european musical instruments in India

Palaniappa at Palaniappa at
Tue Mar 25 23:20:50 UTC 1997

In a message dated 97-03-25 10:44:56 EST, you write:

<< Hallo,
 does anyone have information about the introduction of European 
 musical instruments in India, particularly in the 19th cent. by 
 Any information would be welcome.
 Dr Gabriele Zeller
 Universitaetsbibliothek Tuebingen
 Wilhelmstr. 32
 72016 Tuebingen
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During the Maratta rule in Tanjore, there was a lot of patronage to Indian
Classical music. Interestingly, the ruler Serfoji II (if I remember right)
was entrusted to the care of Danish missionary Schwartz when he was a boy.
Scwartz had earlier taken up the responsibility of bringing up one
vEtanAyakam from a family who had converted to Christianity from being
zaivite OtuvArs. Both grew up together. When Serfoji became the ruler, his
cohort - now called vEtanAyakam zastry- was a member of his court. He
produced many works in Tamil with Christian themes. Many of his musical
compositions have been included in the hymn book of the Church of South
India. (It is a pity that Tamil protestants have lost the tradition of
singing those hymns in the Carnatic Music ragas as the composer intended.
There is now a revival of South Indian Classical music in the teaching of the
Theological Seminary in Madurai.)
Violin/fiddle became a part of Carnatic music during this period. One of the
famous four brothers called the Tanjore quartette, vaTivElu by name,  became
an expert in violin playing. In a book, "Thanjai Peruvudayan Perisai" by
Sangeetha Kalanidhi K. Ponnayya Pillai (a descendant of one of the brothers),
there is a description of how a Western missionary taught vaTivElu how to
play western notes. Then vaTivElu wanted to play Carnatic Music with that
instrument. Then he practiced for two years and then gave a performance in
the Tanjore court. The book gives supportive quotes from books, "Hindustani
Music' by Dr. Soureenra Mohana Tagore and "South Indian Musical Record" by
Captain Day.

Later Travancore ruler Swathi Tirunal invited the brothers to his court for a
violin performance by vaTivelu and then presented him with a fiddle made of

Some of the historical background is given in "Tyagaraja and the renewal of
tradition : translations and reflections" by William J. Jackson. Indira
Petersen of Mt. Holyoke college was working on a project involving the works
of vEtanAyakam zastry and the general cultural climate in Tanjore in that
period. I do not know what the status of that project is. Probably the
Christian Literature Society in Madras may have some material. 

You can also refer to the following book:
Tanjore as a seat of music, during the 17th, 18th and 19th
centuries. by S. Seetha


S. Palaniappan

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