July 23, 2008 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Ever heard a chitravina? It's a 21-stringed musical instrument from India, similar in appearance to the more widely-known veena, but with a sonic character all its own, due in large part to the fact that it's fretless, and it's played with a slide. Here's an NPR feature on the instrument's prime exponent, N. Ravikiran. [NOTE: embedded audio on that last link]

Here's the Wikipedia page for the gottuvadhyam, which is another name for the chitravina (there are several names, actually). You'll note the somewhat irritating promotion (self-promotion?) included in this page, though, of the indefatigable N. Ravikiran. But hey, whaddayugunnado? Ravikiran would appear to have a virtual worldwide monopoly on this 21-stringed beast!

My previous posts on Carnatic music.
posted by flapjax at midnite (9 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Very interesting. What I have sometimes wondered, is how they managed to make strings that were thin and strong enough to be played, two thousand years ago. Maybe it's less difficult than I imagine it.
posted by preparat at 7:42 AM on July 23, 2008

prime exponent


posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:45 AM on July 23, 2008

preparat, they would have used animal intestines. They smelled bad and they don't stay in tune for love nor money.
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2008

Killer post. Yet another "guitar-like" instrument that I need to try out!
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:50 AM on July 23, 2008

Another slide guitar with 22 strings was developed by Debashish Bhattacharya. You can see Bob Brozman playing one here.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:32 AM on July 23, 2008

The wonderful consequence of shifting focus entirely away from harmony to melody is that large numbers of sympathetic strings become a reasonable addition to any instrument. Those gentle swells start to sound like they come from an ocean instead of an instrument...
posted by invitapriore at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Man, how many string instruments does India have, anyway? Can someone point me to a good list of them all with short descriptions, etc.?
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:17 PM on July 23, 2008 many string instruments does India have...

This Wikipedia list might help answer that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:20 PM on July 23, 2008

See also the atlas of plucked instruments.
posted by dhruva at 8:02 PM on July 23, 2008

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