Indian slide guitar historical question

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Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by mrdoodah » Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:06 pm

Hello gentleman I am a UK slide player of 50 years learning and 40 years performing. I'm very interested in the origins of musicians using objects instead of fingers to aid string 'pitching' A recent article in Premier Guitar magazine quoted the introduction of a glass or metal bar to Indian stringed instruments was instigated by the visit of Hawaiian player Tau Moe in the early 20's. My question is were veena style instruments that utilised the use of a glass ball instruments played before his visit ? Was not the vichitra veena in evidence in Indian culture before the visit of Tae Moe, i.e. early 20's. I feel this is a highly important query, as it eliminates the possibility of there being Indian slide players brefore the visit of Tae Moe, in other words how far back in Indian culture does the playing of a stringed instrument with a glass ball go ? My thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by chrisitar » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:10 pm

From wikipedia regarding the South-Indian equivalent of Vichitra Veena: The Chitra Veena's (or Gottuvadhyam) origins can be traced back to Bharata's Natya Shastra, where it is mentioned as a 7 string fretless instrument.

The Natyashastra was written during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE

No mention of the slide, however. I'm interested in this as well.
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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by mrdoodah » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:45 pm

Thanks Chris, Because of the linear foundations of Indian music as opposed to chordal, using a glass ball for example would have solved the complexities of constructing fretted sitar types, so it might well have struck someone to try this approach. If we find that it was not in evidence until after Toe Moes visit then it puts a certainly puts a lot of weight and importance to Joseph Kekuku's happy 'accident' of the 1890's, looking forward to some more scholarly replies, stay in the loop eh , regards Mr.D

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by theprosperone » Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:23 pm

Yes I believe a vichitra veena originally used a crystal ball held in the hand as a slide. This instrument is similar to a Rudra Veena, an instrument that was around since the vedic period. I read they have cave paintings from the sixth century. I would guess they were using slides in some form long long before the 1800s....

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by nicneufeld » Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:44 pm

I would guess the mohan/hansa veena type instruments, seeing as they are based off of the spanish guitar and use a metal slide bar, were imported/adapted from Hawaii, but the vichitra veena on the other hand seems so much more unique that I would venture to say it was likely developed independently. Only postulation, not real knowledge, on my part.

What draws me in to this topic is that it fuses two of my favorite musics...Sol Hoopii and all the old greats of Hawaiian lap steel are absolutely fantastic, and the singing style of their playing is a characteristic I love from both Hawaiian and Hindustani music.

Two years ago I had a choice, seriously pursue sitar, or seriously pursue lap steel...I chose the former and don't regret it at all...just wish I had the time and bandwidth to have also started seriously learning Hawaiian steel, too!

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by David Russell Watson » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:16 am

The fretless ekatantri vina used a wooden rod as a noter which, if not a glass ball, is still a type of slide.

This type of vina began to appear in sculpture in the 9th century, including depiction of its noter, and so the use of the slide in India is at least that old.


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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by chrisnovice » Thu Mar 21, 2013 2:54 pm

This is from The Music of India by Herbert A. Popley, 1921:

"Sometimes players use the tambur in quite peculiar ways. I once heard a musician play on it by stopping the strings with a small bamboo and using it more like the vina.The full resonance of the tambur and the buzzing sound gave the melody a very pleasing effect. I also heard a performer play an instrument like the tambur by stopping it with a cocoanut. The name given to this instrument by the people is Kottuvadyam or Balasarasvati. The word kottu is said to mean 'movable fret'. It is found in a few places in South India."

I guess the coconut didn't really catch on. :?

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by povster » Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:26 pm

"Movable fret" is a nice concept to describe the slide.

FYI, Popley's book THE MUSIC OF INDIA is available free in several format (text, pdf, kindle etc) here:

Check the left side of the page and choose the desired format you want to download.

If you go to the parent page you can input various search terms for other things. They not only archive books but other media as well.
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Panini - the official bread of ICM

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Re: Indian slide guitar historical question

Post by mrdoodah » Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:57 pm

Thanks fellas, just what I was hoping for, prior to Tae Moe we therefore have a very strong Asian source of slide players, i think the history of those players is so magically mysterious it fries my brain just thinking about it. Similar in a way to the black hole that exists in the history of Afro American slide players prior to Henry Sloan seen playing with a knife blade at Tutweiler Station Miss, in 1904 I believe. Its the story up to him that will probably never be told, I can see it now 'The roots of Charlie Patton ! Ha'
Anyway I shall continue my journey, the last two weeks have unleashed some revolutionary footage on u tube, if you are not familiar with her please check out the wonderfull skill of Noor Zehra on the astonishing Sagar Veena, 40 years in the making, conceived and created by her father. Notice the bridge is connected directly to the man made gourds giving immediate contact to the acoustic chambers
Be warned, the waters in your body might not have been exposed to vibrations this low before, a new joy for them !
Description ... =132923601
I enjoy this player very much also

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