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Article: Review of the book: 22 SHRUTIS and Melodium

By Haresh Bakshi
  Title: 22 SHRUTIS and Melodium
Author: Dr. Vidyadhar Oke
Publisher: Sanskar prakashan, Mumbai, India [2007]
Pages: 94.

This is a book on microtones (shrutis) in Indian music. It brings to light those microtones in mathematical terms, and also reiterates and reinforces the concept of shruti given in ancient treatises on music by Bharat Muni and others. The ancient sage-musicologists expressed shrutis as additive. In this book the same shrutis, as well as the same number, 22, of shrutis, are derived in terms of simple ratios. Of course, this has always been the practice adopted by the Western musicologists. However, Dr. Vidyadharji, in this book, uses this concept not only to derive the number of shrutis, but also shows us why that number is 22. He also shows us how to play those shrutis on a string, and on the keyboard.

In addition, Dr. Oke has made available a unique and patented harmonium (called Melodium), and a metallophone, so you can actually play those 22 shrutis meaningfully. This proves, once for all, that the shruti is not merely an ancient, ambiguous and out-of-date concept, but it is a mathematical derivation of the very fundamental concept in the aesthetics of Indian music. He proves the relevance of the shruti concept in today's Indian classical music. At the same time, Vidyadharji also recognises the fact that good singers/instrumentalists of Indian music have always been using the correct shrutis, through intuition.

The book shows how the three kinds of shruti, namely, Poorna shruti, Pramana shruti, and Nyoona shruti, are derived. Also briefly mentioned are the differences in shrutis in Hindustani and Karnatic classical styles of music. In the book, a comparison has been brought out between the shrutis and Pythagorean and Ptolemic commas. The shrutis have been derived through pancham samvad and madhyam samvad.

And, finally, Dr. Oke has provided in his book the guidelines for the use of shrutis as swaras (notes) in various ragas. This shows the importance and significance of using the concept of shruti in the Indian classical music of today.

Dr. Vidyadhar Oke deserves all the compliments for his work on shrutis in the present book. The book must find a respectful place on the desk of all Indian musicians and musicologists.

Haresh Bakshi Feb. 3, 2008.



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