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 instsruments 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.




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- By Professor R Visweswaran

Saraswati Vina is the name of the Vina that is widely being played in India and elsewhere to express the infinitely delicate and complex music of the Carnatic system of Indian music. This name is of recent origin. Kacchapi is the name of the Vina in the hands of Goddess Saraswati. Saraswati Vina is the descendent, by evolution over the centuries, and its present look and description have been stable for these 250 years. 

Vina is India’s stringed instrument of the greatest antiquity. Many musicological treatises in Sanskrit and vernaculars describe fingering methods and techniques employed for playing the Vina. However, the structure of the Vina itself drives the instincts of the players and the techniques in practice in the contemporary generations or two preceding it, are of practical importance.

How complex and sensitive or otherwise is the music of the Vainika in his conception and understanding, is the basic question, which in fact determines his fingering techniques – of the left hand fingers in particulars – which makes the different Vina styles.

It is my deep conviction that musical instruments, especially the swaras vadyas, originated and developed essentially because of the craving in the human mind to obtain a unique and pleasant ‘reflection’ of the music of the voice in the non-voice media with varying timbres. The quality unique to instrumental music is necessarily very peculiar to each instrument of the string and the wind groups. Hence I hold that
the Vina should first reflect the voice-music in form, texture, flavour, fragrance and the aurally special experience provided by the supreme symbol of our musical culture. Let us not forget that, unlike other systems of music - even Hindustani music – the musical material for instruments in Carnatic music is practically the same as for the voice, in the matrix of this musical culture which represents happy amalgam of music and bhakti.

These urged me and directed me over these 55 years to innovate my own fingering techniques without a human guru to get the satisfaction of expressing my conceptual, artistic and emotional ideas and ideals of my voice in Vina, on the bed-rock of Sampradaya.

Related links: Other articles on Vina
                     Yazh to Guitar - Prof. V V Subramanyam
                     Musical Expressions