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Shawms (Ottu and Nagaswaram), Southern India, ca. 1900-1940

Ottu and Nagaswaram

NMM 1192 (left). Shawm (ottu), southern India, ca. 1940. Carnatic drone instrument played along with the nagaswaram. A double-reed instrument with a rosewood body and a wood bell. The reed of both the ottu and nagaswaram is made from a flattened piece of aquatic grass found on the banks of the south Indian Kaveri River. The ottu and the nagaswaram are played at temples, for marriages, and at festivals.

NMM 1191 (right). Shawm (nagaswaram or nagasuram), southern India, ca. 1900. Double-reed instrument with a rosewood body and wood bell. In south Indian classical music (Carnatic), the nagaswaram is played along with the ottu. The instrument has seven finger holes, five tuning holes, and a range of two-and-a-half octaves. The player can create semi- and quarter-tones by adjusting lip pressure and the air-flow into the pipe. The nagaswaram and ottu are considered to be mangala vadya, or auspicious instruments.

Ex coll.: Rev. Emmons E. White. Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979.

Click on any image on this page to see a larger view.


Front of ottu
Ottu reed, view 1 Ottu reed, view 2

Bell rim of ottu Bottom of ottu bell

Nagaswaram: Front, Side, and Back Views

Front of nagaswaram Side 1 of nagaswaram Side 2 of nagaswaram Back of nagaswaram

Nagaswaram Reed and Bell Views

Nagaswaram reed, view 1 Nagaswaram reed, view 2

Side of nagaswaram bell Bottom of nagaswaram bell

Letters Stamped on Nagaswaram

Letters stamped on nagaswaram

Literature:  Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, The Shrine to Music Museum Catalog of the Collections, Vol. II, André P. Larson, editor (Vermillion: The Shrine to Music Museum, 1982), p. 7.

Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, M.M. Thesis, University of South Dakota, May 1983, p. 15, plate IV.

André P. Larson, The National Music Museum:  A Pictorial Souvenir (Vermillion: National Music Museum, 1988), p. 29.

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