When traditional goes electronic - The New Indian Express

When traditional goes electronic

Published: 12th November 2012 10:24 AM

Last Updated: 12th November 2012 10:24 AM

The advent of science and technology has not only made our lives much easier but also had an impact on the traditional values in our society. Indian classical music is no exception.

The traditional, manual Tanpura, which is also known as Tambura in South India was given an electronic makeover over two decades ago. In addition to this there are some musicians-cum-engineers who are coming up with features on the iphone and itouch.

With the new wave in this industry, is classical music losing its traditional values? Yashasvi S, violinist and vocalist says, “In the olden days, teachers taught their students to tune the Tanpur, so that the tune leaves an imprint on the minds of the students. Even a minute mistake in the tune could be identified by the students. With the coming of electronic Tanpura, many students who start music lessons, have least knowledge about tuning the manual Tanpura.”

But many believe that it is more convenient to use electronic gadgets in music as they can be easily carried and the resonance is same as the traditional and manual Tanpura.

“To tune the manual Tanpur is difficult. They are fragile, sensitive, and not easy to carry and are also breakable. Even Tanjavor Tanpura, which had the absoluteness in tone and could sustain its resonance even for five-hour long concerts, is hardly used today due some of its limitations. Earlier students had the knack of tuning it. But the younger generation has lost that knack,” said Vinay S R, a musician.

Others believe that retaining the traditional values is dependent on the rendition of the concert where the traditional values are presented well to the audience. Giridhar Udupa, a Ghatam artiste said, “There are many Indian classical music instruments like Sitar, Veena and others which are electrified. This is to enhance the quality of resonance while catering to the larger audience. According to me, modifications are necessary as the values of instruments will remain the same.”

Besides electronic Tanpur, there are also Lehra machine, Tabla machine and others. Today there are more apps like itablapro, ilehera, imanjira and others. Prasad Upasani, a man behind developing these programmes explained, “When I got an iPhone in 2008, I was impressed by its ratio of power (high) to its size (small) - it’s really a small computer in your pocket.

I started experimenting with using its MP3 player function to play tanpura recordings. While this sounded good, I had the problem of not being able to tune the tanpura, change the tempo, or change anything except the volume since it was just a recording. So my apps just started out as an experimental project for my own use.”

He added, “As a musician, I had the advantage of being my own best and worst critic, and being able to quickly make changes when something was not to my satisfaction. Most of the features were added one at a time as a result of my own ideas or suggestions from my users.  So for example, this was the app or electronic tanpura to include Swar Mandal accompaniment (this is a traditional harp-like stringed instrument used by classical vocalists for accompaniment) in addition to simply tanpura and tabla. The iTablaPro app now includes six instruments in all: Two 5-stringed independently tuned tanpuras, Sur Peti, Swar Mandal, Tabla, and Manjira (the cymbals used in bhajans).”

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