Kerala has a rich tradition in the arts, both classical and folk. In addition to the classical art forms like Koodiyattom (UNESCO Human Heritage Art), Kathakali, Kerala Natanam, Koothu, Mohiniyaattam Thullal, Padayani and Theyyam, Kerala has several folk art forms performed by people in various regions of the state. The region also has a tradition of Christian and Muslim performing arts. Most of these art forms have become artefacts of the past showcased in tourism fares or youth festivals, as contemporary art forms weave their own identity according to changing needs. Mimicry and parody have gained considerable mass appeal in recent years. Though sometimes risque and often politically incorrect, these devices are used by artists to mock social luminaries. Malayalam Cinema is another mode of artistic expression, and films from Kerala are very distinct from films made in Bollywood or Hollywood.
In music, the dominant classical stream is carnatic music, the classical music of south India. Travancore king and music composer Swathi Thirunal was instrumental in popularising carnatic music in Kerala. Kerala has its own music system called sopanam which is a slow, step-by-step rendition of raga based songs. This is the music style used in Kathakali. Like rest of India, film songs are the major outlet for popular music.
Kerala also has a unique and varied heritage in the percussion instruments genre. Classical styles of percussion music known as 'Melam' ( major categories are 'Paandi', 'Panchari') are performed using the unique Kerala instrument 'Chenda' during temple festivals. These are performed by large ensembles of percussion artists numbering up to 150 in numbers, each performance lasting up to 3 to 4 hours. Another major percussion ensemble of Kerala is 'Panchavadyam' consisting of 5 percussion instruments, again played by around 100 artists in major festivals. In addition to these major percussion orchestras, there are other varieties of percussion instruments / percussion methods associated with different folk and classical art forms of Kerala - all of them unique and found to be used only in this region.
Apart from such performing arts, Kerala has made its mark in fine arts as well. Modern Indian art scenario is blessed with the presence of Kerala. However these artists have not been successful in invoking mass appeal as other artforms do.
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