Karade majalu (karaDe majalu) (ಕರಡೆ ಮಜಲು) is a popular musical ensemble practiced in almost all regions of Karnataka. It is also referred to as karaDi majalu and karaDe mELa in different parts of Karnataka. Musical instruments are more important in this folk art rather than the songs that accompany them. Usually ballads with devotional or amorous themes are sung by a solitary singer who provides ample space for the instruments. Vachanas, the poems composed by the Shiva Sharanas in the twelfth century are also presented during karade majalu performances. A sculpture found in paTTadakallu depicts an artist playing karaDe. Karade majalu performances take place even with out this singing.
Karade majalu is one of the most ancient folk arts in Karnataka. It is mentioned as early as the tenth century A.D. by Ranna in his ‘Gadaayuddha’. Other poets and scholars such as Keshiraja, Harihara, Raghavanka, Virupaksha pandita and Nayasena have described the sound produced by Karade quite graphically. Cognate languages of Kannada such as Tamil and Tulu have words pertaining to this art.
Karade is the main instrument used in this performance. This instrument is manufactured with ToNapi, sIhonne or buguri wood. It is essentially a hollow cylinder a little more than fifteen inches in length and about eight inches in diameter. Both the sides are covered by the goatskin. Holes are made every three inches on the circumference on both the sides. The skin is fixed to the bole with iron rings and twine. (shivadAra) The twines are pulled tautly so that the right sound is produced. The sticks to beat the instrument are about eight inches long. Karade hangs sideways from the neck of the performers.
Other instruments used along with Karade are dimmu, tALa, caugaDe, sanAdi (shehnai) and shruti box. Usually a karade majalu troupe consists of nine persons. Six of them are instrumentalists. Two persons play on the shehnai. Ninth person holds the shruthi instruments. Vocal support is optional.
The members of the troupe are dressed in a simple manner. A dhothi with green border, a light blue-green shirt, a red waist band and a colored turban completes the attire. The artists are supposed to maintain decorum. They are not even allowed to wear foot wear. They have to be scrupulously clean.
This art lays a lot of importance on the stepping. (hejjegaarike) The performers stand in particular formations and then start playing on the instruments. There is a coordination between the beats and the steps. The formations could be circular, half moon or facing one another.
Karade majalu is perhaps a link between the classical and the folk. One can discern the influence of Karnataka style of music. Of late even Hindusthani music has made in roads in to this art. Adi, rUpaka and tripuDe are some of the beats (tALas) used during the performance.
This art is not associated with any caste or region. There is nothing ritualistic about it. It is performed on auspicious occasions and annual fairs.