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Oppana is a dance form and a performing art practiced by the Muslim women in the Malabar region of Kerala, especially the districts of Kannoor, Kozhikode and Malappuram. It is believed that the word Oppana derives its origin from the word Afna (Arabic). This art form is performed to commemorate the nuptial celebrations of the bride and is part of the wedding festivities. It is a famed form of social entertainment. Maidens and the female relatives of the bride sing and dance clapping their hands.
The bride is decked in finery and intricate ornaments and seated in the middle on a high seat called the peetam. The bride’s friends and other young ladies clap their hands rhythmically to the beat of the song and dance around her. There are about 15 performers including the musicians. The dance is not vigorous and the steps are simple and movements graceful. Sometimes a type of Oppana called Oppana Chayal is performed that does not involve the clapping of hands. The other type of Oppana is Oppana Murukkam, the dance closing on a crescendo.
The songs sung are called Mappilapattu and are sung first by the leader and the remaining women lend the chorus. Two or three girls lead the dance and the rest soon join in. The songs’ themes are usually teasing comments and insinuations to the marital bliss and the shy bride’s emotions. The language is a combination of Arabic & Malayalam.
In some households the men also perform the Oppana for the groom’s entertainment. In these cases it is performed before leaving for the bride’s place. It is there that the wedding (Nikkah) is performed. In some cases the men also perform the Oppana as the groom enters the Maniyara (Bridal Chamber). The instruments played along are the Harmonium, Ganjira, Tabla and Elathaalam. The Oppana is performed as a stage item for contests and cultural functions nowadays.
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