The Glorious Mandolin

BY RASHMI PATANI

An early precursor to the plucked string instrument family was the lute, which originated in India. This instrument made its way to Europe via Constantinople and Sicily. It metamorphosed into the Byzantine Lyra, Roman pandura and the gittern, which developed into the guitar and mandora in Sicily, which passed through Germany, called the mandoer, Spanish – vandola, Italian – mandola. A small mandola was termed a mandolino by the Italians, which then was shortened to be called the “Mandolin”.

The mandolin was then introduced to Indian film music early in the 1940s by Raj Kapoor Studios in “Barsaat”. Bollywood music composer Ustad Sajjad Hussain played the Mandolin for the film industry for a long time.

However, in a marked revolution, the mandolin was introduced to the orthodox classical Carnatic music by the great child prodigy, Mandolin U Srinivas, and was brought to its position as a mainstream lead instrument in Carnatic music in a short span of two decades (1980s, 1990s).

However, it is to be noted that the mandolin, used for Indian classical music has a completely different tuning of C-G-C-G-C (5 strings), as opposed to the European version of E-E-A-A-D-D-G-G (8 strings).

Mandolin Suresh Kumar further developed a screwable necked version of the mandolin, called the Dragon G2-SK1.

Here is a sample from a performance recorded in the UK some years ago: