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by David Courtney working tools


The surpeti, also called swar pethi, swar peti, swarpeti, surpeti, sur peti, sruti box, or shruti box, is an Indian drone instrument.  It is a small box whose only function is to provide the drone.  There are two, basic forms, one is manual and the other is electronic.

The manual surpeti is similar to the harmonium.  It is a small free reed organ.  However unlike the harmonium, it has no keys, and can play no melody.  It is pumped by some small bellows with the hand.

In the last few decades, the electronic versions have become very popular.  The electronic ones have evolved considerably over the last few years.  Original versions were simple analogue devices that tended to drift and were unreliable.  However, advances in digital technology have brought them to a very high level of reliability.  Today, it is even common for them to give the sounds and character of the tambura.  Such versions are even commonly referred to as "electronic tamburas".

Although the surpeti is common throughout India, their usage differs considerably.  Hindustani musicians will regularly use them in practice but usually would not consider bringing them onto the stage.  This is in contrast to Carnatic musicians who very regularly use them in stage performances.


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For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at david@chandrakantha.com