CHAPTER 5: Dulcimers in other countries since 1800 > The santur area


The santur (santoor) is relatively simply dealt with: Mark Lindley (69) and Geoffrey Samuel (70) both understand it to be a recent introduction, regarded as something of a novelty, and taken up only by a very few players. Other instruments to which the same applies include flute, shahnai (flute?), Hawaiian guitar, clarinet, violin (although this seems to have a longer tradition in the South).

fig. 229: click

The foremost player is Shivkumar Sharma, mentioned by Peggy Holroyd (1972)

... in the hands of a master player like Shivkumar Sharma it takes on an intricate range of subtle harmonies not so distant from western melodies.

while Jain Kumar Jain also broadcasts.

fig. 231: click

Instruments are sold at the Sufi centre, London; these, and that in the Victoria & Albert Museum all have their bridges at the edge of the soundboard, like the Bavarian instruments, that the value of chessmen bridges is not realised. However, the only instrument seen in use, that of Sharma, has one row of bridges dividing the strings. All have the wide angle which characterises Indian and Kashmiri instruments, comparable in theory with those of Romania and Greece, but in practice presenting a very different aspect. Kothari mentions a santur at Gujurat, but gives no further details.

Sharma's style is fascinating: one has always considered portamento between notes, infinite fluidity, and a continuum between adjacent notes to be a fundamental feature of Indian music; but the santur is not able to provide this - except for occasional notes, by bending, a technique not apparently evolved in India - and the stark separation between the pitch of one note and another certainly does give a strong 'foreign' flavour to the music. My own initial subjective reaction was that I was listening to an Indian improvising on the tune, Old Joe Clark (mixolydian mode).

A number of other instruments have been variously described as dulcimers, psalteries, or zithers: to sort out all the instruments to which these names have been applied will be a mammoth task, and I can do no more here than note those which have been called dulcimers.

Monahar Barve is popularising the sarasaroj, a species of dulcimer which is played with two sticks and has 16 strings

Rosenthal (71)

The illustration shows an instrument looking rather like an autoharp without bars, but with machine-heads rather than wrest-pins; no dividing bridge, multiple strings, nor hammers are shown.

Katyayana Vina, ... called sata tantri vina. This became the santir in Persia and Psaltery in the Bible...

Sambamoorthy (72)

"... the Katyayana-vina resembles the hammered dulcimer,"

Leslie Shepherd (73)

The Svaramandala is the ancient Indian dulcimer, said to be the same as the Katyayana-vina, which was also called the Sata-tantri-vina; ... the Qanun or Arramin, the Indian dulcimer ....

(Popley (74)).

The Swaramandala is a plectrum-played dulcimer of the zither type ...

Shepherd (73)

- are there therefore dulcimers not of the zither type?

... surmandel, or dulcimer of the santur type ...

Jenkins (75)

The photograph of this instrument, in the World of Islam exhibition (76) showed double courses in a single plane (no bridges), hit with hammers: it looked rather like a qanun, but made in late-Victorian European style; the recording, however, certainly starts with the instrument being plucked, and thereafter the sound is not sufficiently distinct for a listener to be sure whether it is plucked or struck.

Sarmandel: a Marathi name of the satatantri vina

Marcuse (77)

One Indian friend of John Leach's called his dulcimer a svaramandala, but the instrument John hinself has under that name has single courses and strings all in one plane, plucked (78).