Informant Info

Nationality: Indian

Age: 55

Occupation: Chief Information Officer

Residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

Date of Performance/Collection: 2023

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): Tamil

Relationship: Father

Referred to as JS.  JS was born in India and moved to the United States when he was 22. 


The parai is a traditional percussion instrument commonly used in South India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.  Predominantly, this instrument is played at funerals.  It is also played at many events, including weddings and religious festivals.


While growing up, JS heard this from his parents and relatives.  He has witnessed this instrument being played at funerals and some religious festivals.  He also saw this during his father’s funeral.

The music is often played by professional parai players who are skilled in the art of traditional drumming.  The rhythm of the Parai is believed to have a robust and mournful quality, which is supposed to help mourners express their grief and sadness.  The playing of the Parai is often accompanied by singing, and the songs and stories sung during death rituals are believed to help the deceased journey to the afterlife.  In addition, at funerals, the parai is often used to provide musical accompaniment during the procession and to announce the dead’s arrival.


The interpretation of parai music at funerals is tied to its cultural and historical context. In Tamil Nadu, music and dance have long been an essential part of funeral customs, and the parai at funerals is seen as a way to preserve this tradition and pay tribute to the dead.  In traditional rural communities, the parai music at funerals is also seen as a way to respect the deceased and remember their life and legacy.   In addition to its cultural and historical significance, parai music at funerals is also seen as a way to comfort and support those grieving. The powerful sound of the drum is believed to bring a sense of closure and peace to the mourning process.

Overall, the Parai is an essential and profoundly symbolic instrument in Tamil Nadu, and its use during death rituals is a testament to the region’s rich cultural heritage and traditions.