients from the upper castes appreciate the ritual services of the Berava and Oli and yet cultivate their contempt and prejudice against them in other contexts.

In the case of the expulsions of spirits, generally known as yak tovil , the responsible healer appoints some drummers and dancers to perform his ritual. The healer works on behalf of the head of the family who wants to have a sick relative treated. Treatments by expelling ghosts presuppose an idea that the cause of the disease is in a social context that needs to be captured in therapy. The healer, who recognizes the cause of illness in his patients - often women shortly after the birth of a child - in an ominous spirit ( yakka ) or the evil eye and creates a state of trance, carries out a kind of psychotherapeutic method. For this he has to master the organization of the ritual, the course of the offering, the mantras to be spoken and the songs that are suitable to attract the spirits. The great possession ceremony is called Mahasona and includes dramatic productions by masked dancers.

Such a ceremony typically begins at dusk with an homage in verse to Buddha ( namaskaraya ) and the four protective deities Vishnu , Kataragama ( Skanda ), Saman and Natha ( Avalokiteshvara ). Then the spirits of the dead preta tattuwa (who belong to the Bhuta group in South Asia ) receive a basket with offerings. Drums are struck at the start of these preparatory activities. While the healer is busy with the patient, his helpers recite mantras, sing songs praising the spirits, and burning sap ( dummala ) spreads acrid smoke. In the opinion of those involved, the ghosts have found themselves at the scene of the action under the accompanying drum rhythms. The background noise of drums, spoken mantras and singing is enriched by occasional high- pitched tones that the healer produces with a pipe whistle ( vas danda ), which is only used in obsession rituals. At the climax of the ritual, dancers fall into a trance-like state, possessed by the summoned spirits. Meanwhile the drums beat the heavy rhythm magul bera . The faster drum beats and movements of the dancers at midnight also tempt the patient to get up and join the other actors in a trance.

Magul bera

Magul bere , in the south magul bera , is an auspicious musical genre with a rhythm pattern that is performed at most of the cultic events of the Sinhalese in the highlands and in the other two regions. A favorable omen also means the snail horn blown together with the magul bera ( häk gediya or sak ). In the southern lowlands, besides puja bera , magul bera is the only rhythm that is not used to accompany dances. The composition consists of three rhythmic phrases ( vattama ), which also contain sequences without a regular beat. The three sections each start slowly, gradually become faster and end with the drum syllables tat tat gum . With the syllable gum , both hands hit the skins at the same time.

For every drum player, learning the magul bera performed without dancing or recitation is the most important exercise. Magulbera is rhythmically composed without adhering to a meter. A magul bera piece lasts three to five minutes, each gurunnanse (teacher, " guru ") orally passes the composition on in his version to his students, who they learn by heart; but a drummer has the freedom to make certain decorations. Frequently two to three drummers play magul bera together , in a recording in 1994 ten drummers were involved, however, according to another observation, usually only one drummer appears.

Drum music in the highlands

Drum group at the Esala Perahera procession in Kandy. Front row: two pairs of kettle drums
tamattama (or tammatta bera ) and a cylinder drum dawula . Back row: two gata bera .
The cylinder drum dawula is played with the left hand and a stick in the right. Two ritual drummers in the Sri Dalada Maligawa ("Temple of the Tooth") in Kandy.

The ritual experts of the Berava and other professional castes pass on their knowledge about healing methods, especially about drum rhythms and dance steps within their group and keep part of their knowledge as a secret that is not passed on to outsiders. Until Sri Lanka's independence in 1948, the dance and music styles in the highlands were reserved for the male ritual experts of the lower castes. It was not until the end of the 1950s that these styles got beyond their ritual context and have since been performed on stages as national dance styles by all social classes and both sexes.

The village ritual kohomba kamkariya is performed by men after the harvest in homage to the gods. Its history is thought to go back to the 15th century and it was given its shape in the 17th century; According to the associated myth, the ritual is said to have existed as early as the 5th century BC. Be carried out for the first time. Today's performance traditions ( udarata sampradaya ) in the highlands go back to this village ritual. The drum beats played on the gata bera can be reproduced with a syllable language (Sanskrit aksara , “letter, syllable”, also “indestructible, indivisible”, in South India solkattu , in North India bol ), which possibly had a magical meaning and with the syllable structure the medieval Singhala and Telugu poetry.

In many dance songs of the highlands, a continuous beat sequence on small hand cymbals talampata is underlaid between the drum beats . From short and long cymbal beats, with the intervening drum beats that are usually twice as fast, rhythmic cycles result. In addition to a cymbal pattern that follows the metric structure, there are four other non- isochronous cymbal patterns, the ostinate sequence of which is nevertheless sufficient to give the dancer's movements a temporal structure. Such non-isochronous beat sequences also occur in the folk music of some other regions of the world where systematic music theory is not very widespread. Thus the Sri Lankan drumming proves to be far removed from the rhythmic concept of tala in Indian music . This drum music and the other performance traditions of the central highlands around Kandy were stylized into the Sinhala-Buddhist national culture of Sri Lanka after the middle of the 20th century. This happened because the Kingdom of Kandy was not added to the British colonial empire until 1815, around 300 years after the Portuguese had conquered the coastal regions of the island. The music of the highlands is therefore considered to be comparatively less influenced by the outside world. However, this does not take into account the cultural influence of the Tamil nayaks from South India, who ruled Kandy between 1739 and 1815 and brought musicians and dancers from Madurai with them.

The ritual music of Kandy is primarily associated with the drum players who perform daily at the Sri Dalada Maligawa ("Temple of the Tooth"), the most famous Buddhist temple in the country. Hundreds of drummers and dancers create the annual Esala Perahera procession , during which the dental sanctuary is removed from the temple and carried through the city on an elephant, accompanied by other elephants and a large crowd. This procession and other ceremonies with drummers and dancers in Kandy are closely linked to the pre-colonial Kingdom of Kandy when Esala Perahera was turned into a magnificent pageant.

Yak bera

Manufacturing and design

The yak bera or yak beraya ( yak synonymous with yaksha , natural spirit, so "demons / ghost drum") used in the southern plains for rituals of the Buddhist folk religion is a 67 to 69 centimeter long double-celled cylinder drum with a membrane diameter between 19 and 23 centimeters. It is longer and slimmer than the dawula . The dimensions are assigned a mythological meaning. The length is given as three hand widths and three finger widths, the former referring to the three jewels (these are Buddha , Dharma and Sangha ) and the latter referring to the Hindu gods Brahma , Vishnu and Maheshvara ( Shiva ). The diameter results from a hand's breadth, which stands for Siddhartha Gautama's search for enlightenment, and two fingers' breadth : for Pancasikka (god of music) and Sarasvati (goddess of wisdom). The drum itself is said to have been made by order of the ancient Hindu-Buddhist king of the gods Shakra (Sakka, Indra ).

For the body ( bera kanda ) tree species with hard heartwood are used, preferably the wood of Caryota urens (Sinhala kitul ), a type of palm belonging to the fishtail palm family, which is otherwise used in Sri Lanka for the production of palm sugar and toddy ; from tubular cassia ( Cassia fistula , Sinhala ähäla ); from Vitex altissima (Sinhala milla ); of neem tree ( Azadirachta indica , Sinhala kohomba ) and jackfruit tree ( Artocarpus heterophyllus , Sinhala jack ). Inexpensive drums are now mainly made from the trunk of the more readily available coconut palm. Frei (2000) lists a total of twelve types of wood that are traditionally preferred depending on the purpose of the drum: For the royal court ceremonies and for worshiping the Buddha, drums made of sandalwood ( Santalum album , Sinhala handun ) are used. The gods are ideally with drums of Himalayan cedar ( Cedrus deodara , Sinhala dewadara ), Ebony ( Diospyros ebenum , Sinhala kaluwara ), Acacia Sundra (Sinhala ratkiriya ), Gerber acacia ( Acacia catechu , Sinhala ratkihiri ) and Diospyros oppositifolia (Sinhala kalumädiriya ) venerated. Eight other types of wood are therefore available for incantation ceremonies and profane occasions. The offer in the shops is largely limited to drums of simple design, instrument makers produce high-quality specimens that they work on for several days only to order.

When making the body, the instrument maker first removes the bark from the logs with an ax, then clamps it in a lathe , levels and smooths the outside in the desired diameter and also uses the lathe to create transverse grooves for decoration. Compared to hand-driven lathes, the production time of a drum is more than halved when using an electric motor, which is usually used in craft businesses today. The piece of wood is then hollowed out inside with a long chisel until the wall thickness is 12–13 millimeters. Some drums have metal clamping rings at certain intervals for stabilization and decoration.

The animal skins for the membranes are first rubbed with ashes on the inside so that they do not rot, and then stretched over boards to dry in the sun. When the skins are sufficiently dry, the hair on the outside is scraped off with a knife. The strips ( varapata ) for tensioning the membranes are cut out of the cowhide in a spiral from the edges inwards and stretched between trees to dry. The thin membranes ( tattuva ) are made from the stomach skin of a cow and stretched over both openings.

Before doing this, however, the instrument maker spreads thick cowhide soaked in water over the body edges and over a ring made of a strip of skin tied around the edges and temporarily fastened the skins in the first step with circumferential cords. Then he pulls another cord through 16 holes cut into the skins protruding below the cord winding and braces the skins against one another with it. Once these have dried, the cords are removed again. The skins are cut circular close to the inner body edge and cut straight on the sides, so that only wide strips of skin ( häkma ) remain around the edges. If the strips are again provided with 16 holes for the later tensioning, they are removed so that the membranes ( bera tattu ) made of cow stomach skin can be applied. After a few intermediate steps, the strips of skin and bamboo rings braided with fiber material are covered. The V-shaped bracing is then tied to this, with which the membranes can be tuned to an approximate pitch. Since the sensitive cow stomach skin, which has been pulled on wet, only receives its tension after drying, when it is already firmly attached to the edge of the body, subsequent tuning is only possible to a limited extent. The entire production of the drum is a demanding manual work.


The name yak beraya is only appropriate in a narrower sense when the drum is used in an incantation ritual; other names in the corresponding ritual context are devol bera (named after the god Devol, who belongs to a group of twelve gods who belong to the Interfering in human affairs) and magul bera ( magul beraya , " ceremonial drum" ), a neutral term is pahata rata bera ("flatland drum", in contrast to the highlands uda rata ). The drum is also called Ruhunu beraya, according to an old name for the plains . Describing the properties are gosaka beraya ("noisy drum") and mihingu beraya ("straight drum"). The sound of the drum is also related to pana beraya ( pana , “hard, very strong”) and samudragosha beraya (“sea sound drum”, bright and at the same time deep sound of the surf, samudragosha also as a meter of the traditional Singhala poetry). Magul bera , otherwise a musical generic term, and pana bera (ya) , another name for the hourglass-shaped drum udakkiya (in southern India udukkai, idakka ), which is used to accompany singing , indicate that there is no clear linguistic distinction between a drum and its intended use.

Style of play

The player ties the drum like the gata bera in a horizontal position with a ribbon around the hips in front of his stomach and beats it with both hands. The yak bera sounds very deep and booming. It does not produce an exact pitch, but one head is thinner ( sural tattuva ) than the other ( hai tattuva ) and therefore sounds slightly higher. There is no tonal relationship between playing drums and singing.

Since the second half of the 20th century, Berava drum music has been geographically divided into the uda rata style of the Kandy highlands, the pahata rata style of the southern flatlands and the style named after the province of Sabaragamuwa in between . The numerous respective regional styles are called Korales . Each of the three regions has its own drum, musical style, typical rituals and clothing traditions. While the forms of music and representation of Kandy are considered the national style, the entire ritual program, which consists of rituals for the gods ( deva tovil ), planetary deities ( bali ) and demons ( yak tovil ), is only practiced in the south.

Structurally, the Sinhalese drumming is made up of a sequence of padaya . Padaya , literally “foot”, means a rhythmic cycle. This consists of drum beats, which are differentiated according to their duration in long ( guru ) and short ( laghu ) and are named with four or five standard drum syllables ( pancatala ) depending on the information : tat, dit, tom and nam or tat, jit (or dit ) , ton (or tom ), nan and ta . The four drum syllables ( aksara ) of the drum language ( bera basava ) in the south on the yak bera correspond to four different beats. Tat and tom the player hits the thicker skin with his weaker hand ( hai tattuva ), dit and nam he hits the thinner skin with his stronger hand ( sural tattuva ). The loudest and lowest beat tom occurs with all fingers except the thumb on the outer area of ​​the membrane; With a similar dit, the fingers rest briefly on the membrane after the blow, which results in a muffled sound.

In addition to these four basic drum syllables ( bija-aksara , with bija , "seeds") there are numerous other striking techniques with individual fingers or the entire palm. The basic forms rim, gat, dom, gut, dim and others are also named with a syllable . By combining them, further aksara are formed, which consist of a maximum of eight Sinhalese characters for drum sounds (example: re-gu-ndi-ga-t ).

Devol Maduva ritual

A demon ( yakka ), more precisely a Yamma Raksaya , "death demon" (from Yama , god of death, and Rakshasa , demon), as it is presented in possession rituals and mask games. Illustration in the Sinhalese mythical tale Yakkun Natannawa , 1829.

The first group of rituals, the cult acts directed at the gods and deva tovil (from Deva , "deities") or madu tovil ( madu means "protective roof, shelter" under which the ritual takes place), usually belong to the festivals of the Annual cycle and are intended to protect against drought and epidemics, such as chickenpox and, earlier, smallpox. If there is an age ( devalaya ) for the deity to be worshiped in a Buddhist temple , the rituals take place nearby. The most popular madu tovil ritual in the southern flatlands is Devol Maduva for the god Devol Deviyo, another is Gammaduva for the patron goddess Pattini.

The Devol Maduva ritual is supposed to protect against diseases and bring prosperity to the village community. About 20 drummers and dancers are involved in its implementation. It starts at 7 p.m. and lasts all night until noon the following day. Some of the successive sections are accompanied by all drummers and dancers, while others have only one or two drummers and dancers performing at a time. In preparation for the ritual, a post ( kapu ) made from the trunk of a betel nut palm is set up on the site a few weeks beforehand . This post is a promise to the gods to hold the ritual. One day before the start, some helpers erect a protective roof with wooden poles and a tarpaulin. The soil in it is covered with a layer of sand for the dancers. Under this protective roof there is an altar for Pattini in a central place, who is also venerated in a ritual directed at Devol. The side of the altar is surrounded by a colorfully decorated altar wall and in front of it by an archway ( torana ). At the beginning of all rituals there is the drumming called magul bera with an homage to Buddha. The gods are invited to sit at the altars set up for them and to watch the ritual.

A special ceremony is the “cutting of the milla tree” ( milla käpima , Sinhalese milla means Vitex altissima ), with which wood is obtained for the later fire run. A dancer, a drummer, a ritual assistant and a reciter appear. To a quick drum beat, the latter recites verses with which the Kurumbara demons are conjured up. The actual opening of the ritual is considered to be the tel vädavavima ceremony , during which a container of oil is brought in to light the oil lamps on the altars. An elderly dancer moves to a special drum rhythm to greet the deity Vahala, whose job it is to keep the demons away from the ritual place. After about an hour, the yahan däkma section, which lasts about half an hour, follows , in which all dancers enter the ritual place in a different rhythm that gradually becomes faster. The dance is based on an energetic simple but uneven meter typical of the southern flat areas.

This is followed by a number of other sections of the ritual, which are aimed at gods or demons and are always accompanied by drummers and dancers. The toran yagara ritual in homage to the archway set up in front of the Pattini altar lasts about an hour . At the end of this ritual a white curtain is removed and the altar is officially included in the action. The dancers move calmly and expressively in a rhythm called kavi tala , which the drums produce with fewer interim hits than usual, and while a reciter recites verses. The greatest importance in drumming is the complex rhythm pattern magul bera , which according to records was performed by ten drummers at the Devol Maduva in 1994 and only by two or three drummers in 2009. This reduction was accompanied by a simplification and shortening of the performance, which appears to be a compromise owed to the increasing entertainment character of the ritual.

For the audience, most of the entertainment is provided by the section, which includes an homage to the god Devol, an offering to the demon Kurumbara, and a fire walk. The dance of Devol ( Devol pada ) usually takes place at 9 a.m. For Devol pada has a duple in several rhythmic variations and eventually doubling the tempo.

Bali ritual

Graha pujava (from graha , "planetary deity ", and puja , "sacrificial ritual") is the name of the usual sacrificial ritual ( bali ) to the planetary gods ( Navagrahas , graha deviyo ), which are conjured up to avert demonic influences from a patient if one has been consulted beforehand The astrologer should consider such a ceremony necessary. This includes a minimal, calming drum accompaniment. The drum rhythms, which are repeated many times in their own style, form the background for song recitations that last throughout the entire ritual. The drumming is characterized by subtle differences in sound, decorations, great dynamics and changing meters. A hand bell ( mini gediya ) also sounds .

The main altar for the planetary gods is often built around a chair from a banana trunk, coconut palm leaves and flowers, among other things. On the altar there is a tray for the offerings and behind it hang images of the gods. The patient to be cured of his obsession sits on a mat on the floor opposite the altar. The opening of the ceremony is similar to the tovil rituals (for the other gods and demons), with the drummer of the magul bera not playing standing, but sitting on a mat to one side. The recitations at the beginning, with which the gods are asked for permission to perform the ritual, are accompanied by dancers and a drummer with a hand bell. The rhythm patterns change without interruption when certain ceremonial objects are placed on the patient in a subsequent section. In the further course the planet gods and the malevolent spirits ( Bhuta ) are asked to leave the patient. Finally, the dancers pay homage to Buddha with a solo drum game. The ceremony ends in the early hours of the morning.


Kolam mask dance in Kandy. Left cylinder drum yak bera , right barrel drum gata bera .

Kolam is a ritual mask theater performed in some places on the southwest coast, mainly by members of the Karawa caste, for certain festivals. Kolam means "mask". There is another theater play, Sokari , in which some actors wear masks and which is shown in the highlands as a cult for the goddess Pattini. The mask theater is historically connected to the Karawa, a fishing caste who immigrated from southern India, but belong to the Sinhalese in this region. The drama Nadagam , the third traditional Sinhalese folk theater, did not become popular until the second half of the 19th century.

The roles of both sexes, the drums yak bera and the double reed instrument horanewa, are played exclusively by men in the Kolam . In the opening ceremony, Buddha is first honored with the magul bera rhythm on the yak bera , after which the gurunnanse recites a request for support and blessings from the gods. The first and formally defined main part begins with the cumbersome, incompetent and intriguing preparations of the protagonists for the visit of the (mythical) King Mahasammata and his wife and ends with the arrival of the royal couple. The following part with various dances and individual stories from village life can be designed freely. After these scenes a jatakaya is played (moral tale from the life of the Buddha) and the benevolent demon Gara-Yaka dances to drive away all evil influences on the people.

All scenes of the mask theater, apart from the recitations, are accompanied by the yak bera . Otherwise a snail horn and in a few pieces the small cone oboe horanewa can only be heard at the opening . Some dancers wear bells on string ( gejji ) on the lower legs or anklets ( Silambu ) at the ankles.

More drums


The dawula , also daula, daule, davula or davul , is a large compact cylinder drum with a length of about 51 centimeters and a diameter of 38 to 46 centimeters. The body is made of jackfruit wood or another hardwood, the smoothly sanded outside is decorated with grooves and painted red or red with gold-colored stripes. The eardrums are made from deer or calf skin and are braced against each other via a Y-shaped lacing. The membranes can be tuned using twelve metal rings on the tension cords. Like the other drums, the player hangs the dawula with a belt around his waist horizontally in front of his stomach. He beats the drum on one side with a curved stick made from the firm branches of an orange- rue ( Murraya paniculata , Sinhala atteriya ) and on the other with his hand.

The dawula has been known in Sri Lanka since at least the 17th century, when the death of a Sinhala king was reported for eleven days by solo dawula players. Because of its high volume, the dawula was used as a signaling instrument then and also after the end of the kingdoms. Today the dawula is almost exclusively a ceremonial drum in Buddhist temples, where it provides the basic ostinate beat in the hevisi ensemble. The dawula can also be used instead of the gata bera in temple music. If a hevisi ensemble plays in a funeral procession, the dawula is wrapped in a white cloth (white is the color for death and mourning in Buddhism) and beaten with the hands on both membranes.

Demala bera

The demala bera ( demala-berē ), also mihingu bera ("straight drum", also nickname of the yak bera ) and nadagam bera (used in the Nadagam folk theater ), is a small barrel drum that occurs mainly on the southwest coast. In its shape, the demala bera is practically identical to the south Indian maddalam (in Tamil Nadu, madhalam in Kerala ) and is similar to the gata bera , but is less than 46 centimeters in length. In contrast to this, a large patch of voice paste ( badama ) is applied to the left membrane , which makes the sound deeper. The demala bera is usually played while sitting, more seldom hung from a sling while standing.

Tamils ​​once brought the demala bera with them from southern India to the island, where they passed into Sinhala tradition - together with the Tamil folk theater Nattukuttu , which became the Sinhalese nadagam . Nattukuttu , which had almost disappeared , had neither a stage nor a backdrop, there was only a circular platform ( mandapam ) piled up from earth and sand . The audience gathered outside in the circle saw mainly songs and dances whose movements and sequences of steps had a symbolic meaning in a performance that lasted up to twelve hours. The Sinhala version is performed as a dramatic narrative to this day. Two demala bera players accompany the songs and dances, one ensures an ostinate rhythm, of which there are 14 forms for the associated songs, and the other embellishes them. The song verses are interrupted by inserted simple drum patterns, called gaman tala , in which the performers also perform a circle dance accompanied by the cone oboe horanewa .

Although the demala bera is used exclusively for entertainment, it is also used to accompany hymns ( pasam ) in Christian worship services.

Tammatta bera

Kettle drum pair
tammatta bera or tamattama of the Sinhalese, corresponds to the tampattam of the Paraiyar. Played with two curved sticks kadippu .

The pair of kettle drums tammatta bera , also tamattama, tammatamma or tammâ a , consists of two wooden bowls that are firmly connected by strips of skin and two wooden sticks on the sides. The membranes are held in place by a band of twisted fibers that runs around the edge and are braced with ten strips of skin wrapped around this band on a second fiber ring on the underside. A thick sliver of fiber ( urapota ) wrapped in cotton fabric is tied to the skin strips on both outer sides , which the player wraps around his waist as in the gata bera and hangs the drum in front of his stomach. He beats the skins with two canes bent up at the front end ( kadippu or kaduppu ). The drum called anda baya (and played with the right hand) sounds significantly higher than the other.

The tamattama is used in Buddhist processions. The players move in fixed step sequences to the constantly repeated basic beat of their drums, which is struck with the left hand, while the right adds complicated rhythmic variations. Occasionally the players use their forearms and elbows as an artistic element in addition to the sticks. In conjunction with the dawula filling tamattama the predetermined from the cylinder drum rhythmic cycle.

An ensemble called hevisi ( hewisi ) at Buddhist temples usually performs a “musical sacrifice ceremony” ( sabda puja , also hevisi puja ) three times a day . The hevisi ensemble consists of at least one tamattama , one daule and one horanewa . In addition, the hand cymbals talam and the snail horn are used on special occasions in larger temples . In a procession around the temple, the rhythm tewa pada is played with 16 beats. Beats 1, 4, 7 and 9 are strongly emphasized, beats 3 and 6 are weakly emphasized, while beats 10 to 16 are unstressed. The musicians switch to a second rhythm with 16 beats as soon as they arrive at one of the four gates. This buddha pada has stressed beats on 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10 and unstressed beats on the remaining beats. The same pair of kettle drums is called tampattam in the Tamil Paraiyar caste and is played in the north and on the east coast together with the cylinder drum parai and with the double reed instrument kuzhal .

During the times of the Sinhalese kingdoms, drums were used to issue official decrees and the army marched into battle with war drums ( rana bera ). The cylinder drum daule and the kettle drum pair tamattama served both purposes .

Dandu bera

Dandu means “wood” in Sanskrit. Dandu bera is a slotted drum made from a section of bamboo that is closed at both ends by internodes . The player ties the dandu bera around his waist and hits it with two sticks that are 20 to 30 centimeters long. Log drums are unusual for South Asia, but from northeast India they come in numerous variants in Southeast Asia and the South Seas.

Kala beraya

Kala beraya or kalaham are other names for the clay pot bummadiya , the shape of which corresponds to a common household water pot ( kala gediya ). The bulbous pot has a narrow neck and a wide-rimmed opening, which is covered with a membrane 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter. The skin of goats, monkeys or lizards is used as the membrane. The shape of this kettle drum is similar to the ghumat of Goa . The South Indian mizhavu has an oversized, circular body made of sheet copper with a membrane over a very small opening . In the highlands, farmers play the bummadiya to accompany songs during the rice harvest.


For the piece Ceylon included in the composition cycle For Coming Times (1968–70), the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen asked for electronic instruments and a tam-tam as well as a “Kandy drum”, which presumably meant a barrel drum geta bera . The play Ceylon premiered in 1973. On the record cover of Ceylon Stockhausen is shown playing a "Kandy drum" in front of a background draped from palm leaves.


Web links

Individual evidence

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  22. Sak is derived from Shakra ( Indra ), the ruler of the divine heaven. Oliver Fabian Frei, 2000, p. 49
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  41. Sri Pada , "sacred footprint", denotes a highly revered "footprint" of the Buddha on the summit of Adam's Peak and at the same time the entire mountain.
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  67. Traditional Drums of Sri Lanka.
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