Urumi Music: A Unique Percussion Tradition of Tamilnadu
Urumi music is a type of folk music that originated in the state of Tamilnadu, South India. It is performed using a double-headed hourglass-shaped drum called urumi, which is also known as urumee or urumee melam. The urumi drum has two skin heads that are attached to a single hollow wooden shell, often intricately carved with motifs. The heads are held in tension by a continuous rope that is woven around the drum in a V-shape pattern. The drum can produce different sounds by striking, rubbing, squeezing, or muting the heads with sticks or hands.
Urumi music is believed to have supernatural and sacred powers, and it is often played in religious ceremonies and processions to induce spirit possessions or trance. Urumi music is also played for entertainment and cultural expression, especially by the Dalit community, who face discrimination and oppression in the caste system. Urumi music is a form of resistance and empowerment for the marginalized people, who use it to assert their identity and dignity.
Urumi music can be performed solo or in ensembles, usually consisting of one or more urumi drums, a nadaswaram (a double-reed wind instrument), and a thavil (a barrel-shaped drum). The music is characterized by complex rhythms, fast tempos, and loud volumes. The drummers often improvise and communicate with each other through musical cues and gestures. Urumi music is an oral tradition that is learned through years of listening, imitation, and practice.
Urumi music is a unique and vibrant percussion tradition that reflects the rich and diverse culture of Tamilnadu. It is a musical expression of faith, joy, sorrow, anger, and hope. It is a musical instrument that speaks to the hearts and souls of the people.
The history of urumi music is not well documented, but it is believed to have originated from the ancient Tamil martial art of silambam, which used a flexible sword called urumi as a weapon. The drum may have been used to accompany the warriors and create fear among the enemies. Urumi music was also influenced by the Islamic and Persian musical traditions that came with the Arab traders and invaders who settled in South India. Urumi music became popular among the lower castes and outcastes, who were oppressed by the Brahminical and feudal systems. Urumi music was a way of expressing their grievances and aspirations, as well as celebrating their festivals and rituals.
Urumi music faced many challenges and threats throughout its history. The British colonial rule banned urumi music along with other forms of folk music, considering them as subversive and rebellious. The Christian missionaries also tried to convert the urumi musicians and discourage them from playing their traditional music. The modernization and urbanization of Tamilnadu also affected the popularity and patronage of urumi music, as people preferred more sophisticated and westernized forms of music. However, urumi music survived and revived through the efforts of some dedicated musicians and activists, who preserved and promoted the art form. Urumi music also gained recognition and appreciation from national and international audiences, who were fascinated by its rhythmic complexity and cultural richness.