Kartal (rattle)

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Kartal with cymbals. The wooden rattles are held with one hand and knocked together on the flat undersides.

Kartal , kartāl, also khartal, kartala, khartala, kartar, are hand-held percussion instruments that are played in Indian music , according to the general meaning of the word that came from Sanskrit into the North Indian languages . In most regions, kartal denotes wooden rattles of different shapes held in pairs in each hand . In Bengal and Odisha there are kartal medium-sized hand cymbals , which are otherwise called tal in India . Kartal are mostly used for rhythmic accentuation and timing in religious songs ( bhajan and kirtan ) and in folk dances.


The kartal with handle and cymbals is one of the rattling rows .

Regardless of their material, kartal belong to the counter-strike idiophones according to the type of sound they produce ; In the Indian instrument classification they are assigned to the corresponding group of ghana vadya (from Sanskrit ghana, "solid" and vadya, "musical instrument"). Idiophones are the simplest and oldest musical instruments and the majority of them do not produce a definable pitch. The simplest Indian idiophones are counter-striking plates, for example two stones that beggars beat against each other, or striking sticks made of wood or bamboo, which are used in dances and to accompany songs. In the north these wooden sticks are called dandi, danda or car, in the south the corresponding wooden sticks kolu belong to the dance kolattam (“stick dance ”). In South India, the name kartala is sometimes used to mean two wooden plates about 15 centimeters in diameter, which have handles like table tennis bats. In Telugu these plates are called chekku (plural chakkalu ) and among others in Braj-Bhakha rai gidgidi (also ram gidgidi ). The player holds both plates by the handles with one hand and uses his index finger to create some space between the plates, which he hits against the inner surface of the other hand. The chekkai in Tamil Nadu are elongated wooden boards that are used in the same way and produce a muffled sound.

A combination of two separate bars is the chimta developed from barbecue tongs , which is partially equipped with rows of cymbal plates and occurs in northwest India and Pakistan. A simpler, pliers-shaped instrument made from bamboo rather than metal is known as toka ( tokka, thorkha ) in the northeast Indian state of Assam . The usual shape of the toka is a 30 to 90 centimeter long, slotted bamboo tube.

Bamboo tongs toka in Assam

Cymbals are circular, curved plates that are struck against each other flat or at the edges and can usually be tuned to a definable pitch. The Indian cymbals called generally in the north valley and south talam, derived from Sanskrit Tala ( "palm", "propose", "meter"). After their musical use as a clock generator for the rhythmic structure ( tal ), they belong to the tala vadya ("rhythm instruments"). They are available in different sizes and shapes, from flat bowls a few centimeters in size that are connected with a short cord, medium-sized hand cymbals such as the elathalam in Kerala, to large pair pools , of which the bartal in Assam with diameters of up to about 60 centimeters greatest are. Often, pair pools in general or any type of metallic object that is hit against each other with both hands are called kartal . The word kartal is derived from Sanskrit kara, which is translated as “hand”, and tal . The obvious meaning "hand percussion" of the local word makes an etymological derivation from Akkadian katral, the meaning of which is not entirely clear, and from ancient Greek krotala ("rattle") superfluous.

In the ancient Indian Shukla Yajurveda ("White Yajurveda") hand claps ( panighna ) are mentioned as a separate group of musicians. The wooden baton sticks called danda , which are up to 50 centimeters long, and cast metal cymbals are known from relief images from ancient Indian times and from Sanskrit literature, even if the numerous instrument names cannot be clearly assigned to an instrument type in every case. One of the oldest names for cymbals found in Rigveda and Atharvaveda is aghati . On a seal from the Mesopotamian city of Ur , which dates back to around 2800 BC. A small animal is depicted that is probably playing similar rattles to those known today as bones in the United States . Some finds from the Industal culture (3rd and 2nd millennium BC) are interpreted as rattling, which perhaps emphasized the rhythm of the dance. In medieval Sanskrit literature , rattles made of wood or bamboo, two of which are held in one hand, are called kamra .

Design and style of play

Rod rattle and record rattle

Mer dancers from Kathiawar , Gujarat, perform the stick dance Dandia Raas .

The simplest kartal in northern India are thin, flat plate rattles (or tablet rattles) 15 to 20 centimeters long and about 5 centimeters wide, which are held in pairs in each hand and clapped between the fingers. The corners are rounded. They can be played with great virtuosity, occasionally accompanied by a drum as the leading instrument.

The straight wooden sticks kathi, corresponding to the danda , are about 60 centimeters long, which the boys of the lower castes use in the Kathi Nacha stab dance in the districts of Mayurbhanj and Balangir in the eastern Indian state of Odisha . The young dancers stand in a row, hold a stick in each hand with which they hit the sticks of the other, accompanied by two or more singers and the rhythm of the barrel drum madal . A dance with stilts performed by cowherds in some places on the coast of Odisha is also called Kathi Nacha .

In the western Indian city of Gujarat , the stick dance Dandia Raas is performed at the annual festival Navaratri , which lasts several days and is dedicated to the worship of the goddess Durga . Each dancer imitates a battle between Durga and her adversary, the buffalo demon Mahishasura , with two straight sticks a good 40 centimeters long , with the sticks symbolizing Durga's sword. Male dancers of the Mer (also Maher), a caste group on the Kathiawar peninsula , perform a particularly energetic variant of the Dandia Raas dance.

In Tamil Nadu , the flat, elongated rattles are called kattai. The performance of the narrative folk song genre villu pattu at some temple festivals in Tamil Nadu and Kerala includes the long bow of music villady vadyam , one string of which is struck by the lead singer and up to five companions with sticks. The two-headed hourglass drum udukkai sounds loudest , while the cymbals talam or jalra and the wooden rattles daru talam or kattai keep the beat together with the beats on the musical bow.

In Rajasthan , the Manganiyar and Langa caste groups call wooden boards that are chopped in pairs in each hand as raigidgidi ( rai gidgidi or kartal ). To the accompaniment Manganiyar play the painted shell-necked lute kamaica , Indian harmonium , the barrel drum dholak , the Jew's harp Morchang and wooden clappers. The large range of Manganjikar instruments also includes the box zither swarmandal , the double clarinet murli and the clay pot ghara . They play in an ensemble for their clients on religious occasions and family celebrations.

The catalog of the American musical instrument collection Stearns Collection published in 1918 mentions iron plates of 1.5 centimeters thick , known as khattala or khattali , which were struck in pairs with one hand. The rectangular iron plates were six to eight inches long. Khattala or chakra used to be called circular, slightly curved wooden rattles ( castanets ).

Flat rattles on one side with and without cymbals

About 15 to 30 centimeters long are rattles made of a slightly thicker wood or today also made of plastic, which are flat on the inside and rounded on the outside. They are held individually in the hands by metal eyelets or leather strips that are attached in the middle of the outside or by finger holes and the flat sides are tapped together. Most of them have a slot cut into both ends in which two thin bronze disks are loosely attached to metal pins. In Maharashtra 's this guy on Marathi ciplya, chipalya or catkula ( chatkula ), in southern India , Cipla and the Pakistani State Sindh Caprun . Other names for an elongated variant of this type are in Tamil cekkai in Tamil Nadu and for a circular variant in Telugu cekkalu in Andhra Pradesh . In the older literature, smaller rattles are mentioned as kustar or chittika and larger ones as kartal .

Bhajana cekkalu are wooden rattles with cymbals in Andhra Pradesh, which can be round, oblong or sometimes elegantly curved in the shape of a fish. The player hits two of these rattles between thumb and the rest of the fingers. The addition of the name bhajana refers to the use of the rattles in religious songs. The chanting of bhajans is a form of worship ( puja ) of a personalized God that is often directed to the nationally popular Krishna . In South India the songs can be accompanied by a violin or a harmonium, which follow the melody line. The long-necked lute tanpura or a shruti box provide the drone ; The rhythm and beat are optionally provided by the double-cone drum mridangam or the pair of kettle drums tabla as well as the frame drum kanjira , cymbals and rattles.

Individual street singers who recite religious songs in Northern India ideally accompany each other with the single-stringed plucked ektara in one hand and kartal or a pincer-shaped chimta in the other. The singers continuously pluck the string of the ektara with one hand as a drone, while with the other hand they beat together two large wooden rattles with handles and cymbals.

One of the many singing styles in Karnataka are the philosophical-narrative songs tatva, which are performed as a soloist by a singer and are known by different names depending on the accompanying instrument. The ektari mela are songs that are accompanied by the single-stringed drone ektari . With the tamburi mela the four-string long-necked lute tanpura provides the drone sound. The frame drum damdi and the wooden rattle citike are added as rhythmic accompaniment .

In the devotional genre of the Sikhs , shabad kirtan , verses from the holy scripture Adi Granth are recited. The usual accompanying instruments are tabla and harmonium, occasionally supplemented by the stringed instruments sarangi , sarinda , Taus , tanpura , and also by the drums dholak and dhadd and kartal.

In Assam are kartal rare. Like the large pair cymbals bartal and a number of other cymbals of different sizes, they are used to accompany dances and in the religious music of the followers of the Vishnuit faith. The Assamese kartal consist of two pairs of 15 to 20 centimeters long and about 8 centimeters wide bamboo strips, which are made by splitting a bamboo tube into four parts. At the ends, the strips are tapered slightly so that they resemble the local weaver shuttles. The musician holds the kartal in pairs in each hand between thumb and the other fingers. In the Bodoland area , large wooden rattles with pairs of cymbals inserted into several openings are called jabakhring .


Cymbals Kartal in West Bengal

In West Bengal and Odisha , kartal or gini denote medium-sized hand cymbals made of bronze (bell metal), which are hunched in the middle and have a flat edge. Their diameter is eight to ten centimeters with a wall thickness of two millimeters. Like the north Indian valley , both parts are connected by a cord. To differentiate, the usual wooden rattles with metal discs at both ends are called cathartic .

In addition to the North Indian and South Indian classical music , Odisha's ragas- based vocal style is considered an independent classical style (Odissi music). In addition to the drone instrument tanpura, the solo singers are melodically accompanied by a harmonium and often by a violin. The rhythmic accompaniment of a double-cone drum mardala (slimmer than the South Indian maddale ) is characteristic of Odissi music . Cymbals mark the beat.

In general, the cymbals used in meditation exercises and religious chants are often called karatalas .


  • Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva: Musical Instruments of India: Their History and Development . KLM Private Limited, Calcutta 1978
  • Alastair Dick: Kartāl. In: Laurence Libin (Ed.): The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 2014, p. 116

Web links

Commons : Kartal  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Norbert Beyer: India. VIII. Musical instruments . In: Ludwig Finscher (Hrsg.): The music in past and present . Part 4, Bärenreiter, Kassel 1996, column 744
  2. Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva, 1978, pp. 54f.
  3. Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva, 1978, p. 59
  4. ^ Curt Sachs : The History of Musical Instruments. WW Norton & Co., New York 1940, p. 71
  5. Alastair Dick, 2014, p. 116
  6. Bigamudre Chaitanya Deva, 1978, p. 56
  7. Curt Sachs, 1940, p. 69
  8. Walter Kaufmann : Old India. Music history in pictures. Volume II. Ancient Music. Delivery 8. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1981, pp. 31, 40
  9. Kathi Nacha. orissa.oriyaonline.com
  10. Dandya Raas of Gujarat on YouTube
  11. ^ David B. Reck: Musical Instruments: Southern Area . In: Alison Arnold (Ed.): Garland Encyclopedia of World Music . Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent. Routledge, London 1999, pp. 367f.
  12. ^ The Manganiyar Musicians. mamekhan.com
  13. Nazir A. Jairazbhoy: Music in Western Rajasthan: Stability and Change. In: Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, Vol. 9, 1977, pp. 50-66, here p. 55
  14. ^ Albert A. Stanley: Catalog of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2nd edition 1921, item 66 on p. 63 ( at Internet Archive )
  15. ^ Sibyl Marcuse : Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary. A complete, authoritative encyclopedia of instruments throughout the world. Country Life Limited, London 1966, pp. 285f
  16. Herbert Arthur Popley: The Music of India. Association Press, Calcutta 1921, p. 124 ( at Internet Archive )
  17. Herbert Arthur Popley, 1921, S. 123f.
  18. ^ David B. Reck: Musical Instruments: Southern Area. In: Alison Arnold (Ed.): Garland Encyclopedia of World Music . Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent . Routledge, London 1999, p. 364
  19. ^ Allyn Miner: Musical Instruments: Northern Area . In: Alison Arnold (Ed.): Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent . Routledge, London 1999, p. 347
  20. Kabir Das Sant play Ektara and Khartal on YouTube
  21. Gajathri Rajapur Kassebaum, Peter J. Claus: Karnataka. In: Alison Arnold (Ed.): Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent. Routledge, London 1999, p. 389
  22. Dilip Ranjan Barthakur: The Music and Musical Instruments of North Eastern India . Mittal Publications, New Delhi 2003, p. 107
  23. Jahnovi Brahma, Tribeni Mandal, P. Gajurel, B. Singh, P. Rethy: Traditional knowledge of musical instruments used by the Bodo tribes of Northeast India, BTC, Assam. In: International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Vol. 5, No. 5, May 2015, Figure p. 4
  24. Alastair Dick, 2014, p. 116
  25. ^ David Dennen: The Third Stream: Oḍiśī Music, Regional Nationalism, and the Concept of “Classical”. In: Asian Music, Vol. 41, No. 2, Summer / Autumn 2010, pp. 149–179, here p. 157