11 Traditional Sri Lankan Drums

There are several Drums used in Sri Lanka during the ancient times. It is believed that that traditional drums was used way back 2,500 years ago. The drums were used for special occasions. Originally, Sri Lankan drums were used for enjoyment but was later on used for rituals. Then, it was then used in ceremonies performed in Buddhist temples. Later on, it was then used as means of communication. There are different traditional Sri Lankan Drums and in this post let us talk about each of these Sri Lankan Drums that are used mostly in Sri Lanka.

Traditional Sri Lankan Drums

Sri Lanka uses different types of musical instruments such as the Ravanahatha which is an ancient violin in Sri Lanka. Other musical instruments includes the Hakgediya or a type of conch shell, there’s the tambourine such as the Pantheruwa and of course the various types of drums used. Listed below are some of the traditional drums used in Sri Lanka, read on here to know more.

Geta Beraya

The Kandyan drum is also known as Geta Beraya or Udarata Beraya in Sinhalese. It is a hill country drum because of its shape. Geta Beraya was named as such because of its barrel-like shape. The width on the center of the drum is wider than its sides.

Geta Beraya drum was used traditionally to go with the instruments that are used in ritualistic dances performed in Sri Lanka such as the Kandyan tradition.


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The drum has two sides and each sides is covered with skins. Each drum skin is different from the other that would also create two distinct tones. One side is usually covered using treated cattle hide and that side usually gives a lower beat while the other side on the other hand is covered with a treated goat hide and typically gives a high pitched sound. Warapata is a rope like fastenings used in the drum to hold the drum skin together and in place and most of the time, warapata is made from treated cattle hide.

Often, the drum is used in open air settings, therefore it can be heard at a far distance.


Mridangam

Mridangam drums is usually used by Hindu Devotees for their religious activities. It is a double sided drum. The body is made with using an inch thick of a jackfruit wood that is hollow. There are two sides of the drum. Each side or each mouth is covered with goatskin and are then laced to each other using leather straps to hold each skin in place.


Yak Beraya

Yak Beraya is a low country drum in Sri Lanka. It is also called Ruhunu beraya, or Goshaka beraya. The drum is usually used to go along with the dances in Sri Lanka.

Yak Beraya is a cylindrical drum that is covered using the stomach lining of a cattle and wood from Coconut, Kohombha, Ehela, Kitul and Milla trees. The drum is played by tying the drum around the drummer’s waist and beating it to create a sound using the hands.


Banku Rabana

Banku Rabana drum is a traditional Sri Lanka drums used in ancient times. There are different types of Rabana drums and each type has its own purpose. Different types of Rabana drums are Geta Bera, Yak Bera, Thammattama, Davula, Dakkiya, Udakkiya, Bummadiya and the Bench Rabana.

The Banku Rabana or also known as the Bench rabana is perhaps the biggest drum of all the other drums. It is approximately 24 to 48 inches. Its frame is made of Margosa, Sooriya and Mara Tree. Treated goat skin is usually used to on the face of the drum. Most of the time, the Banku Rabana Drum is placed on top of wooden trunks (at least 3 trunks). Often placed at least 18 inches above the ground. People enjoyed by two or more peopledrumming around the drum while seating.

The Banku Rabana generally has its own special system called the Raban Pada. The System has 4 lines and each performer usually recites the lines while drumming on the drum at the same time.


Thammattama

Thammattama drum has two main parts. While the first part (right side) produces high pitched sounds, the second part (left side) usually produces low pitched sounds. The wood that is used to make this drum is made from Ehela, Jak, and Kohomba Trees.

The drum is played by using two sticks. Each of the sticks is made of Kaduru, and the sticks have a circular ends. And most of the time, each end is not played with the same pressure wherein each has its own rhythms, it usually produces a bass sound.


Karakawana Rabana

Another traditional drum in Sri Lanka is the Karakawana rabana or also called Spinning Rabana. It is a type of Hand Rabana wherein performers spin on the fingers or spinning on poles. Often, the poles are placed on the mouth used to balanced the drum.

Karakawana Rabana is a small drum with a size of approximately 6 to 8 inches wide, though there are other sizes such as a medium sized one that is approximately 8 to 12 inches in diameter.

The wood used in this drum is the Jak and Milla wood. The face of the drum is covered with goat skin. To make the drum more appealing, its sides and poles are usually painted with decorations.


Daula

The Daula drum is another traditional drums in Sri Lanka that is usually used in Buddhist ceremonies and rituals of the Sabaragamuwa tradition. It is described as a little smaller and shorter than Yak Bera drum.

Kithul Timber and Cattle skin is used, and it is often decorated with beautiful art to make it more appealing.

To play this drum, you will simply hit the face of the drum with your hands to make a beat while on the other end of the drum a stick is used to hit it. Kaduppu is the stick that is used to hit the other side of the drum.

Often, Daula or Dawula usually goes along with Thammattama.


Udekkiya

Udekkiya is a simple drum and considered to be the smallest drum, a smaller version of Dekkiya drum. It is usually played by traditional drummers using one hand that will control the pressure being applied to the strings on the drum. It usually resembles that of an hourglass shaped drum. It is made of wood from Milla, Ehela and Suriya Tree.

The mouth or the opening of the drum is covered with either monkey skin, goat skin or iguana skin. It is usually decorated using Lacquer work.


Dandu Beraya

Dandu Beraya is different from the rest of Sri Lankan drums. It is a simple drum what is made of bamboo trunk. A stick made of Atteriya is used to play the drum and each stick is about 8 to 12 inches.

The drummers tie the drums on its waist. What makes this drum unique from the rest of the drums mentioned is that Dandu Beraya is not using any animal skin in order to produce a sound. But rather using the Atteriya sticks to produce sound.


Maddalaya

The Maddalaya drum is usually used in Nadagam. It is a popular folk drama in Sri Lanka.

Maddalaya has two different drum faces. Before the drummers play the drum, a powdered paste is usually applied to the left hand face while and oily paste is applied to the right hand face.


Bummadiya

The Bummadiya drum is different from the rest of Sri Lankan drums. It is the only drum that is made of clay pot, unlike other drums that are made of wood.

On the mouth or the single opening of the drum, it is covered with either a goat skin, an iguana skin or a monkey skin. But goat skin is commonly used covering.

The Bummadiya drum is traditionally played by hunging the drum on the shoulder and start playing using both hands. Traditionally plated by villagers and farmers as their harvest ritual dances.


Conclusion

Most of Sri Lankan Drums are made of wood and are usually covered with animal skins. The wood used for each drums are different and the different skins too.

Before, drums were made for certain individuals and would used the drums to pass on to their offspring. Therefore most of the drums can still be seen nowadays,