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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

music prayers for rain ~ morsing instrument !!


Music is divine ~ in our culture, Temples & divinity have always been associated with music. On Sunday 12.5.2019, Srinivas YOungmens Association (SYMA) alongwith Brahmins Welfare Assocaition (Triplicane) organized a music-fete praying for rains.  Had occasion to be near to the artistes who performed and took some photos of too.   I could not but  wonder how a small iron instrument held on teeth could produce sweet music .. .. wonder-struck, took some photos of that odd looking instrument ~ now I realize the greatness of the person who played it and produced stirring music ! ~ the post is on  ‘morsing’ played by Chennai K Raguraman.


The ability to express thoughts through sounds has evolved into an art which we call music.  Carnatic music emphasizes the voice and singing, accompanied by the tambura, violin, mridangam, gadam, Veena and more.  The raga style is commonly used, and improvisation is common.  Three forms are hailed : Iyal, Isai, Nattiyam [Prose, Poetry and Drama] .. There are 2 sets of people ~ connoisseurs of music, especially the Carnatic one, who know the nuances; others who know nothing !! ~ … ~  I belong to the latter variety and hence this post may not be anything to the first category people. 

The mysticism of ragas often finds avenues of expression when rendered by sensitive musicians. Vedic hymns to propitiate the rain God are set to reverberate in major temples across Tamil Nadu soon with a desperate government turning to the divine power for overcoming acute water scarcity faced in several parts of the state. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR and CE), which administers temples in the state, has asked officials of important shrines to conduct special 'yagams' among other rituals for pleasing Lord Varuna, the God of rains. Besides, the temples have also been asked to organise musicians to play 'ragas' such as "Amrithavarshini", divine ragas in Carnatic music that are said to bring showers when played.

The State of Tamilnadu and specifically Chennai city is experiencing heat waves.  Water crisis is felt everywhere. In the last two years, northeast monsoon rainfall had been lower than the normal quantum and several parts of the state, including this metropolis, are facing severe water scarcity. Major lakes in the suburbs that cater to the drinking water needs of the city are having poor storage. Cyclone 'Fani', which was initially expected to hit the state,  moved away and did not bring in rains too.

At Gangaikondan mandapam – the ‘nadha sangamam for rains’ – started with 108 times rendering of Sri Gothapiratti Thiruppavai pasuram ‘aazhimazhaikkanna onnu nee kai karavel’ by Soundarya Rathnamala, Munithraya Bajana Mandali and others assembled there’.  Around 6 pm, everyone around the mantap were attracted by the blistering divine music ensemble of ‘Siva vadhyam’ by those rendering music service at Thiruvatteeswarar thirukovil.  Then came the main programme – divine music rendered by :  Injikudi EM Mariyappan (Nathaswaram) Ennapuram KS Kamaraj (Thavil); B Venkatramana (Flute); Amainthapuram Boovaraghan (Mridangam); Madurai D Kishore (Violin) and Chennai K Raguraman (Morsing)

Have never had occasion to be so close to the performers ~  a  morsing (Telugu: మోర్సింగ్, , Tamil: நாமுழவு அல்லது முகச்சங்கு) , [jaw harp] is an instrument similar to the Jew's harp, mainly used in Rajasthan, in the Carnatic music of South India, and in Sindh, Pakistan. It can be categorized under lamellophones, which is in the category of plucked idiophones. It consists of a metal ring in the shape of a horseshoe with two parallel forks which form the frame, and a metal tongue in the middle, between the forks, fixed to the ring at one end and free to vibrate at the other. The metal tongue is bent at the free end in a plane perpendicular to the circular ring so that it can be struck and is made to vibrate. This bent part is called the trigger.

By some accounts morsing is an instrument with a history of 1500 years, its exact origin in India is not well documented. In the tradition of the Indian gurukul system of teaching, thus folk tales are a secondary source of its history. In South India, it features in Carnatic concerts and percussion ensembles. It is said to be the percursor to subsequent instruments such as the harmonica and the harmonium.

The morsing is placed on the front teeth, with slightly pouted lips and held firmly in the hand. It is struck using the index finger of the other hand to produce sound. Movement of the player's tongue while making nasal sounds is used to change the pitch.  While this is sounded through the nose,  air is pushed out or pulled in through the mouth. This aids the meditation process and thus some players use it as a form of practising pranayama. Movement of the player's tongue with constant plucking can produce very fast patterns of sound. It certainly looked and is a tough one to perform, though Sri Raghuraman played it with ease, matching nadaswaram and violin.  Together they made a great team and treated us all to divine music for nearly 2 hours. 

While traditionally morsing is made of iron, variants can be made from brass, wood, bone, and even plastic and credit cards.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th May 2019.
PS : handful of recipients of this mail are acclaimed critics of Carnatic music.  To some of you this could be no news at all ..  request you to please  ignore this post…


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