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     Volume 2 Issue 110 | March 15, 2009|


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Sound & Rythms

Sarangi - the voice of a hundred colors

Nazia Ahmed

HAVE you ever tried to think of music in terms of colours? If so then what do you think the Raaga Durga might look like? Or Raaga Kalyan that comes from the queen of Raagas, Eman? The Sarangi or Saurangi is well-known in India characteristically as 'the voice of hundred colours'. It is derived from two words of Hindi: 'sau' means '100' and ârangâ is translated to 'colour'. It's twanged metallically sounding tone with a pronounced echo might surprise one who gets its sound for the first time in the ear. The Sarangi is far superior for the accentuation of Raaga scales to all in the western world known Indian instruments like the Sarod, Santoor or Sitar.

The Sarangi is an Indian bowed string instrument. Among different myths and theories that climb around its origin, one says that the Sarangi originated in ancient times when a weary traveller hakim (doctor) laid down under a tree to rest in a forest. He was startled by a strange sound from above, which he eventually found to be caused by the wind blowing over the dried-up skin of a dead monkey, stretched between some branches. With this unlikely event as his inspiration, he proceeded home and constructed the first Sarangi. It is squat and box-like, carved from a single piece of hardwood (usually Indian Cedar), with three gut melody strings (tuned do-so-do) and a baffling array of up to 40 metal tarab (sympathetic strings). The body has a goatskin face on which rests an elephant-shaped bridge of ivory or bone. The Sarangi is held vertically, neck uppermost, and the strings are stopped not with the fingertips but with the backs of the nails. A characteristic feature of Sarangi playing is the very smooth meend (glissandos) and gamakas (oscillations around the note). Talcum powder is used on the palms of the hands to facilitate easy sliding on the neck.The heavy bow is held with an underhand grip. Among the current masters of the instrument are Pandit Ram Narayan and Ustad Sultan Khan; they have achieved conspicuous success despite a general decline in the fortunes of the Sarangi, brought about both by its poor image (associated as it is with the accompaniment of dancing-girls), and by competition from the considerably sturdier and less troublesome harmonium. Sir Yehudi, the famous violinist of the western classical period, was occupied intensively with the sarangi culture on his numerous musical journeys. The strings of the sarangi come alive when Pandit Ram Narayan's fingers glide over them. “It is sad that a beautiful instrument like this one is becoming extinct" he said. Later Ustad Sagiruddin Khan of Delhi Gharana, a Sarangi maestro rejuvenated its colors with his expertise in the mid 60s.

(Sources: Internet)

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