Indian drummer playing the maddale

Maddale: The Perfect Percussion Back-Up Singer

Karnatak and traditional South Indian music have a heavy emphasis on the beat.

With a great selection of drums all coming from the mridangam family of percussion instruments, there are a lot of options to choose from.

Maddales are double-sided drums that are similar to other popular drums in the region like the pakhavaj. But this one is special because players can hit the right tone regardless of where they hit on the surface.

Who Plays Maddale Drums?

Maddales are the primary percussion instrument in Yakshagana ensembles. Yakshagana ensembles play music in a form of traditional theatre from India’s Kannada districts. The musical ensemble in Yakshagana performances are called the himmela, and they play as the mummela dance or talk. Himmelas include the lead singer, or bhagawata, and people playing various instruments including the maddale, a pipe called the pungi, and the harmonium. Some groups also play chande, or loud South Indian drums.

What Do Maddale Drums Look Like?

Maddales are double-sided drums that look like barrels. Made from jackfruit wood like a lot of their cousin percussion instruments, maddales also have drum heads made from goatskin and are covered in leather straps that can adjust and tune the maddale. Each drum head is shaped slightly differently so one produces a deeper sound than the other. The left-hand side produces the deeper sound, and the right-hand side includes a circular disk — called a karne — that produces harmonic sounds when the drum head is tapped.

What Makes Them Different from Mridangam?

If you’ve been researching different types of drums from South India, a maddale might sound a lot like a mridangam. The difference is the tonality: maddales can produce more complex sounds. The karne harmonic disc also makes the maddale sound very different from the mridangam. Maddales are also specifically tuned to align with the bhagawata’s, or the Yakshagana singer’s voice before every performance.