The Chembur Fine Arts Society, one of the foremost cultural organisations in Mumbai, is going places with its innovative and pioneering efforts in promoting and propagating Indian music and dance. The recent thematic annual conferences on Carnatic music have certainly caught the imagination of the music-loving public. The last three years have witnessed detailed discussions and demonstrations on the Musical instruments of Carnatic music. The first conference, on String instruments, was held in February 1999. Spread over two days, it highlighted in detail the various stringed instruments used in Carnatic music. Whereas the first day was dedicated to string instruments of Indian origin, like the Vina, Chitravina etc, the second day covered instruments of western origin that have been successfully adopted in Carnatic music (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin etc). The participants included top-notch instrumentalists. Wherever possible, different schools and styles were also featured. The conferences in 2000 and 2001 covered Wind instruments and Percussion instruments respectively.

In the coming weeks, Carnatica will bring you the papers presented by the participants at these Conferences.





By U Srinivas


Mandolin is a musical instrument descended from the lute and so called because its body is shaped like an almond (in Italian, Mandoria means almond). Lute is the name given to the family of stringed instruments which was very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries and includes the Mandola, Theorbo and Chittarone. These are pear shaped with fretted finger board and has a head with tuning pegs which is often angled backward from the neck. The strings are plucked with fingers.

Mandola (Mandore) is the ancestor of the present Mandolin. Mandolin was first used in the early 18th century in Italy. An asset in its favour was the softness of its sound. It has four pairs of strings. Until recently, Mandoli was of only one type, that is acoustic Mandolin. It is a hollow cone and its sound was not electronically modified. 

In early 1950 Mr. Tiny Moore of USA, a musician himself, first developed a single stringed solid body, the electric Mandolin.

Till the 19th century, Mandolin was a part of orchestra in the Western world. And from the beginning of 20th century it has been established as a solo instrument.

Mandolin in India:

In India, though Mandolin has been used for many years now, it was limited only to light music. There are very few musicians who play Hindustani classical music on Mandolin. I am the first person to use Mandolin for Carnatic classical music.

A few words about my Mandolin which I have slightly modified to meet the requirements to play Carnatic classical music. The scale, fretted finger board and the tuning head have all remained the same as the original Mandolin, except the number of strings.

The Mandolin has got four pairs of strings ( 8 strings). With these pairs of strings it is not possible to use it for Carnatic music. It is difficult to produce Gamakas (the prolonged notes), which are very important to bring out the nuances of classical music in the instrument in vocal style. So I replaced these four pairs of strings with four single strings and started practicing Carnatic music. And on my father's advice I added another string, the fifth for the base (Mandra sthayi). So now, there are totally 5 strings for my Mandolin - E, A, D, G, G.

The Mandolin has a beautiful sound and melodic range. I am the first exponent of Mandolin using it as a Carnatic musical instrument. I started playing Mandolin from the age of six under the guidance of my father Sri Satyanarayana and my guru Sri Rudraraju Subbaraju, a vocalist.
Related links: Other articles from the Chembur Conference
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