Tamil Nadu

Made in India: The handmade copy of a Stradivarius violin

James Wimmer and Lalgudi Krishnan with the violin makers

James Wimmer and Lalgudi Krishnan with the violin makers

Violins entered the Indian musical scene with the colonial rulers. Balaswami Dikshitar, the brother of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Vadivelu, the youngest of the Thanjavur quartets, were pioneers in adapting the instrument for the Carnatic music. But the art of indigenously designing a hand-made instrument remained a mystery for centuries.

Now four craftsmen — three from Kerala and one from Tamil Nadu — have achieved a milestone in completing hand-made copies of the 1702 Stradivarius violin, first designed by Antonio Stradivari in Italy, thanks to the training imparted by the Lalgudi Trust.

These craftsmen were trained by internationally-renowned violin maker James Wimmer. Mr Wimmer, a Luthier from Santa Barbara, learnt the art in Germany from Wolfgang Uebel, one of the most famous specialists, with an undertaking that “he would not reveal the nuances of the art to the outside world.”

“It is indeed a giant leap in the art of violin-making in India. It is a gratifying experience and the success coincides with the 90th birth anniversary of my father Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, who formed the trust,” said violinist Lalgudi Krishnan, who brought James Wimmer to Chennai to impart training to them.

Murali and Vinay Murali, the father and son duo from Chendamangalam in Kerala, K.P. Ranjith from Kannnamangalam and violinist B. Sathyanarayana from Chennai became qualified craftsman after completing the rigorous workshop known as Violin Wise.

“Of course, there are violins manufactured in India, but they never measure up to our expectations. Even for repairing, we have to take the instruments to foreign countries. Professional skills to make hand-made violins and to repair string instruments were totally absent in India. The incomparable Stradivarius model is the best to replicate. Taking this as a mission, Lalgudi Trust decided to organise a series of workshop for the craftsmen and brought James Wimmer to Chennai,” explained Mr. Krishnan.

The first workshop was held in 2013. It was followed by similar workshops in 2015, 2016 and 2018. The craftsmen, every year, made steady progress and showed promise. During the 45-day workshop held in 2019, the four craftsmen learnt every aspect of making a hand-made violin.

“When we approached James Wimmer, he immediately agreed to conduct the workshop in Chennai as he has a special love for India. James brought and gifted a lot of tools for the use of our craftsmen,” recalled Mr. Krishnan, who, through the Trust, did the same for the four craftsmen and also provided a stipend during the training period.

Vinay and Ranjith said the speciality of the hand-made violin as compared to a factory-made instrument is its superior tonal quality. “In India, we use teak or jackfruit wood for making the instrument while maple and spruce wood are used in Western countries. We imported the wood and strings for making the instruments, and it took two-and-a-half months to complete an instrument. One instrument costs ₹1.5 lakh,” Vinay said.

Expressing his willingness to train more people, Mr. Sathyanarayana said if the government extended a helping hand in importing raw materials, India can export the instrument.

Mr. Krishnan requested all violinists in India to make use of these craftsmen and support them.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2022 6:53:29 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/four-craftsmen-from-south-india-produce-hand-made-copies-of-stradivarius-violin/article32190229.ece