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 LESSONS in Indian Music

Sitar : Lesson 1

The sitar is the most celebrated of all Indian string instruments. The sitar represents Indian music worldwide. It has come to be identified solely with north Indian raga-music. It is a highly evolved instrument with its own unique language, technique, and various styles of playing.

There are several theories relating to the sitar's origin. According to one of the theories, Amir Khusro brought an instrument called sehtar from Iran; seh means three and tar means strings. This instrument was modified to suit Indian musical idiom in the 13th century and the sitar was born. According to another theory, supported by certain stalwarts, the modified version of the tritantrik veena is called sitar. These experts believe the sitar was invented as recently as in the 18th century.

The fact is, one cannot find mention of the sitar in any historical references, literature or paintings of India till the 18th century. Many experts are emphatic in their argument that the sitar is not a descendant of the Iranian sehtaar and there is nothing to justify that contention. They firmly hold the sitar to be a descendant of the veena, which went naturally well with dhrupad music. When the khayal came into vogue, it needed an instrument like the sitar to allow for finer embellishments and easier musical movements. If we try to trace the family trees of sitarists, it's difficult to go beyond 200-250 years. In an earlier stage of evolution, the sitar seemed to have been also an accompanying instrument to qawaals, and provided rhythmic movements.

The sitar as we know it today has come a long way in terms of its shape, structure and style of playing. In the hands of Ustad Vilayat Khan, the sitar seems to be capable of reproducing every human vocal detail, inside & outside.

Sitar : Lesson 1 Lesson 2