Music is a cultural artifact that spans this entire globe. Every culture has a form of music for which it means many things. Music can be a form of storytelling, keeping ancient tales alive. Music can be a form of entertainment. Music can change listener’s emotions and can inspire. Indian culture is rich in musical history and traditions. The basis for Indian music is “sangeet”. Sangeet is a combination of three art forms: vocal music, instrumental music and dance. Over time, they have evolved into very refined and individual entities.
The most notable Indian instruments include the Tablas (thank you Emily), the Sitar, the Shehnai, and the Sarangi. These instruments have been part of the Indian culture for ages and have evolved over time to be used in multiple musical genres. Emily went into detail about the Tabla, however I would like to focus on the other instruments, and how they have found their way into mainstream music culture.
The Sitar’s early origins date back to the 13th century and the instrument has remained virtually unchanged since then. The sitar is most closely related to a modern guitar. It is comprised of a neck (Dandi), a base (Kadu), strings (Tar), and frets (Parda). The sounds that this instrument makes are beautiful and sometimes haunting. Please follow this link to listen to the Sitar. One of the foremost Sitar players from India is Nikhil Banerjee, click here. The Sitar has become more popular over time and one famous band found ways to incorporate it into their music. Check out â€œAcross the Universeâ€ by the Beatles.
The Shehnai is the northern Indian term for a flute like instrument. Its southern Indian name is the Nadaswaram. This instrument can be found on any sidewalk being played by professionals or peddlers. The origins of this instrument cannot be perfectly placed. The Shehnai is a wind instrument that is played with your mouth. The holes in the body of the instrument help to create the sound you hear. It is popular for snake charmers to use this instrument to entertain for a fee. Uslah Bismillah Khan is a professional Shehnai player; here is some of his work. Khan plays the instrument in a classical fashion, and the sound can be compared to the sound Dave Mason made in the Rolling Stones song â€œStreet Fighter Manâ€ from 1968.
Lastly, the Sarangi is an instrument that didn’t become main-stream in Indian music until the 18th century. It is the instrument whose sound is said to most resemble the human voice. The Sarangi is a bowed and string instrument and the use of two hands is necessary to making the correct sounds. A traditional rendition of the Sarangi can be found here. In 1997, the band Aerosmith included the Sarangi in their song â€œTaste of Indiaâ€.
Indian musical instruments have had a great impact on the evolution of Indian music, Rock and Roll, and lately American popular music. Today we hear Indian instruments in many songs and now Indian musical artists are making headway in the American music market. Panjabi MC has collaborated with rapper/business mogul Jay-Z in the song â€œBeware of the Boysâ€. A.R. Rahman has made a name for himself in America by making the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack a hit with songs like â€œJai Hoâ€ and â€œO Sayaâ€.
I hope that everyone will listen to some Indian music before we head overseas. Music allows an individual to experience the sounds in their own way. I find Indian music to be ancient, mysterious, relaxing, and entrancing. I hope that everyone gets to experience this kind of music and the sounds that these instruments make.