In South Indian Hindu 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 a Mangala Vadya (lit. mangala : auspicious, vadya:instrument). The instrument is usually played in pairs, and accompanied by a pair of drums called thavil.
The nadaswaram contains three parts namely, kuzhal, thimiru, and anasu. Traditionally the body of the nadaswaram is made out of a tree called aacha although nowadays bamboo, sandalwood,copper brass and ivory are also used. It is considered that the older the wood that is used for making, the better the sound and longevity of the Nadaswaram. In fact, wood from the beams of old houses that were being torn down were used a lot to make the instrument.
It is a double reed instrument with a conical bore which gradually enlarges toward the lower end. It is usually made of a type of ebony. The top portion has a metal staple (called Mel Anaichu) into which is inserted a small metallic cylinder (called Kendai) which carries the mouthpiece made of reed. Besides spare reeds, a small ivory or horn needle is attached to the Nadaswaram. This needle is used to clear the reed of saliva and other debris and allows free passage of air. A metallic bell (called Keezh anaichu) forms the bottom end of the instrument.
The Nadaswaram has seven finger-holes. There are five additional holes drilled at the bottom which are used as controllers. The Nadaswaram has a range of two and a half octaves like the flute. The system of fingering is similar to that of the Indian flute. But unlike the flute where semi and quarter tones are produced by the partial opening and closing of the finger holes, in the Nadaswaram they are produced by adjusting the pressure and strength of the air-flow into the pipe. Hence it is a very exacting instrument. Also, due to its intense volume and strength it is basically an outdoor instrument and much more suited for open spaces than for closed indoor concert situations.
Popular Nadswaram vidwans
* Thiruvavadudurai Rajaratnam Pillai
* Dr Thiruvengadu Subramania Pillai
* Thiruvizhimizhalai Subrahmanya Pillai
* Thiruveezhimizhalai brothers
* Keeranur brothers
* Semponnarkoil brothers
* Thiruvidaimaruthur P S Veerusami Pillai
* Dharumapuram A Govindarajan,
* Namagiripettai Krishnan
* Karukurichi Arunachalam
* Sheik Chinna Moulana,
* Sheik Mahaboob Subhani
* Sembanarkovil Brothers