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A Journey through Aesthetic Realms

Vegan Indian Drum Maker: Dr. K. Varadarangan

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"My name is Dr. K. Varadarangan. I reside in Bengaluru, India. On the music front, I have been learning music since a very young age and I’ve been a performer of Carnatic music. We turned vegan; that is, me and my wife both turned vegan in 2010, March, on our wedding anniversary day, after I came to know about the horrific practices of dairy, abusing the animals, the cows. So, in 2010, when I became vegan, I became very sensitive about items I used to use for daily use. And, of course, we eliminated all the non-vegan items from our lifestyle. But one thing that still remained was this percussion instrument called the mridangam. In fact, the mridangam is made of three animal skins - goat, cow, and buffalo. And I also came to know that cows are specifically slaughtered to make instrument, and I felt very depressed and sad. So the first idea was to give up performing on stage, so that I would not be part of this crime. But then an inner voice told me that's not enough, that if I quit performing, no big change. So I wanted to bring about a change that could even possibly help others, so I started thinking, ‘Why can't I invent a new instrument without leather, without animal skin and probably also wood?’ So I wanted to use an alternative material. I thought of fiberglass as a shell material but I didn't know how to make a head out of non-animal products. But then after a lot of research, many, many failures, months of failures, and completely sleepless nights, somehow I wanted to do it. I know the only thing that guided me was the passion to save animals from slaughter, because music is, everybody agrees it is divine and our Indian music particularly, which is very spiritual and divine in nature. We talk about only about these themes in our music, about spirituality, about divinity. And using the traditional instrument would be going against that very principle, so I decided to invent a synthetic head. So now I have been successful in making this instrument with a synthetic black spot which is Syahi. And also the membrane is now a polyester film. Dr. Varadarangan’s vegan drums are not only ethical, but also have many advantages over the traditional type. They are light in weight, user friendly and durable. Their pitch does not vary with temperature. What’s more, they allow musicians to tune them precisely. It’s no wonder that these vegan drums have been in high demand.
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