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Close to human voice

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The sarangi, which holds a unique place in Hindustani music, is at once one of the sweetest and most difficult instruments to play. Its tones faithfully follow the human voice. Thus, since the vocal art is given pride of place in Indian music, the sarangi is a well-loved instrument. A bowed instrument, the sarangi requires extreme dedication and endurance from an aspirant. While the bow is held in the right hand, the strings on the neck are manipulated using the cuticles of the left hand, rather than the fingertips, as in most other instruments.

Ghanshyam Sisodia, Delhi-based sarangi exponent, describes the sublimation of this discomfort thus: “We hold the sarangi close to the heart, and this transforms the pain in our fingers into soul-stirring music.”

The body of the sarangi is carved out of a single block of tun wood, hollowed out. Goat leather is stretched across its front face. Approximately 40 strings supported by an elephant shaped bridge of camel bone, reindeer horn or ivory are its other features. The three main playing are made of goat gut. One is a drone (tonic), while there are numerous metal sympathetic strings.

Popular accompaniment

The sarangi, whose name is said to derive from the words ‘sau rangi’ or hundred colours, signifying its versatility, is used both as an accompanying and a solo instrument in the classical music of North India. It is a popular accompaniment to classical dance, particularly Kathak, and is used in light songs and film music too. While Khayal singers often use the harmonium as a convenient accompaniment, the sarangi, thanks to its proximity to the human voice, is traditionally preferred.

Unlike other instruments, the sarangi is not taught in institutions but remains within families. Although students from outside the family circle also learn, a large majority of sarangi exponents hail from long paramparas, or family traditions, passing on the art from grandfather and father to sons and nephews. Women exponents are also rare. Many sarangi exponents regret the lack of institutionalised training options.

Eminent sarangi exponents include Pandit Ram Narayan, Ustad Sultan Khan, Ustad Ghulam Sabir Khan, Ustad Sabri Khan and the younger generation such as Murad Ali and Kamal Sabri among others.

Sarangi Type Stringed

Made of Wood

Stream Hindusthani

Exponents Pt. Ram Narayan, Ustad Sultan Khan and so on.


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