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date: 18 January 2020


  • Alastair Dick


The name of an oboe mentioned or described in medieval Sanskrit texts of India. Both the 12th-century Mānasollāsa (muhurī) and the 13th-century Saṅgītaratnākara (madhukarī) describe it as being 28 Hindu inches (perhaps 21 English inches, about 53 cm) long, made of wood or horn (which probably means all of wood, or with a horn bell), and similar in shape to the kāhalā metal trumpet, with a similar bore (about 3.75 cm at the lower end and almost certainly conical). The mouthpiece is clearly described: it consisted of a copper staple about 7.5 cm long carrying a lip-disc of shell or ivory, and had a reed of devanala reed (or possibly kāśa grass), previously softened by boiling in milk, and tied around the end. There were seven fingerholes, and a thumbhole was positioned midway between the upper end and the first of these, on the underside. The ‘sweet tone’ is attributed to the staple. A passage later attributed to an earlier writer, Mataṅga (perhaps 10th-century), somewhat garbled but possibly authentic, describes the instrument (...

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