european musical instruments in India

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Thu Apr 3 00:49:51 UTC 1997

On Thu, 3 Apr 1997 J.Napier at unsw.EDU.AU wrote:

> against the sarangi (as distinct from a prejudice against sarangi players) 
> to the 'polluting' gut strings. Given that gut strings were standard for 
> the violin in the nineteenth century, did this cause a problem in South 
> India? Did Indian violinists quickly adopt metal wires for stings?

Contemporary Indian violinists prefer strings from Europe or USA, so they
don't seem to make any special effort to use metal strings exclusively. 

Quite a few vaiNikas, including my guru (whose brother, father, sisters 
and husband are all violinists), feel that no musical instrument can be
quite as sacred as the vINA. The fact that it has wood construction and
metal strings is a reason for this. But earlier texts quoted by C. S.
Anantapadmanabhan (The veena: its technique, theory and practice, New
Delhi: Gana Vidya Bharati, 1954) seem to indicate that gut strings were
used on the vINA also. It must be remembered that the south Indian vINA
owes much of its present form to Govinda Dikshitar (16th century CE).

S. Vidyasankar

ps. Re: use of wires: there just might be some vastuSAstra texts that
describe wires/strings. An alternative would be to take a field trip to
the places where musical instruments are made, and interview the older
artisans about their methods and sources of strings before India's modern
industrialization. Trichy, Mysore, Miraj and Calcutta should be very good
places for this. 

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