Essentially a temple instrument
from down south of India, tavil is an integral part of Hindu weddings
too. It is the main percussion accompaniment for nadaswaram played in
temples and at wedding ceremonies.
Tavil is made of a wooden shell
almost spherical but open at either end. The ends are tightly covered
with skin that are fastened by thick hemp hoops and inter-woven metal
(leather in the earlier days) straps.
One side (depending on whether the
player is left or right handed) is played with a stick and that forms
the base notes of the instruments. The other side is played with the fingers
capped of hard caps earlier made with rice paste, but now made with synthetic
materials. This produces a distinct sharp and cracking sound.
This unique instrument that requires
years of training and hard work, is not tuned to any particular pitch.
tavil drummers usually set their own pitch by tightening the straps which
in turn tightens the skin just as in any other drum.