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Tuesday, May 21, 2002

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Book Review

Manual on musical instruments

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS OF INDIA: Anasuya Ashok Kumar, K. S. Venkataraman - Editor; Chengacherial Printers and Publishers, A.R.R. Complex, V Floor, 141, North Usman Road, T.Nagar, Chennai-600017. Rs. 100.

FROM VERY ancient times music has been divided into two main sections — vocal and instrumental — and this division is prevalent even today in most parts of the world. Bharata, in his Natya Sastra, classifies musical instruments into four kinds — Tata (stinged), Sushira (wind instruments), Avanaddha (percussion) and Ghana (solid). India possesses a colourful variety of all these types and more.

The subject of the characteristics of various instruments is one of absorbing interest and eminent musicologists like Swami Prajnanananda, P. Sambamoorthy, B. C. Deva and S. Krishnaswami have dealt with it in great detail.

But the aim of the author of the book under notice seems to be to present all the available information in a handy volume which can be referred to by music students with ease. More than 100 instruments have been described which include well-known ones like the Veena, flute, mridangam, sitar, sarode and tabla. Their history, construction and playing techniques have been discussed with great clarity. The careful selection covers instruments of Carnatic music, Hindustani music, folk music and even tribal music. Relevant portions from the writings of earlier authors have been quoted wherever necessary. The impact on Indian music of foreign musical instruments like the violin, clarinet, mandolin, guitar and saxophone has been dealt with in a separate chapter. The last chapter deals with music and musical instruments in temples and is followed by a useful glossary.

The printing and get up of the book are elegant and there are more than 40 clear pen drawings of musical instruments. Despite the large number of spelling and printing mistakes the compendium is bound to serve the purpose for which it is intended.

Mridanga means "clay-body'' as the shell was originally made of clay though, later, it came to be made of wood. It has no connection with "mridu'' meaning "softness''. Govinda Dikshita was not the "court musician'' of ruler Raghunatha Nayak but his minister.


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