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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Sarangi : Lesson 2

Sarangi is a fretless, bowing, highly evolved instrument, which can reproduce complicated vocal musical passages. Unlike the cello or the violin, the sarangi allows for glides and semi-tones. Its specialty is its facility for ulta meend, ie, meends taken from higher to lower notes. The body of a sarangi is carved from a single block of wood. Its base is covered with skin and the strings are made from animal guts. The belly is pasted to the base, which is hollowed out and partly or wholly covered with a skin table.

On the skin table, a bridge rests and the string-holder is an extension of the base of the belly. The neck of sarangi is without frets. The head pointing north is more or less hollow with a characteristic arch like slit, which resembles an opening mouth.

Folk sarangis usually have four gut strings and three-five sympathetic strings. The classical sarangi sometimes has 13 resonant strings. Sarangis come in various shapes and sizes. No two sarangis are alike. This is its peculiarity. The folk sarangis always carry the initials or an emblem of the person who has made it. Traditionally, sarangi players made their own sarangis.

Different kinds of sarangis are found in the states of India. The Gujarat sarangi is called Gujaratan sarangi, which is very different in construction from the one that is played by the sarangias of Rajasthan. The sarangi is also popular in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. The Uttar Pradesh sarangi is called the jogia sarangi. It has three main strings made of guts, its neck is extremely slender and waist narrow. The Kashmir sarangi, called saran, has a narrower waist than the jogia sarangi. Its body looks a bit like the rabab of Kashmir. The saran has four playing strings, two of steel and two of guts and eight to ten sympathetic strings. A sarangia plays melody using his left hand, while his right hand wields the bow. Tuning, bowing and finger techniques differ according to the gharana of the sarangi player.

Gharanas : Sarangi being a highly researched and evolved instrument can boast of different gharanas, such as: Indore school, the old school, represented by Bundu Khan. Banaras school. Udaipur school, represented by Pt. Ram Narayan and Giridharilal Dhandhra. Jodhpur school, the recent school, represented by Sultan Khan of Jodhpur.

Related Instruments : Israj ; Rabanhatha ; Dilruba ; Belabahar (a new instrument) ; Taar-shehnai

Rehman Baksh (19th century) of Jaipur, a very well-known sarangi player, is remembered today as the teacher of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan. Rehman Khan specialized in three ragas - Ashawari, Sindhu and Barwa. It is said his rendition of raga Sindhu could bring down a sick person's fever. Legend also has that his son Bashir Khan would cover both his hands with a piece of cloth while playing so that his colleagues could not grasp how he was playing and could not copy his technique.

Bundu Khan of the Indore gharana was born around 1880 in old Delhi. He received vigorous training from Mia Sanghi Khan, Mohammed Khan and Mia Ahmed Shah and was unrelenting in his efforts to gain more knowledge and his readiness to learn from anyone. He specialized in rendering myriad varieties of raga Bahar like Bageshwri Bahar, Jaijaianti Bahar, Bilawal Bahar, Shahana Bahar and Adana Bahar. He accompanied all big musicians of his time.

Masit Khan was born around 1888-89. Influenced by Bundu Khan, he came to Mumbai in1920 and accompanied leading vocalists like Kesarbai, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Mallikarjun Mansur, He was loved for his style. Ustad Faiyaz Khan was enamoured of his playing. Pt Omkarnath Thakur called him his right hand and said whenever he sang, he imagined Masit Khan was present. Pt. Omkarnath's earlier records from 1935-50 has Majid Khan wielding the sarangi.

Pt. Ram Narayan is a living legend of sarangi. Born on Dec 25, 1927 in Udaipur, he has equal command over both traditional and contemporary trends of sarangi. He is known for his extreme tunefuleness. A sarangi player had once commented that Ram Narayan's hand flies when he plays, his touch is so light, and at the same time he is always in sur. He is clearly God gifted. He accompanied musicians of the calibre of Bade Ghulam Ali, Gangubai Hangal, Omkarnath Thakur and Kesarbai and has cut many records and discs. He has played for film music composers like Roshan, O.P.Nayyar, Naushad, Anil Biswas, Madan Mohan, Khayyam and S.D.Burman. Pt. Ram Narayan performs regularly in Paris. He has received several awards at the national level. Ghulam Sabir Shakur Khan (1906-1975, honoured with the Padmashree) Ustad Sultan Khan - He represents the Jodhpur gharana. He specializes in playing gamaks and delicate works.

Upcoming artists : Dilshad Khan ; Dhruva Ghosh

Sarangi : Lesson 1 Lesson 2


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