Chennai and Tamil Nadu
Sound Play -- Anjana Rajan
Requires judgment and expertise
The ganjira is a small handheld drum that resembles a tambourine. A part of the Carnatic music tradition, the ganjira is not as ancient as some of the other Indian instruments. It is used as a percussion accompaniment to a Carnatic music recital and
is allotted secondary importance as compared to the mridangam.
The ganjira consists of a circular wooden frame of jack wood, with a diameter of seven to eight inches and depth of approximately two inches. One face of the frame is stretched over with a thin layer of leather, the skin of the monitor lizard. The drum is usually held in the left hand and played by striking the leather face with the fingers of the right. A couple of small metal discs is attached to the frame. Their jingling adds a celebratory sound to the resonance of the ganjira.
The ganjira cannot be extensively tuned like the mridangam. Its pitch can be lowered, while playing, however, by thinly wetting the inside of the leather covering with water. The nature of this method makes it difficult to maintain the pitch of the ganjira throughout the concert, and requires judgment and expertise. However, a tuneable ganjira has been developed by at least two companies.
The late H.P. Ramachar was a celebrated ganjira artist. Noted for his speed of playing, considered difficult since the drum is played with only one hand, he also researched the construction of the instrument and devised methods to lessen its vulnerability to varying conditions of temperature and moisture. Among his other accomplishments was the establishment of an all women’s percussion ensemble, the Karnataka Mahila Laya Madhuri. His daughter Lata Ramachar is also a known ganjira player.
Any mention of this popular percussion instrument brings to mind the name of G. Harishankar, a percussionist who became synonymous with the instrument till his untimely demise at the age of 44 in 2002. Both as an accompanist and a soloist, he made a tremendous impression on audiences with his dextrous speed and clarity of sound.
Dakshinamurthy Pillai and V.Nagarajan were among the pioneers. Other well known names in the field include C.S. Venkataraman, Mayavaram G. Somasundaram and Ganesh Kumar.
Selvaganesh is another popular ganjira player. Pete Lockett of Britain is a well known world percussionist who has studied under Indian maestros and plays the ganjira.
Made of Jackwood and leather.
Exponents H.P.Ramchar, Lata Ramachar, G.Harishankar, C.S.Venkataraman, Mayavaram G. Somasundram, Ganesh Kumar, Selvaganesh, K.V.Gopalakrishnan…
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Chennai and Tamil Nadu