The influence of Islam crossed the waves of the Arabian Sea to Kerala as early as the seventh century C.E. Since then it mixed, mingled and assimilated into the cultural mosaic of Kerala, resulting in the formation of a new community called Mappila.
North Kerala has a significant Muslim population compared to the rest of the State. The art forms of the Muslim community of North Kerala have their own unique charm and charisma. Among the several art forms of the Muslims of Kerala, the Arabana Muttu, Duffmuttu, Kolkali and Oppana are the most popular.
The Duffmuttu (also called Dubh Muttu or Duff Kali) is a folk entertainment item performed to commemorate their festivals, nuptial ceremonies or during uroos (festivals and occasions connected with Mosques) and also for social entertainment.
The interesting art form of Duff Muttu is named after the percussion instrument used in the performance called Duff. The word is of Arabian origin and is made of wood and ox skin. It is also known as the Thappitta.
The players are usually six in numbers. They stand or sit facing each other and sing songs, swinging the body in different directions. The rhythmic beats of the duff controls the tempo of the song and the movements of the dancers. The soothing songs of the dance are often a tribute to martyrs and heroes. The leader sings while the others provide chorus and drum the duff with their fingers or palms. The dancers often toss the drums over their heads and frequently take rhythmic steps that give a real treat for the eyes and ears of the spectators.
Aravana Muttu or Arabana Muttu is similar to Duff Muttu. The difference between these two art forms is the size of the instrument used. Arabana is a hand-held, one-sided flat drum. Like Duff Muttu the art form is named after the instrument used, which is made of animal skin and wood. The wooden frame is painted with beautiful colours and strung with knotted ropes. The playing surface is made of goat hide. Compared to Duffmuttu it is more difficult. This captivating art form is usually performed to welcome dignitaries.