Instruments

Sitar

Ud Vilayat Khan & Pt. Nikhil Banerjee 1

In his Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya Dr.Lalmani Misra traces the development of the sitar from the tritantriveena.  The veenais believed to be modified to form the sitar during the Mughal period and named after a Persian instrument called the setar (“three strings”).

The modern sitar can have up to 20 strings; six or seven of these are played strings which run over curved, raised frets, and the rest are sympathetic strings which run underneath the frets and resonate in sympathy with the played strings. The frets are movable, allowing forfine tuning to the notes of the raga that is to be played.

The gandhaar-pancham sitar (used by the late maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan and the Etawa or the Imdadkhanigharana to which he belonged) has six playable strings, whereas the kharaj-pancham sitar, used in the Maihargharana, to which the late Pandit Ravi Shankar belonged, has seven. Some of the strings called the chikaari, simply provide a drone; the rest are used to play the melody, though the first string (baajtaar) is most used.

The instrument has two bridges: the large bridge (badaagoraa) for the playing and drone strings and the small bridge (chotagoraa) for the sympathetic strings. The bridges are fixed to the main resonating chamber, or kaddu, at the base of the instrument. Some sitars have a secondary resonator, the tumbaa, near the top of the hollow neck.

Materials used in construction include teak wood or tun, a mahogany-like wood, for the neck and faceplate (tabli), and gourds for the kaddu and tumbaa. The instrument’s bridges are made of deer horn, ebony, or very occasionally from camel bone. Synthetic material is now common as well.The inlay decorations are mostly of mother of pearl.

The sitar’s distinctive sound results from the way the strings interact with the wide, sloping bridge. As a string reverberates its length changes slightly as its edge touches the bridge, promoting the creation of overtones and giving the sound its distinctive tone. The maintenance of this specific tone by shaping the bridge is called jawari.

Some notable sitar vaadans who have performed on the Raag-Mala stage include Ustad Vilayat Khan, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee, Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee, UstadShujaat Khan and UstadShahidParvez.

Sarod

Pandit Rajeev Taranath & Pandit Tejendra Narayan 1

With its deep, weighty and introspective sound, the Sarod is one of the most prominent stringed instruments in Hindustani shastria sangeet.  Its name roughly translates to “beautiful sound” or “melody” in Persian. The instrument is an adaptation of the Afghan Rabab, which arrived in India during the 16th century.

The modern classical Sarod is about 100 cm (39 inches) long and has a slightly waisted wood body with a skin belly. The broad neck has a wide fretless fingerboard covered in metal to accommodate characteristic sliding pitches. The modern version has four to six main melodic strings, plus two to four others; some of the strings may be paired in double courses tuned in unison or at the octave. In addition, there are sympathetic and drone strings. The seated player holds the instrument across his lap. The strings of the Sarod are plucked with a plectrum held in the right hand, while the fingernails of the left hand press the strings.

The modern form of the instrument was designed in the 19th century. Two prominent Indian schools of Sarod playing are those of Allauddin Khan and Ghulam Ali Khan, each with its own playing style, type of Sarod (e.g., size, shape, and number of strings vary), and tuning system.

Tracing his music lineage to the legendary MianTansen, Ustad Baba Allauddin Khan (1862-1972) is reputed to have mastered many instruments such as Tabla, Violin, Sursringar and Surbahar, before turning to the Sarod. As father and guru of Ali Akbar Khan and Annapurna Devi, as well as the guru of Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Bannerjee and Pannalal Ghosh among others, Baba Allauddin Khan has had an unrivalled influence in modern instrumental Indian classical music.

UstadAmjad Ali Khan, currently one of the most accomplished Sarod players, traces his roots to the other influential gharana, one that has Ghulam Ali Khan as its key exponent. His sons Aman and Ayaan are also much sought after sarodiyas. Another brilliant exponent from this gharana is Pandit Buddhadev Das Gupta, a senior instructor at Sangeet Research Academy, who has thrilled Raag-Mala audiences in the past.

Some other seniorsarodiyas who have performed on the Raag-Mala stage include Padma Shree Pandit Brij Narayan, Pandit Rajeev Taranathand Pandit Tejendra Narayan.

Sarangi

Pandit Ramnarayan & Ustad Sultan Khan 1

Traditionally the Sarangi served primarily as accompaniment for vocal music and kathak dance. However, due to the pioneering efforts of several musicians, notably, Pandit Ram Narayan, the Sarangi today enjoys the status of a solo classical instrument.

The reputed difficulty of this instrument and its age-old association with dance had resulted in a decline in popularity as an accompanying instrument over the last century. However, more recently the Sarangi is again in ascendance, as rasiks prefer it in accompaniment to the Harmonium, the hand-pumped organ imported from Europe, which had replaced the Sarangi in its role as an accompanying instrument.

Structurally, the Sarangi is an unfretted, bowed lute and is carved from a single block of wood with a skin covered sound box. The modern instrument has three bowed gut strings and numerous (as many as 40) sympathetic strings. These strings resonate when the main strings are bowed giving the instrument its wonderful, shimmering sound.

The strings are stopped, not by pressing against the fingerboard like the violin, but by sliding the fingernails along the sides of the strings facilitating a great range of ornamentation, meend (glissando) and sustained tone that is essential for Hindustani music. Both in the slow introduction of the raag (alaap) and later in the rapid cascades of notes (taans) the Sarangi is capable of astonishing virtuosity, emotion, and power.

In addition to Pandit Ramnarayan, other notable Sarangi masters include the late Ustad Sultan Khan, Pandit Ramesh Mishra andUstadSabri Khan.

Tabla

Ustad Alla Rakha and Ustad Zakir Hussain & Pandit Swapan Chaudhury 1

The Tabla is principal accompanying percussion instrument in Hindustani shastria sangeet, and has gained much favour around the globe in recent years.

Although the two drums together are popularly known as Tabla, technically, the term refers to the main drum (also known as the Dayan, meaning the right) which is played by the dominant hand, and the second drum is known as the Bayan (the left).

The Dayan is a single-headed cylindrical drum made from wood about 25 cm (10 inches) in height and 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter, with typically goat skin at the top. Skin tension is maintained by thong lacings and wooden dowels that are tapped with a hammer to tune the instrument to the tonic pitch (sa) of the accompanying singer or instrument.

The Bayan, which is generally played with the left hand, is about 25 cm (10 inches) in height and the drum face is about 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. It is usually made of copper but may also be made of clay or wood, with a hoop and thong lacings to maintain skin tension. The tuning of the Bayan varies up to an octave below the Dayan.

The playing technique is complex and sound is produced on the drums through a variety of different finger and hand strokes. Each drum stroke can be expressed by a corresponding syllable (bol), used for both teaching and performance purposes.