Jalatharangam : The musical instrument with a difference
Jalatarangam or jalatharangam is an Indian melodic musical instrument. It consists of a set of ceramic, glass or metal bowls tuned to required pitch with water. The bowls are played by striking the edge with beaters, one in each hand. Literally, jalatarangam means "waves in water" but shows motion of sound made or modified with the aid of water. In the wave-instruments, it is the most prominent and ancient instrument. This traditional instrument is used in Indian classical music. Some scholars think that in the ancient period these were in routine use around the eastern border of India. Jalatarangam finds its first mention in Sangeet Parijaat. This medieval musical treatise categorizes this instrument under Ghan-Vadya (Idiophonic instruments in which sound is produced by striking a surface, also called concussion idiophones.) SangeetSaar considered one with 22 cups to be complete jalatarangam and one with 15 cups to be of mediocre status. Cups, of varying sizes were made of either bronze or porcelain. Today only china bowls are preferred by artistes, numbering around sixteen in normal use. The number of cups depends on the melody being played. The bowls mostly are arranged in a half-circle in front of the player who can reach them all easily. The player softly hits the cups with a wooden stick on the border to get the sound. It's not easy to tune the instrument and needs some skill. During playing fine nuances can be reached if the performer is accomplished. SangeetSaar mentions that if the player can rotate the water through a quick little touch of the stick, nuances and finer variations of the note can be achieved.