Villu Pattu or the 'bow-song'
Villu Pattu or the 'bow-song'
This is a catchy folk music, which still stands as a symbol of a cultural wealth of the Tamil Nadu.
In the fifteenth century, one Arasa Pulavar is said to have originated the Villu Pattu. The materials that go to make up the orchestra producing the background music for the bow-song consist of a very big bow made either of a sturdy branch of the palmyra tree or of metal. The two ends of the bow are tied by a strong high tension string. The centre of the convex side of the bow is made to rest on the neck of a large sized earthen pitcher. The pitcher itself rests on a soft cushion or a circular disc like thing with a concave cavity made of coconut fibre. Thus the bow, when placed on the neck of the pitcher and held in delicate balance by the performers, looks like a magnified crescent with its two ends looking upwards. There are numerous bronze bells hanging from the bow in a row from top to bottom.
The chief vocalist or the main story teller of the party will be seated in the centre of the bow, with two slender wooden rods called the Veesukol, one in each hand . The artist, while singing well, artfully raises and moves his hands, holding the rods as to express the mood and the bhava portrayed in song, and deftly strike against the bow string producing the tala or the time beat, synchronizing it with the stresses and the time beats in the song. This will produce notes from the bells hanging from the bow. At the same time, the artist in charge of the big earthen pitcher will raise simultaneous notes, by beating against the mouth of the pitcher with a cardboard-like plate made for the purpose from a stiff and sturdy plantain sheath. The sweet sound emanating from the pitcher will seem to come from within the pitcher owing to the pressure exerted on it both by the weight of the bow, resting on its neck and the beats brought to bear on its mouth by the pitcher player.
There is another percussion instrument called Udukku, which the player holds in a horizontal position while playing . A second member in the party will keep tala with the aid of small wooden pieces called the Kashta. A third member will play the cymbals. When the bow-song programme is in full swing, there is a perfect co-ordination of music in which the bow, the bell and the percussion instruments operate together each producing by itself and in combination, vigorous and fast moving music in keeping with the moods of the ballad. When the chief vocalist sings, the others play on their instruments and when the others sing the chief vocalist plays the veesukol on the string of the bow.
The performance usually occurs in connection with the temple festival lasting for about a week between September and January. The texts of the song are simple and flowing and are invariably in ballad style, couched in rural dialect and abounding in proverbs. Almost every couplet or stanza ends with a refrain. As soon as the chief vocalist in the party finishes singing a couplet or a stanza, the other members of the party take up refrain and sing it in chorus. The stories are woven round supernatural, mythological, devotional, historical and social themes. The main idea is to illustrate the triumph of good over evil.
My special thanks to Kalaimagan.T, Mrs. Bharati Thirumagan, Mr. Thirumagan and Mr. Kannan for giving us a performance that we will remember for our lifetime.