• Udukkai and the Archive

    The hourglass drum in its multiple forms is found across performance traditions in South Asia. One of the earliest recordings of an hourglass drum performance is from Arnold Bake’s collection from the 1930s. There are other audio and video recordings at the ARCE archive of the hourglass drum. This section looks at some of the hourglass recordings from two such archives, Arnold Bake archive and Nair Ali Jairazbhoy’s archive with the ARCE.

    Bad Omens

    Of the seven artisans who were scheming to end the lives of the second-generation farmer couple, parents of the three twins, Kannutaiyya and Tamarai, one survived. With the grace of Vishnu, Kannutaiyya, and Tamarai survived, and six of the seven artisans involved were killed. This poem on bad omens occurs when the seventh artisan conspires with Vettuvas (the community of indigenous hunter-gatherers in the story) to deceive the third-generation farmers, the three twins.

    Track Information : A woman who had left her husband Carried the hot coals left (from a fire) A good cat crossed The artisan’s path, crossed it A good jackal, crossed it The artisan’s path, crossed it A single Brahmin came towards him The artisan, came towards him there.
    Performer(s) : Erucanampalayam Ramasami and Olappalayam Palanisami
    Collection : Brenda Beck Collection

    Narrating the Epic in Contemporar...

    The Oral epic has multiple references to everyday phrases that speak of the contemporaneous nature of the epic and how it adapts to changing times. It is interesting to hear references in the story to ‘German Iron,’ in the context of sourcing the best iron to make the net to capture the parrot in the story. There is a reference to time as we understand in the metric system where the bard says 5’ O clock in Tamil. There are also references to orange juice and a fine of 50 Rupees to be paid.

    Track Information : This is an excerpt where the senior bard speaks about trading high quality German iron for the artisans to make a net to trap the pair of parrots.
    Performer(s) : Erucanampalayam Ramasami and Olappalayam Palanisami
    Collection : Brenda Beck Collection

    Kongu Region

    The epic in this version is most prominently performed in the Kongu region (see image). With minor variations in character names, deity names, familial structures, and area descriptions, the Annanmar Katai is performed across the adjacent districts. The geography of the epic, as seen in this version of the Annanmar Katai, consists of a dry upland domain that was of little interest to any of the major ruling houses of South India, the Ceras, Cholas, and the Pandyas. Indeed, it lies just on the periphery of Tamilnadu’s main upland bowl (called Kongu), through which the great Kaveri River flows. At best, the heroes’ locale has weak links to one strip along the southern bank of that river system. Its main associations, however, lie with a set of forbidding rocky hills (The Viramalai), which stand out starkly against the local skyline. In the region closer to Madurai, a similar story is performed and is called the Kallazhagar Ammanai. It is also known as the Ponnarum Sankarum Katai, Annanmar Cuvami Katai, Annanmar Patal and Ponnazhakarennum Kallazhakar Ammanai.