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Nagasvaram (nadaswaram): The “auspicious” wind instrument without which no festive occasion is ever complete

Photo © The Hindu

Aparna Karthikeyan, The Hindu, April 11, 2015 | To read the full story and view more photographs, click here >> 

It takes many days to make a block of wood sing. And it takes exceptionally talented craftsmen to do it. The four families who still make the nadaswaram by hand in Narasingapettai (a village near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu) are so skilled that they almost make it look simple. […]

Selvaraj tells me about his village’s long association with the wind instrument, without which no Tamilian wedding or temple procession is ever complete.

“Nadaswaram is a ‘mangala vaadhiyam’ (auspicious instrument). It originated in this area, in a village near Mayavaram. My great-grandfather, Govindasamy Achari, went there and learnt the craft. “ […]

Traditionally, nadaswarams are made with aacha maram (Hardwickia binate, Indian Blackwood). “But you can’t use fresh wood; it has to be at least 75-100 years old. Young wood will bend and bow. All this wood was once lintels and pillars of old houses.” He points to the pile in his backyard. “But we face trouble transporting the wood. We’re stopped at check-posts and asked for a bill; but which seller will give me a bill for old wood?” Even worse, they’re accused of smuggling sandalwood.

Their worries don’t end with procuring the wood. “You need three persons to make each piece. After deducting all the costs — wood, labour — we are left with Rs.1000-1500 per nadaswaram,” rues Selvaraj. […]

But every morning, they wake up with worries: will they find some acha maram, will their sons sit down and learn from them, will the government recognise their contribution to music…

Email: aparna.m.karthikeyan@gmail.com

This article is part of the series ‘Vanishing Livelihoods of Rural Tamil Nadu’ and is supported under NFI National Media Award 2015.


Source: Narasingapettai’s nadaswaram makers – The Hindu
Address: http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/narasingapettais-nadaswaram-makers/article7088894.ece
Date Visited: Sun Apr 19 2015 20:50:44 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Listen to nagasvaram recordings on YouTube

  • Nagaswaram vidwan, T.N.Rajarathinam Pillai (mentioned in the above article) – Raga Bhairavi
  • Listen to other eminent nagasvaram exponents on YouTube: Karukurichi Arunachalam, Sheik Chinna Moulana and his disciples Kalesha Bibi & Mahaboob Subhani

Find related articles in the Indian press >>

Life-giver and soul of Indian music: The Tambura (tanpura) according to T.M. Krishna

In his recent book, A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story, T.M. Krishna reflects on those misconceptions and stereotypes that stand in the way of truly appreciating South Indian music. He reiterates the unique role played by the (acoustic) tambura / tanpura which is all too rarely heard ‘live’ in Indian concerts today.  

For this eminent singer “it is the one instrument that can be said to hold within itself the very essence of classical music. So unobtrusive is this instrument, so self-effacing in its positioning on the stage and so tender of nature, that it is almost taken for granted. It is the life-giver, the soul of our music. … Only a musician who has experienced this sanctity can be a true musical vehicle. In the internal absorption of the tambura’s resonance, music happens.” (pp. 48-50) He asks whether the electronic tambura satisfies the human sense of tune when digitization really changes the manner in which we hear sound, a phenomenon he has explored in practice.

In his view, the practice of substituting the tambura by electronic devices also in the classroom “has worked to the detriment of sruti. All this has consolidated the misconception of Karnatic music going ‘off key'”. (p. 235-6; see the book’s index for more on this and related topics)

For reports on the book release and interview, type “Karnatik Story Krishna” in Google custom search – carnaticstudent.org >>

Publisher’s note
One of the foremost Karnatik vocalists today, T.M. Krishna writes lucidly and passionately about the form, its history, its problems and where it stands today
T.M. Krishna begins his sweeping exploration of the tradition of Karnatik music with a fundamental question: what is music? Taking nothing for granted and addressing readers from across the spectrum – musicians, musicologists as well as laypeople – Krishna provides a path-breaking overview of south Indian classical music. – HarperCollins Publisher (2013) Price: Rs. 699

Tambura / Tanpura “tree of enlightenment” for Mallikarjun Mansur

N. Manu Chakravarthy, The Hindu,  September 22, 2011

It [2011] is the centenary year of the legendary Jaipur-Atrauli musician Mallikarjun Mansur. Unravelling the individual genius of the maestro is also the study of a living tradition 

It is not easy to locate the greatness of Pandit Mallikarjuna Mansur and understand his relevance in our times. The life and accomplishments of Mansur unravel the various dimensions of a great tradition; it is also the act of exploring the multiple dimensions of a living community. […]

Mansur remarked quite often that the drone of the tanpura became his bodhi vriksha (tree of enlightenment). He often said that he would not have had a mystical revelation of the notes had he not constantly meditated on it. He would declare: “I understood that all the notes are the manifestations of the first note sa and all ragas are the flood that emanates from sa.” In his autobiographical work, “Nanna Rasayatre” Mansur says, “Rather than a theoretical exposition of a raga, a sterling asthaayi (the basic framework) can delineate the ragaclearly and comprehensively. These days singers have little interest in mastering the valuable old asthaayis. The ragas have lost connection with their notes, and it ends up in the torture of a raga. One is not against producing new compositions. However, it is detrimental to make new compositions without knowing the form and value of traditional compositions.”

Mansur who learnt in the gurukula tradition under Pandit Neelakanta Bua, had an encounter with Ustad Alladiya Khan sahib at Sangli, the doyen of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana; it propelled him to a state that he had never experienced until then. Mansur describes the manner in which Alladiya Khan’s music virtually mesmerised and left him speechless. Alladiya Khan’s taans and boltaans gave Mansur a new musical vision. […]

Source: Manna from heaven | The Hindu
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/arts/music/manna-from-heaven/article2476298.ece
Date Visited: Fri May 31 2013 16:15:48 GMT+0200 (CEST)

“Only a tambura can bring in a tranquil aura”: Musicians comment on the convenience and compromise of digital tanpura

South Indian tambura

Ranjani Govind, The Hindu, Bangalore, April 26, 2011

The four strings of the tambura that provide sruthi or the basic swara (pitch) for musicians are considered the life force for any melodic exercise. Fixed in jack wood to enhance the naada, yesteryear musicians were stuck to this pitch provider because there were no alternatives. […]

While many are comfortable with the electronic gadget while practising, how does it feel to have an object there on the concert stage, bereft of human touch, minus the aesthetics of the real thing?

“The digital tamburas are handy for travel, but only a compromise. It’s like decaffeinated coffee,” says vocalist Aruna Sairam.

“Digital versions are comfortable to use, but only a tambura can bring in a tranquil aura.”

“We use both to get an effect. If it is only the tambura, sometimes we don’t hear the strings resonating as an open-air ambience often drowns it, thanks to decibel levels. So a good tambura along with a digital one can strike a good balance,” says Sriram Prasad of Malladi Brothers.

Doyen R.K. Srikantan says: “We were used to visualising a stage only with the traditional tambura both for aesthetics and aural synchrony. There is an art to playing the tambura, we were told, not just wielding one. But we get dependent on those who have to play it for hours. Technology assists us to meet urban demands.” […]

Even so, visually there is something elevating about a beautifully carved tambura, with its mesmeric resonance, being plucked in perfect timing by a resplendently turned out artiste.

And if it is the main artiste who is handing the tambura, nothing matches the picture of his or her face resting against the magnificent tambura, lost in sadhana. Bits and bytes can’t beat such chemistry.

Source: Does the digitised tambura manage to hit the right note? | The Hindu
Address : http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/does-the-digitised-tambura-manage-to-hit-the-right-note/article1767958.ece
Date Visited: Fri May 31 2013 16:25:29 GMT+0200 (CEST)