The primary motivation for developing these instruments was a burning desire to eliminate the use of animal skins and make the instruments truly divine. It may be noted that a traditional Mrudanga uses skins from three animals, namely the goat, cow, and buffalo. Likewise, the Tabla makes use of skins of goat and camel. Needless to say, these animals have to be killed to derive the skins. It is highly ironic that Indian Music, which boasts of purity and divinity, has to rely on the murder of gentle animals.
In response to an article titled, ‘Sound and Science: Measure for Measure’ by D. Balasubramanian that appeared in ‘The Hindu’ newspaper dated september 23, 2010, Dr.Sethuraman Subramanian says:
“It is fine to do analytical measurements of nAdham and relate them to the components used in the assembly of the musical instrument. Long before C V Raman analysed the sound of various string instruments in relation to physics. One important factor that is glossed over is the membranous cover used for mridangam. More than the buffalo hide, it is the choice hide of cows (1-2 yr old) soon after their calving which are killed specifically for the mridangam membrane. The maker, the artiste, and the middle men all know what is involved. Carnatic music which boasts of devotion (“mother save me”, “there is nobody but you to come to my rescue”, “why are you subjecting me to this misery?” and such platitudes) sweeps the issue of killing young cows for making mridangam covers under the rug. It is time the Carnatic music fraternity faces up to this cruelty and try to produce “divine music” without killing the young cows. It is hypocrisy at best and cruel crime if one is honest to admit it”
The second factor that motivated the creation of these products was the need to avoid the cutting of trees. It is well known that deforestation has a huge adverse impact on our fragile environment. The fiberglass shell used in these products is made of glass fiber – a product of silica, available naturally in abundance.
The third motivating factor was the need for standardization and tonal consistency. Traditionally, Mrudangas and Tablas are manufactured by various craftsmen in their own ways using materials and processes, held as closely guarded secrets. The outcome is nonstandard materials, processes, and dimensions, resulting in poor tonal quality, reduced reliability, and erratic supply.
Lastly, manufacturability is a major issue with traditional percussion craftsmanship that uses animal skins whose properties vary widely from sample to sample. The wooden shells also vary widely in composition, texture, moisture content, and tonal quality. The manufacturing process is highly labor-intensive and has a huge adverse impact on the environment.