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 Dr. M Narmada

History of Violin:

Violin occupies the most important place in the stage of Indian music. In its congenial conceptions, it owes its origin to the European countries, more specifically Italy and Germany.

In Indian heritage, the Pauranic references and the sculptural representations portray a inverted Vina (Vina referring to any stringed instrument with strings generally mounted on wooden board) with pegs, the number of pegs varying according to the number of strings. The
Yazh (a stringed musical instrument) had been the consistent reference in Tamil epics like Silappadikaram, Yazh Nool (the very name has been suggestive of the innumerable descriptions of stringed instruments) etc. Ektar, Do-Tar were referred to in Hindustani music as the earlier reference to the stringed instrument.

The Violin scene in Europe:

With the wonderful array of composers Beethoven, Tchakovsky and Bach, 'Violin Concerts' gained a special significance.

As the violin in its various forms, namely, Cello, Viola and Bass violin gained dominance and the passages of the composer were executed in various octaves, the number of strings and the tonal reproductions gained in presentation along with the craving for more and more.

For refined, soft tonal reproduction, the shape of the violin underwent changes and different types of wood were tried out, with an aim for perfection of its liens. As time passed, more and more violins were produced using fine-quality materials. The result was that the world was gifted with varieties of Stradivarius, Magni, Ga-pero-De-Salo, the names being solely attributed to the violin maker.

By the 18th century, the shape of the violin had reached a remarkable level of perfection while it was just in the process of being introduced in other countries.

The scene in India:

According to textual references, violin was first introduced in the court of Travancore during the regime of Maharajah Swati Tirunal. Vadivelu and Baluswami Dikshitar were acclaimed as the renowned performers on the violin. The violin in its advent to India was a direct import from the European make by way of its shape but differed in execution and presentation, adapting itself to the style of presentation in Indian music.

The formidable role of Violin in Indian Music:

The violin with special reference to South Indian music had its early beginnings when it was used as a mere melodic support in Harikatha performances. Certain musical passages sung by the main exponent were reproduced on the violin for the sake of effects. Still later, violin figured in devotional music concerts where musical lyrics and songs along figured. Later came the 'accompanying role' of the violin to the main singer. It is at this juncture, when classical vocal concerts gained a formidable portion in the 'classical' stage of Carnatic music concert. Slowly, the violin emerged as the only best possible melodic support. In spite of the experimental usage of flute, vina and some other instruments, the violin as of today has emerged as the best possible accompaniment owing to its capacity for continuity and to reproduce any sound, adaptability and its pure support in maintaining the stability of a musical concert.


Related links: Other articles from the Chembur Conference
                     Musical Expressions