Last year, the yazh, a forgotten instrument from the Sangam period was resurrected in its modern form by a young musician and luthier, Tharun Sekar. Perched on an ornamental brass stand is the head resembling a peacock, carved out of polished red cedar, seamlessly transforming into a slender arching neck that expands at the bottom where two small wings envelop a wooden bowl with goat hide stretched over the opening to make a soundboard.

A few months later, amidst scenic landscapes, we see the frame cut to nimble fingers that gently caress the seven strings affixed between the neck and the taut goat hide to produce the first-ever song recorded with the 2000-year-old harp-like instrument. The song, titled Azhagi, was a collaboration between Tharun, rapper Syan Saheer and artiste Sivasubramanian a.k.a. The Nomad Culture. As a nostalgic undertone envelops the atmosphere, the trio sing about the return of a beautiful and powerful woman from the Sangam period—perhaps a poetic reference to the resurrection of the yazh.

Building the modern yazh was a research-intensive process that involved talking to scholars, scouring through pages of Tamil literature scattered with hints about the mythical instrument and studying representative models locked up in museums. Ancient…


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