The Zri-Rab: A New String Instrument from the Ancient Frescos of Sri LankaIsuru B. Dehideniya
Inside the ancient temple of Thivanka Pilimage (Thivanka Image House), which was built in Polonnaruwa between the 12th-13th centuries AD, several frescoes were depicted based on Buddha’s life events and the Jataka tales. Before all these frescoes faded, draftsmen working for the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon copied them. Among the frescoes the draftsman P. G. Perera copied is one that depicts a man or woman holding a long-necked lute. The purpose of the present research is to interpret this string instrument and reconstruct a physical string instrument that is consistent in form. This study involves experimental research and falls under the music discipline of organology. The study uses iconographic analyses and morphological analogues to discover how to organize the structure and elements needed to design and build a musical instrument that is consistent with the ancient form of the long-necked lute. The tar (long-necked lute) and sgra-snyan (7-string long-necked lute, also known as dramyin) are string instruments used in modern times that have also been identified as morphologically similar to the string instrument depicted in the Thivanka Pilimage. The tar used in the Middle East provides information on how to organize the structure and elements needed to reconstruct a string instrument that can be used in modern music without changing the ancient form. In this way, the merging of antiquity and modernism has led to the revival of the string instrument called the zri-rab.