Music and instruments used in Yakshagana helps to enhance the art in a major way. This is a theatre form where music and dance forms an integral part. Dance, the race-mode of the people of Karnataka
is an inevitable aspect of Yakshagana, and is the most effective medium for rousing the sentiment of Raudra and Adbhuta
. Every character including even the aged man that appears in Bhishma Parva
dances to the accompaniment of cymbals and Mridanga
. Dances are in three sequences, once, while entering the stage, again when the Bhagavata sings a verse concerning the particular role, and thirdly, with all intensity, when the battle ensues. Dance is associated with gesture in the former cases but during the third, the battle scene, the tempo is too fast for any gesture.
During the battle, the wild dancing is in Tandava Prakara, done in different patterns and at varying rhythms to the accompaniment of Chande, an ideal war-instrument. The hero and the demon with wild shouts of exclamations sometimes jump up in the air or turn like a top sitting down on the stage, keeping the rhythm all the while. The performance is called Chakraguppi.
Music is essentially vocal in Yakshagana. Shatpadi, Kanda and Vritta are sung by the Bhagavata at varying rhythms, and with tremendous power. The ragas
employed are usually drawn from classical Karnataka music. They are Mohana, Kambhoji, Nata, Shankardbharana, Kalyani, Regupti and Saurastra, the most popular and commonly employed ones being Mohana and Kambhoji. Though the ragas themselves are few in number when compared with the several shades of emotions and sentiments roused, the Bhagavata achieves the desired effect by employing these ragas in different rhythmic patterns. The most commonly used raga, Mohana - alone is often employed with success in rousing different emotional shades like appeal, assurance, grief, romance and fury. The emphasis in Yakshagana is on the musical form of raga and the style of singing. Musical instruments employed in Yakshagana are only a few, but they are inevitable in the performance. Apart from cymbals (Tala
) or gong (Jagate-Kolu) used by the Bhaghavata, there are wind instruments like pungi and mukhaveena to provide the drone. Much of the native tune is missed nowadays since the pungi and mukhaveena are replaced by the harmonium
. Yakshagana lays particular emphasis on its percussion instruments like Maddale, Mridanga and Chande. Mridanga accompanies the Bhagavata in all his singing while Maddale and Chande are usually employed only in dramatic moments of tension. Chande, the most vital instrument of Yakshagana is a high-pitched drum, beaten with two thin sticks. Chande is the mainstay of Yakshagana in developing the sentiments of Roudra and Adbhuta. The rise and fall in the tempo of Chande, accompanied by Tala and Chakratala (bigger pair of cymbals) brings about the rise and fall in the emotional intensity of the performer and the battle becomes tense and thrilling. It is true that the cymbal is replaced by the gong and Pungi by the harmonium but there is no near about instrument to replace Chande. Chande remains the life sound of Yakshagana