Type: Multiple Reed > Aerophone.
Family: Mangala vadyam.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Region: South Asia.
Description: The nadaswaram, nagaswaram, or nathaswaram is a double reed wind instrument from Tamilnadu. It is used as a traditional classical instrument in Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala. Considered among the worlds loudest non-brass wind instruments.
In Tamil culture, the nadaswaram is considered to be very auspicious, and it is a key musical instrument played in almost all Hindu weddings and temples of the South Indian tradition. It is part of the family of instruments known as mangala vadyam. lit. mangala [auspicious], vadya [instrument]. The instrument is usually played in pairs, and accompanied by the thavil; it can also be accompanied with a drone from a similar oboe called the ottu
Construction: Being a wind instrument similar to the North Indian shehnai although much longer in overall length. The nadaswaram has a hardwood body and a large flaring bell made of wood or metal. The nadaswaram contains three parts namely, kuzhal, thimiru and anasu. It is a double reed instrument with a conical bore which gradually enlarges toward the lower end. The top portion has a metal staple [mel anaichu] into which is inserted a small metallic cylinder [kendai] which carries the mouthpiece made of reed.
Accessories for the nadaswaram are often packaged with this instrument. They include spare reeds, a small ivory or horn needle is attached to the instrument, and used to clear the reed of saliva and other debris and allows free passage of air. A metallic bell (keezh anaichu) forms the bottom end of the instrument. Traditionally the body of the nadaswaram is made out of a tree called aacha [in Tamil ஆச்சா; Hindi अंजन]. Although nowadays bamboo, sandalwood, copper, brass, ebony and ivory are also used. For wooden instruments, old wood is considered the best, and sometimes wood salvaged from demolished old houses is used.
The nadaswaram has seven finger-holes, and five additional holes drilled at the bottom which can be stopped with wax to modify the tone. The nadaswaram has a range of two and a half octaves, similar to the Indian bansuri flute. Unlike the flute where semi and quarter tones are produced by the partial opening and closing of the finger holes. In playing the nadaswaram the quarter-tones are produced by adjusting the pressure and strength of the air-flow into the pipe. Due to its intense volume and strength it is largely an outdoor instrument and much more suited for open spaces than for indoor concerts.
Citations: O. Gosvami, 1 January 1961 – The story of Indian music: its growth and synthesis. Scholarly Press. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-403-01567-2. Retrieved 25 December 2012. Andankoil AV Selvarathnam Pillai; B. Kolappan Retrieved 2010-12-15; “Arts / Music – An art that’s still awaiting its due”. The Hindu. Retrieved 2012-01-09. Sampath, Revathi 16 March 2008. “Nadaswaram”. India Currents. Retrieved 2015-04-08.