Dappankuthu – A Form of south Indian dance

“Dappa” means box and “Kuthu” means punch. So a literal translation for it is “box punch”. Dappankuthu is a form of Indian dance, born in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. This is a form of dance for the common man, a freestyle way of dancing. There are no exact rules of how to perform this piece of art but I was quite sweetly greeted with some steps to follow when I casually searched for it in Wikipedia. Wiki has nothing that it cannot explain it to you. So here is what wiki says about Dappankuthu

I would like to quote a portion of it which is very significant.

[Wiki says :

It is considered important to dance the way one feels during the performance (i.e., to improvise), so dapaankuthu is not necessarily restricted to the above steps, though they form the major elements of this traditional art form.]

The main idea behind this form of dance is how creative (or destructive) can you get. You are allowed to pick any props at will and create steps the way you want. During college music festivals, it is common for students to dance with “extra-ordinary” coke bottles or chairs or belts or sometimes even people being thrown up in the air. Yes, Dappankuthu is a “free and open source” form of dancing. There are no dance teachers and no student dancers. Everyone is a beginner and are expected to create and learn new steps each and every time.

Dappankuthu dance is used to express joy, relieve yourself of emotional stress, and boost your self esteem. It is also a great cardio-vascular workout. None of these are scientifically proven, but after a brief performance you will find out that you don’t need scientific proofs to believe in this. In order to perform one, just follow those 8 steps outlined in wikipedia and keep improving on it at your will.

Any dance cannot be performed without music. There have been thousands of “Dappankuthu” songs in Tamil music. They all base it on a single style of beat called the “Kottu”. Kottu means beat in Tamil. We shall refer to this as Dappankuthu music from here on. I will pick a few of the most popular of Dappankuthu songs from the Tamil movies, for you hearing and dancing pleasure.

Movie: Murattu kaalai (means “Raging bull”), Song: “Pothuvaga”. You can listen to it for free at Raaga. Just click on the song name “Annanukku jai”. This is a victory song, where the hero in the movie (Tamil superstar) celebrates his victory of taming a furious bull. You can also preview/buy the song for 99cents from iTunes.

Movie: Kathala Kathala Song: “Kaasumela“. This song is an expression of joy over earning money, becoming rich. This song is also available in iTunes.

Movie: Gillie Song: “Appadi podu“. This is a duet. A joyous expression of love. Here is the iTunes link.

In order to keep the post within the standard blog reader attention span, I will stop the list of songs here. But you are welcome to add your favourite Dappankuthu songs with links in the comments.

[ I have no link to any of these record companies of the above stated songs. I just wanted to make a comprehensive post on the greatness of the Art form called Dappankuthu].

There are also some subset of Dappankuthu music. Savu kuthu (or Savu kottu) which means “Death beat” (or Death punch). This is a kind of a wild country beat that is played during the funeral procession. It is not a custom of every one in Tamil nadu, but there are quite a few who do it. There are special “Death punch” bands available, who can play the music and perform the dance during the procession.

Another form of Dappankuthu music that has recently gained in popularity is “Gaana” songs. Gaana means “song” (so Gaana is recursive naming like GNU, well almost!). Gaana is like Hip hop or a Rap equivalent in Tamil. This special form of music has its roots at various kuppams and pettais (regions) of the Chennai city.

Movie: Chithiram pesuthadi Song: Vazha meenu. Scroll down the list and click on the song name Vazha meenu and enjoy a latest Gaana superhit song.

Dappankuthu music and dance has been there for a long time in Tamil Nadu and expect the tradition to be passed on to generations. A free form of dancing and music that is all about fun and expressing your emotions in the most fun way possible.


11 responses to “Dappankuthu – A Form of south Indian dance”

  1. hmmm… that’s a long and great of explaining the dappankuthu songs. Loved the thing box punch. As I am a Chennai guy I loved this post very much 🙂 Like to see more posts on the proud things of Tamilnadu.

  2. Kanagu
    Loved the thing box punch.
    I love translating Tamil words as such into English. It is fun(ny).

    As I am a Chennai guy I loved this post very much
    Thank you 🙂

    Like to see more posts on the proud things of Tamilnadu.
    Definitely. I will enlighten the folks on the great things of Tamilnadu.

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