Page last updated at 11:45 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

India sculptor creates granite 'woodwind' instrument

By P Sivaramakrishnan
BBC Tamil

The granite nadhaswaram
Performers say that the granite nadhaswaram plays as well as the traditional wooden version of the instrument

A sculptor in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu has created a traditional wind instrument - or nadhaswaram - for the first time in stone.

The nadhaswaram is one of the most popular traditional Tamil instruments and is usually made of wood.

Sculptor Chinnakkannu used a single piece of hard black granite to make the instrument which is more than two feet in length.

Musicians say that they are amazed at how well it plays.

'Not easy'

Chinnakkannu told the BBC that he was inspired to make the instrument by his admiration of temple art and religious sculptures across Tamil Nadu.

The granite nadhaswaram
The stone instrument is also a work of art

Hailed as one the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instruments, the nadhaswaram is traditionally made from a special variety of wood.

The instrument has a range of two and a half octaves - similar to the flute.

Chinnakkannu said that making a stone version of the nadhaswaram was fraught with difficulties, not least in finding a suitable piece of stone.

He was elated when eventually he found what he wanted on farmland near his home.

"When I hit the stone with a chisel it sounded like bronze. Then I realised my dream had come true," Chinnakkannu said.

Once he began work, it was essential to make the instrument so that it was free of hairline cracks.

"I was weeping almost at every stage for fear that the stone should break," he said.

The nagaswaram has seven finger-holes. There are five additional holes drilled at the bottom which are used as controllers.

"I drilled the holes through mechanical means," Chinnakkannu said.

"I did it in the same way a carpenter would drill holes through wood - with a drill bit attached to a traditional carpenter's manual churning tool.

"If I used a chisel to make the holes there would have been a good chance that the stone would split.

"I ended up with numerous blisters and scars on my both palms".

But after three months of hard labour - literally on the rock face - the instrumental work of art was finally completed.

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