Banking on the rich tradition and scope of violin in Indian classical music, noted Indian violinist Mysore Manjunath hopes the levying of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on musical instruments that are not indigenous will not adversely affect the industry.
On July 1 when a single nationwide tax replacing all state and Central taxes came into effect, 28 percent tax was imposed on instruments that are not handmade and not Indian — including the violin, which is widely used in Indian classical and film music.
The violin was not included in a list of 134 instruments that are considered Indian and hence exempt from the GST.
Interestingly, 60 percent of that list consists of instruments that have not been played for the past two centuries.
“Of course we always had similar kind of boar string instruments for many many centuries here. But probably Indian government might have thought that violin in its present shape is not an Indian instrument, it is from the West.
“Probably that could have led them to impose GST on it,” Manjunath told a select group of Indian journalists here on the sidelines of the Bengal Classical Music Festival organised by the Bengal Foundation on Friday.
“But whether the GST really matters or not..(I don’t know). The violin tradition in Indian classical music is such a long one and we are extremely proud of that. And especially in the south, it is so intense and (there are) so many different styles of playing violin in Carnatic classical music. Even so many European musicians, the jazz and violin players, ome all the way from Europe and then America to learn Indian classical violin,” he explained.
“Because not only Hindustani or Carnatic music is so rich and intense but even the violin playing style in Carnatic classical music is so advanced,” Manjunath said underlining the instrument’s value in India.
“Whether slow or moderate or intensive things..that is the actual tradition of violin playing in Indian classical music. Immaterial of whatever is happening, we are always proud of Indian violin players and we want to preserve it take it forward for the next generation,” he added.
The history of the violin in South India goes back further than the 17th-century musician Baluswami Dikshitar — the first known violinist to infuse the instrument into Carnatic music.
(Debayan Mukherjee is in Dhaka at the invitation of the Bengal Classical Music Festival’s organisers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Debayan Mukherjee