The ethical mridangam

In his pathbreaking work in the field of Carnatic percussion, Dr. K. Varadarangan, a Bengaluru-based vocalist, musicologist and wireless design specialist, has created a mridangam sans animal skin. In this conversation with mridangam artist R. Ramkumar, he explains how the “SRI mridangam” not only saves animals and trees but also provides tremendous advantages over the conventional mridangam.

What is the SRI mridangam made of? How is it different from a conventional mridangam?

The SRI mridangam is made of a fibreglass shell and synthetic drumheads. The drumhead material is a polyester film and the karane (saadam or soru—the black patch) is made with a special type of rubber. This is different from the conventional mridangam made of wood for the shell and animal skins for the drumheads, and the karane using boiled rice, iron oxide powder and a few other ingredients.

How is this different from a nut-bolt mridangam?

Broadly this is similar to the nut-bolt mridangam, but the clumsy and protruding hooks and nuts in the conventional mridangam are replaced by stainless steel bolts and nuts seated neatly and unobstructively. The clamps and parts of the bolts are covered by plastic casings on both sides of the drum. This not only prevents injury to the hands while playing but also gives an aesthetically pleasing, distinct look to the SRI mridangam. Also, the drumheads in the typical nut-bolt mridangam are made from animal skin… read more