Monday, 23 January 2012

The Dravidian Flute, continued

There was no way of knowing the going rate for a hand-made flute in Kerala. I just had to go on Venugopal's open-hearted demeanour.  I believed him when he said he didn't really care whether or not he sold a particular flute to a particular customer.  Anyone who has visited a bazaar in the 'developing world' and shown even the most cursory interest in an item has probably, also, been pursued down the street with ever decreasing prices. This was one vendor who wasn't about to do that.

Venugopal's flute is in the foreground
Apparently he sources his bamboo from tribesmen who live in the forest miles from any roads.  He leaves his motorbike at the edge of the forest, walks to where they live, and then spends two or three days with them during which they show him the best plants. He told me this towards the end of my second, and final, lesson, not as part of the sales pitch.  The bamboo is stronger than my previous flutes.  It is not as thick as either of my shakuhachis but is of a different variety.  I have a shakuhachi in F, less than two inches longer than Venugopal's flute (fundamental G).  The shakuhaci has five 'segments' whereas the Indian flute has only one.

Venugopal insisted the flute was in C and it took me a while to realise that he takes the tuning from the middle, where only the thumb hole and the upper three finger holes are closed.  This note is indeed C, but produces a Lydian mode if a scale is based on it.  The lowest note is G and this produces G major if no half holing takes place.

And the term 'half-holing' also caused some confusion when I used it in relation to producing semitones, as the amount of hole uncovered to produce them is rarely half.

We concluded the deal, played a bit for each other and posed for the photo, below. It was only a day or two later that it occurred me to seek him out and have a lesson or two in South Indian flute technique.  

1 comment:

  1. My first reaction to the price was "you was had" but then you can pay a few thousand quid for a western flute that is "better" than the others. Who's to say his are not similarly better?