With the important role played by music and dance in the
cultural life of Tamil Nadu, it was inevitable that the
making of musical instruments would become a major craft. Most of the
centres for this craft are situated around Thanjavur, which has also
produced some of the country's finest musicians.
The Tamil classic, the Silappadikaaram, mentions an ancient Tamil instrument, the wooden Yaazh in the shape of boats, fishes, and crocodiles. Similar to the harp, this outdated instrument has been replaced by the more versatile Veena. Made of Jackwood, the various parts of the instrument-the 'Kudam' (pot), top plank, neck and yaali-are first assembled and a mixture of honey wax and black powder is applied to the top plank. Then it is further processed for completion. Renowned as a centre for the manufacture of Veena's, Thanjavur has families employed in this trade for generations.
Classification Of Musical Instruments
The Tamils classify their instruments not only according to their types, but also according to the different occasions on which they are used. The Naadaswaram is an essential part of the marriage ceremony and the Kumbu is associated with religious festivities. Percussion instruments are sometimes used to make announcements just as the tom-toms of Africa are used to pass on messages from one village to another.
Then there are the "Tamburas" with their wooden bases, the Flute or "Kuzhal" - a wind instrument associated with Lord Krishna. Popularly known as "Vangiyam", they are made of bamboo, sandalwood, bronze, 'Sengaali' and 'Karungaali' woods.