'polluting' effect of leather in music?

Mohkamsing MOHKAMSING at rullet.LeidenUniv.nl
Thu Apr 3 10:25:02 UTC 1997

I would like to elaborate on John Napier's remark on the 'polluting' effect of 
gut strings, and draw the attention to the practice of drumming. [At the same 
time I would like to apologize for side-tracking John's main inquires about 
'metal wires'.]

(On 3-APR-1997 01:50) he wrote:
"Many attribute a prejudice in North India 
against the sarangi (as distinct from a prejudice against sarangi players) 
to the 'polluting' gut strings..."

It seems that John refers to two levels of prejudice: one is socio-musical 
level, and the other religio-cultural.
If John's assumption is valid then the prejudice against drummers must be 
worse, because they are more directly and more extensively exposed to the 
'polluting' effects of leather (read: death) [just like tanners, butchers, 
coblers, etc.]. That the socio-cultural status of drummers is very low indeed, 
needs no mention, but the question is whether the prejudice against them should 
be ascribed to the close contact/association with leather, or to their 
relatively low hierarchical status as accompanists [in opposition to high 
status solists].
James Kippen, who wrote on North Indian drumming not so long ago, dwells on the  
stigma and musically low status of accompanists (including bowers and harmonium 
players), but faills to address the issue from a religio-cultural point of 
view. I suspect that this aspect of the prejudice is more important than socio-
musical one.
I would appreciate if someone would pass on some refference in Dharmasharstras 
etc., where the 'polluting' effect of leather, and whatever is made by them, is 
taught ???

Narender Mohkamsing
University of Leiden/NWO
The netherlands

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