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Re: Re:Shruti, Drones, Tanpura
The tanpura is certainly a deceptive instrument. Looks easy, but as JMW
said, it's very tough to keep the drone going smoothly. In Indian music
tanpura is usually played at a concert by a student, friend, or family
member of the main performer. They don't get paid, they don't get
on recordings, they rarely even get introduced or acknowledged. It's a
thankless job, but it's essential to the music. One of the many paradoxes
inherent in Indian musical life. However, being asked to play tanpura for
great artists like Steveji and Samirda is a real honor. Having sat behind
tanpura for many of my teacher's concerts, as well as many other artists
(including Steve), it's a real challenge to concentrate on keeping the
steady while at the same time trying to listen to the performance, as I'm
sure JMW will agree. What a double-edged sword!
Also your legs fall asleep after about 10 minutes, starting with a "pins
needles" feeling, then progressing to a total lack of sensation at which
point you begin to wonder if there's a hospital nearby that can attend to
the gangrene that's sure to be setting in and whether you'll need a total
amputation. All this of course is heightened by the constant, hypnotic,
twangy, overtone-laden drone that you're producing. No wonder tanpura
players always have that glassy-eyed stare!
An amusing anecdote: Last night I went to hear the great sarangi player
Sultan Khan, accompanied on tabla by Zakir Hussain. After the first piece,
Sultan Khan was retuning his sarangi (about 40 strings, all told) for the
next raga, so in order to save time Zakir Hussain retuned the tanpura. My
sister leaned over to me and whispered, "I didn't think the Musician's
wouldn't let him touch a stringed instrument!"
From: jmw/cmu <email@example.com>
To: Loopers-Delight@annihilist.com <Loopers-Delight@annihilist.com>
Date: Saturday, April 10, 1999 9:26 PM
Subject: Re:Shruti, Drones, Tanpura
>I had the opportunity to accompany Pdt. Samir Chatterjee (tabla) & Steve
>Gorn (bansuri) on tampura
>and I must say it's not an easy instrument to play. You'd think "no
>only 4 strings, no fretting - just pluck , pluck , pluck"
>1st, the attack is not supposed to be noticeable so you have to kind of
>the strings with the tip of your fingers to gently start the string
>One slip and you either mute a string leaving a gaping hole in the drone
>or make a loud twang - causing the soloist & the audience to glare in your
>2nd, you're not supposed to play in time with the music - just start at a
>that will keep the drone nice & full and forget about the groove.
>!@#$%^ hard when the time kicks in and the tempo gradually increases.
>3rd, all of this goes on for like 40 - 60 minutes, a large part of which
>just you and the soloist.
>I left that gig with a profound respect for the instrument.