Raban Pada | Sunday Observer

Raban Pada

"Udapalagaththath wattakkaa
Bimapalagaththath wattakkaa
Udapalagaththath – Bimapalagaththath
Punchi punchi gedi wattakkaa"


You would have surely heard ‘udin udin wara peththappu and other rhythmic raban pada at festive occasions, especially during the Sinhala and Hindu New Year as no New Year would be complete without the joyful playing of the rabana.

The rabana is the largest of the traditional Sinhala drums and is an open faced drum with the face varying from 24 to 48 in diametre. The frame of the rabana is generally made from wood such as Suriya, Margosa, Jak or Mara. The face is usually made of a goat skin stretched across the frame.

The rabana used during the New Year and other festive occasions is the Banku Rabana. (Banku is the Sinhala word for the bench). It is kept on three wooden logs and people, mainly girls and women sit around it on little benches or their haunches and beat out the catchy raban rhythms with both hands. These are known as the raban sural. The words sung to these surals are known as raban pada, raban kavi or varam.

The leader of a group of raban players will light a fire under the Banku rabana before playing starts. This is to warm it up and fine tune it before playing starts. Then, the players will go dontharikitatharikita or play some similar sural and launch into a rousing, joyful playing of the rabana. Raban playing competitions are popular features at New Year festivals and other cultural events.

The Athrabana is a small rabana played by hand. The Virindu raban is a Ath rabana used by Virindu karayas (Singers singing folk songs in a style called virindu - sometimes current incidents and events are made into virindu). Virindu is very rhythmic and melodius and upbeat at the same time. In a way, it is a musical, telling a story.

The Ath rabana is also used for Raban Karakeema or the spinning or twirling of the rabana. These rabanas are called Karakawana rabanas and is spun by hand or twirled on the fingers. They are also attached to a pole by spikes and a pole can have several rabanas.The raban karakawanna (Spinner of rabanas) will spin several rabans with dexterity at the same time. Sometimes, they will increase the number of rabanas as they proceed. Some will walk on stilts while spinning the rabana. Raban karakawannas are a main feature in peraheras and other parades. They sometimes perform at cultural events during New Year festivities.