BENGALURU : K M Ramayya, a farmer from Kumbalgodu in Bengaluru is known for something more than his farm produce—creating music out of pumpkins. A third generation pumpkin grower, Ramayya has perfected the art of creating tamburas—a string instrument, out of dried pumpkin shells, a skill he picked up from his father, who learnt the art from his grandfather. Ramayya, a musician himself, creates these instruments from pumpkins that he grows in his backyard. Over the years, he has mastered the science of growing a pumpkin to the exact size needed for a perfect tambura. He now sells around eight-nine instruments every month.
This supplements his income as a musician. “One plant bears around 20 to 30 pumpkins. But to get the right size, we leave only 10 and pluck out the rest. This helps the pumpkins attain a larger size,” he said. During its growth, the vegetable is dewormed and secured from weeds. A weight is also placed on the pumpkins so that they grow horizontally while the height does not increase.
Once it attains the right size, the pumpkin, along with its stem, is sun dried till it becomes hard. The flesh and seeds are then removed through a small hole in the bottom leaving only the outer layer. The vegetable is then washed, scrubbed and polished. “I then attach a bamboo stem to the pumpkin to make the neck of the tambura. After this, a steel string is attached with a clay tile piece as bridge on the pumpkin and a wooden tuner at the other end of the bamboo stem,” he says.
This arrangement gives the instrument the capability to produce 64 individual tones. The pumpkin is then coated with goat skin to yield the proper sound. “Here my music knowledge comes into great use,” he says. The tambura, which is usually played as a background instrument, can be configured for each song separately.
“We use only one string to complement the existence of Paramathma, the supreme god for the whole of this planet,” said Ramayya. The instrument is quite popular among musicians, especially with the Janapada (folk) artistes. “I sell it for `2,000 a piece. Local artistes, temples and even collectors from abroad have brought these. Sometimes I don’t take any money for it,” he says.