A Look At Our Musical Past Through Instruments Of Deccan & South India - Homegrown

A Look At Our Musical Past Through Instruments Of Deccan & South India

Each country of the world has a sound unique to its people culture and ethnicity. Migration of people from different parts of the world has caused a diaspora in the music arena creating a magical sync of contrasts. Classical music is art music produced and rooted both in liturgical and secular music. In the Western world, styles in classical music evolved from the medieval era in 1700s and 1800s in the form of plainchant sung by monks to classical roman symphonies followed by atonal compositions such as piano solos in the 1900s by famous musicians like Igor Stravinksy, and Edgar Varèse. The printed score and performance of complex instrumental work makes classical music distinct from any other genre.

When we speak of classical music in India, it’s naturally gone through a lot of change before reaching its present stage. In remote ages, music and musicians were highly cultivated and sought over but suffered a great deal under the Musalman dynasty where there was constant strive between princes and artists. The higher branches of classical music such as Bhagvatas were only confined to men of higher class like the brahmins and if any person belonging to lower castes uttered words of holy meaning, they were immediately excommunicated.

The latest Sanskrit works by Ahobala named ‘Sangita Prajapata’ classified classical music in two forums Hindustani and Karnatik. The latter is what endured post the Aryan period in South India. Charles Russel Day in his archival research on music and musical instruments of Southern India and Deccan states inferences of how musicians believed that certain ragas had an influence on nature. One such instance by Sir William Ouseley an orientalist was about how once Tansen sang a night raga during mid-day that caused the atmosphere to immediately turn dark with a circle of darkness in the radius till the reach of his voice due to the power in his music.

Now in terms of classical music instruments many are found among old temples and on various Buddhist stupas all around India. One prominent structure was of women playing instruments that appeared like drums - shankas. Mentions of South Indian music instruments such as the veena, deni ,mridhag are seen in Pali works of Buddhist treatises. Instruments were made with materials such as bamboo, earthenware and black wood that were easily available in the country and which could be molded in ways suitable for the needs of the instrument and the musician.

Author Charles Russel Day in his archival research has listed the musical instruments used in Deccan and South India

Moshuq Sankhu; Image source:archive.org
Moshuq Sankhu; Image source:archive.org
A Bina Player; Image source:archive.org
A Bina Player; Image source:archive.org
Rabob Chikara Sarangi; Image source:archive.org
Rabob Chikara Sarangi; Image source:archive.org
Sarinda Sarangi; Image source:archive.org
Sarinda Sarangi; Image source:archive.org

The plates are drawn by William Gibb

Published by Novello, Ewer & Co., London - 1891


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