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date: 12 July 2020

Variable tension chordophonelocked

  • Alastair Dick


Instruments, widespread in South Asia, in which alteration of pitch is produced by the variation of tension in the string, either directly through pressure of the player’s hand or arm, or indirectly by the use of a device such as a flexible neck or yoke, or turnable peg. The instruments all consist of a vessel-shaped body: wooden or metal cylinders, gourds or clay pots with no base, one opening covered with skin. A gut or metal string passes at right angles from the middle of the skin through the body, held by a device such as a wooden cross-bar, and is attached at the other end to another cross-bar (held in the hand), a neck or a yoke (either directly or via a peg). They are all plucked and are predominantly single string instruments.

The ānandalaharī of Bengal, often known by the onomatopoeic names gubgubī and khamak, comprises a barrel-shaped or upward-tapering wooden cylinder open at both ends. The lower end is covered with a complete skin, the upper skin with the centre cut away (earlier instruments had only a lower skin, glued on). Both skins are laced to plaited leather hoops and braced by chord V-lacings, each with a metal tuning ring. A string of gut is looped through two holes and a protective button (or piece of bamboo etc.) in the lower skin, passing up through the body to a handle formed from a small brass pot. The body is held under the left arm with the left hand gripping the handle to tension the string; the right hand plucks the string with a small plectrum of bone or similar material (...

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