Traditional Musical Instrument ‘Kendera’ Faces Extinction In Odisha’s Ganjam

Berhampur: ‘Kendera’, a traditional string musical instrument, played by a particular community while begging for alms in Odisha’s Ganjam district, is facing extinction.

The people of ‘Dubuduba’ sect playing the ‘Kendera’ with mournful tunes and sharp voice was a usual sight in the streets of the district not long ago. But sonorous music of Kendera and the accompanying song have been missing for quite some time now.

“The number of Dubuduba people playing Kendera has dwindled to 20 from about 50 a decade ago,” said 60-year-old G Kotesh of Basanapalli Sahi in Chatrapur of the district. Kotesh has been playing Kendera for begging for the last 35 years.

Son of snake charmer late G Apanna and wife G Jema, Kotesh learnt playing Kendera from his brother-in-law late D Sanyasi 45 years ago. Interestingly, Kotesh, who is illiterate and has never gone to any school, learnt seven ‘Kendera’ songs of Tika Govindrachandra. He sings these songs accompanied by the Kendera while begging.

“The advent of the modern musical instruments has eclipsed Kendera and very few people listen to this instrument now. When we go door to door begging by performing Kendera songs, most of the people drive us out,” said Kotesh who is married to G Sukanti.

Out of his 3 daughters and four sons, only Mangulu can play Kendera and sing the traditional songs. But he does not go for begging. He has now shifted to Andhra Pradesh to work in a shrimp farm.

Kendera mainly produces melancholic notes which can accompany depictions of sad episodes in great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. When Ravana, the king of Lanka, went to abduct Devi Sita disguised as a Jogi, he held a Kendera in his hand.

To construct a Kendera, one requires a half coconut shell, a bamboo stick of 12 inch long and 4 inch diameter, iguana skin, gum, 40 stripes of horse tail hair of 12 to 14 inch long and 40 stripes of 8 to 10 inch long, one wooden knob of 5 inch, a bent wooden bow of 10 to 12 inch and some white resin.

The player holds the instrument in his left hand at the adjustable knob end and presses the coconut shell to his left collarbone. By sliding the bow on the horse tail hair fitted to the instrument, he can produce the sound of high pitch. The tuning adjustment is being done by the adjustable knob. For producing smooth tune on low keys, the white resin is applied to the hairs of the bow.

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