‘Bharat Veena’ based on ancient theory of music developed in Pune
The Bharat Veena is an innovation on the traditional sitar.pune Updated: Dec 05, 2017 15:04 IST
A Pune professor has designed and developed a new musical instrument, which he says, is based on more than 2,000 years old ‘shruti’ theory described in the Bharatamuni’s Natyashastra.
Professor Dr Vinod Vidwans of Flame University, has named the instrument as Bharat Veena (or microtonal Veena). The Bharat Veena is an innovation on the traditional sitar.
A press note issued by the university said the Bharat Veena was presented to a panel of experts at the Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts in New Delhi last month. Prof Vidwans, who is chair at the Flame University’s School of Fine and Performing Arts, demonstrated the Bharat Veena at a select gathering of academicians and students of journalism recently.
His research for the last 25 years led him to conclude that Bharatmuni was accurate in propounding the theory, the press note said.
“One gets awe-struck by the intellectual and mathematical genius of Bharata,” he said. In doing so, he has validated the concepts from the Natyashastra.
The instrument enables one to play and demonstrate Bharata’s 22 shrutis (small musical intervals or microtones) with certainty. It has 22 frets in each saptaka (octave) dedicated to each shruti. It can be used as an accompaniment and for a solo performance.
A monograph titled ‘The Doctrine of Shruti in Indian Music’ authored by Prof. Vidwans that deals with the concept of shruti- microtones in Indian music has been published by the university and is freely available at http://www.computationalmusic.com/the-doctrine-of-shruti-in-indian-music.php.
The most important feature of the Bharat Veena is that it can demonstrate Bharata’s 22 shrutis with certainty. Shrutis are the microtones which are used very subtly in classical music. They bring in emotional colour and flavour to musical rendering. Bharat Veena has 22 frets in one Saptaka (octave).
Prof. Vidwans explained that his study was significant not only for its academic value, but also because it is a completely new innovation on a traditional Sitar. In the process, it has become completely different instrument in every respect. For example, it does not have sympathetic (taraf) strings and the drone (chikari) strings. Its sound, its playing style and the technique are totally different from a Sitar. It is different from other existing string instruments such as Sarod, Sarangi, and Veenas. It may have some resemblance with traditional `Gotu Vadyam’ (Vichitra Veena) in terms of playing style but in other respects, it is a completely a new musical instrument.
He said designing the new musical instrument was a fascinating exercise. “It is because Indian music is highly melodious and the shrutis bring in the emotive qualities in a composition.” he said.“Therefore I thought that sliding and gliding a tone bar on strings would be more appropriate, instead of pressing and stretching the strings like a traditional Sitar. This helps in smooth transition of the sound from one shruti to another.” Prof Vidwans showed how it was played with a plectrum like a guitar pick. “You can pluck more than one strings at the same time.”
According to the musicologist, there is a very close relationship between music, mathematics and physics. While designing Bharat Veena one needs to decide about the material of strings, their sizes, and sound quality. Also while fixing the frets one needs to decide about the distance between the frets by calculating frequency ratios of shrutis. Bharat Veena has five strings- two thin steel strings of 30 gauge, two thicker steel strings of 26 gauge and one copper string of 24 gauge. The frets are placed on musically equal distance in each octave.
Prof. Vidwans acknowledged the enthusiasm and willingness of Mr. Sajid Mirajkar and his team who were engaged in the actual making of the instrument.