Indian fiddle

This fiddle from Western India dates back to before the 1920s and Kirby bought it in Durban at the Victoria Street Market, which was officially opened in 1910. It looks very much like a Sindhi sarangi of Rajasthan. There is another ‘folk’ sarangi in the Collection, which is smaller and in better shape, as well as another fiddle, an esraj, which has a similar tone, but has frets that simplify the playing. You would never find such instruments in South Africa today; they capture an aspect of this country’s history of music making by Indian South Africans. Pins on the waist of this sarangi spell out the initials BIS and ECM. Who or what might these signify? Owner(s)? Or a message? To acquire a basic proficiency on the sarangi, in any of its forms, takes many hours of practice. It is played in both folk and classical musics in India. Its unique, haunting tone is the splendid reward for the player, and sarangis feature in countless films when directors want the soundtrack to tug at the audience’s heartstrings.

– Michael Nixon