The mridangam is the most important accompanying rhythm instrument in carnatic music and its function is comparable to the tabla in classical North Indian music . The tubular drum shape with a characteristic kink in the middle corresponds to the north Indian pakhawaj , the northeast Indian khol , the maddale of Karnataka and the Nepalese pashchima . The slimmer drum pung played in Manipur bears the middle name Manipuri mridang after it . In Sri Lanka the gata bera is similar to the mridangam .
The word mridangam is the South Indian variant of the Sanskrit words mrida (clay or earth) and anga (body). While the instrument used to be made of baked clay, wood is now mostly used because of its greater durability. Recently, a fiberglass sound box has also been used. This is much lighter than the usual wooden body. With the development of the instrument, the system of talas ( talam in South Indian languages ) refined and became one of the most complex systems of rhythm in classical music.
The mridangam is a double-sided drum, the body of which consists of a hollowed-out piece of jackfruit wood . The walls are about two and a half inches thick. The two openings are covered with goat skins and these are connected to one another by strips of skin. In this way the two membranes are tensioned. In another design, the heads are fastened to the body with adjustable steel hooks for easier tuning. The width of the membranes is different on both sides, whereby two different timbres ( thoppi, lower tone on the left and valandalai , higher tone on the right) can be generated. By moistening the goatskin and applying a paste of wheat semolina ( sooji ) and water to the center of the membrane, the player tunes the left skin before a performance. The right skin is roughly pre-adjusted by tightening or loosening the fastening. Then by striking with a piece of wood and traditionally with a stone, the skin is brought to the same pitch over the entire curve.
The mridangam is played lying on the musician's foot and leg, a right-hander strikes the smaller membrane with his right hand, the larger one with his left, and a left-hander vice versa. Using special touching techniques, several defined pitches can be created, especially on the right side. The mridangam is thus one of the few percussion instruments that can also represent melodic elements in addition to rhythmic complexity.
The mridangam is mainly used in classical music and to accompany the Indian temple dance Bharata Natyam . The mridangam was and is also used in processions and religious festivals.
In the first half of the 20th century, Palghat Mani Iyer (1912–1981) and Phalani Subramanya Pillai (1908–1962) changed the style of play. They stopped playing purely rhythmically and played around the flow of the melody instruments in a complex way. The first solo concerts also date from this time.
Other famous mridangam players are Palghat Raghu (1928–2009), Umayalapuram Sivaraman (* 1935), Srimushnam V. Raja Rao (* 1955), Karaikudi R. Mani (* 1945), Trichy Sankaran (* 1942), Trichy B. Harikumar, Anantha R. Krishnan, and TAS Mani .
- Alastair Dick, Harold S. Powers, Gordon Geekie, Allen Roda: Mṛdaṅga. 3. Modern period. (ii) Southern mṛdaṅgam. In: Grove Music Online , January 20, 2016
- Barrel Drum (Mridangam), Southern India, Early 20th Century. National Music Museum, The University of South Dakota
- Mridangam. planetmridangam.tripod.com
- Tani Avartanam. Youtube video (drum duet with Srimushnam V. Raja Rao, mridangam , and B. S Purushothaman, kanjira )