Ezhava/Channar Musicians from the 19th century: Performing the traditional Villadichaampattu
Villu Paatu (or 'Bow Song' as translated in English, Villu means Bow) also known as Villadichampattu and Villuppattu(Malayalam:വില്ലുപാട്ട്, Tamil:வில்லுப்பாட்டு) is an ancient form of musical story-telling where narration is interspersed with music, art of South Kerala and Kanyakumari district and in Thovalai of Tamil Nadu. This art form is popular among Nadar and Ezhava caste of erstwhile Travancore Kingdom. Simple tunes and simple verses make the story to be followed easily. The villu, a bow, the age-old weapon of warriors - paradoxically lends itself to be used as a primary musical instrument for the Villu Pattu artists.
Tamil folk artists presenting a Villuppattu near Tirunelveli during a festival (panguni uththiram) at an Ayyanar temple.
In Tamil villages, performers narrate stories ranging from mythological to social. The main storyteller narrates the story striking the bow. The bow rests on a mud pot kept facing downwards. A co-performer beats the pot while singing. There is usually another co-singer who acts as active listener to the narration, uttering appropriate oral responses. The local government sometime utilise this as a vehicle for social messages and propaganda.
A group of artists performing villupattu
There are also Udukku (உடுக்கை), Kudam (குடம்), Thala, Kattai(கட்டை), which are used as supplementary instruments in performances. Udukkuis a small drum with a slender middle portion which is held in the left hand and played by the fingers of the right hand. Occasionally, the Villu Pattu team divides itself into two groups, each trying to prove opposite points-of-view of a subject. This is called Lavani Pattu. The songs used by the Villu Pattu artists are mostly traditional folk-songs.They are played during occasions of temple festivals in villages. The songs sung mostly in Villu Paatu praise a god or tell a story. These days the number of artists performing Villu Paatu is tremendously reduced as the income earned from it is never enough for running one's life.