european musical instruments in India

bpj at bpj at
Thu Apr 3 11:50:14 UTC 1997

At 01:56 3.4.1997 +0100, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
>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.

I mentioned this discussion to a friend of mine, who is a Baroque (sp?)
violinist. Although himself a vegetarian he goes to great hardships to
obtain gut strings, because he feels that their "sound" is significantly
different from that of wire strings, and more "original". He wondered if
this difference in sound have any role wrt to the choice of string material
in Indic music?

Philip <bpj at>

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