This type of music is typically used as a prelude to panchari melam, but may also be played prior to night seevelis that perform panchavadyam. Kuzhal pattu is generally practiced inside the temple before midnight. It is usually played in an elaborate way at temple festivals around Thrissur and Valluvanad areas. Kuzhal pattu is not very uncommon in other parts of Kerala as well.
Design of Kuzhal
The construction of kuzhal is similar to a nagaswaram or a large Shehnai. It produces a very shrill and penetrating tone. Kuzhal is usually designed with a wooden body with a conical bore, at the end of which is affixed a brass bell. Kuzhal is played by males only. While playing the kuzhal, the small holes of the instrument are closed with both hands to produce different melodies. The player regulates the air by closing the desired holes.
Performance of Kuzhal Pattu
In kuzhal pattu, the kuzhal or the flute is played and it is accompanied with instruments like chenda (both treble and bass), ilathalam, toppi maddalam and a sruti kuzhal. Normally, a single Kuzhal artiste with a second artiste providing the drone (Sruthi) performs the Kuzhal pattu. Producing the Sruthi is a special technique called "swaasam marichu". A Kuzhal pattu starts with the lead kuzhal essaying an alapa in order to establish a specific raga. As the kuzhal pattu progresses through several ragas and compositions, more instruments join in.
The other performers are an Edathaalam artiste and two Chenda artistes, one playing on the treble side and the other on the bass side. The kuzhal artist is joined by the treble chenda artiste at the end of the elaboration. From then on kuzhal pattu takes on the form of a musical dialog between the chenda and the kuzhal. It is important that the beats on the chenda be very soft.