It was almost a mandate in Bollywood to use saxophone as a basic foundation over the ornamental percussions in the very recent past. And, today the popular Hindi cinema music is shifting fast to remixing and remaking old songs with EDM loops. What is wrong, with our music, are we so dry in our home, that we have always to go back to the waters of the sea washed away from a foreign land.
Our roots are deep seated in a variety of percussion and stringed instruments, which we hardly see or hear in our popular media, be that Television or film. We have so many diversity that it along can bring down the glory of mighty European operas to dust and blow up the potential of what actually is believed to be ‘hit music’ in our country. Tour through the most underrated musical instruments, that do not make the main stream music in most cases.
Rabab was actually renovated to a musical instrument called sarod. Rabab is a surprisingly widely known stringed instrument as it has toured the length and breadth of places like Asia and Africa. The beauty of rabab like most instruments is in playing. It can be bowed and plucked as well.
Tambura is a long stringed instrument with a resonator made of gourd, tambura does not produce a characteristic melody that is mostly unheard of in popular genre, but also produces a great aesthetic value to the tradition or a culture it belongs to. Any tambura you would pick will talk of the precision involved in designing the intricacies of the body art done on it.
Morsing is one of the most quirky designs that a musical instrument can have. It is believed to have originated in Greece and was popularly used to sing lyrics. It is a tiny prong shaped instrument with a metal stick running through its length. The prongs are placed in the mouth between the upper and lower lip and the string is plucked producing a sound that could well replicate the mating calls of the animals in a pond.
Esraj is one of my favourite all time drug. Dilruba or Esraj is the successor of the Taus from the yesteryears. It is played with a bow and has 18 strings and frets along the necks. The Holy Gurmat Sangeet is accompanied with this instrument. It is interesting that except for one, the rest of the strings in this instrument are sympathetic strings. It is unfortunate though, that such a purely magical instrumental could not make it to mainstream music and is stuck only to the religious and the folks.
Swarmandal is the very oriental harp, that is mostly used with Indian classical vocals. This stringed instrument is hooked to a wooden board and is free to use according to the musician. It is fascinating that this 36 string instrument can be tuned according to the preference of the musician and is not dependant on a set of rules. Unlike most instruments the use of this instrument varies from raga to raga. Besides, the swarmandal is played by the lead vocalist itself.
Ghatam is a clay pot, re alloyed with copper, iron and brass which is sometimes boosted with more water or clay as required. It has a wide range of tonality from the mouth to its bottom. While in the carnatic, ghatam accompanies mridangam, in Punjab the same is called garha and is popular in the folk music.
Kanjira resembles almost a tambourine and is a leathered percussion that is used mostly in carnatic music. While the popular soundscape occasionally forays in the mridangam of the Southern classical genre it hardly manages to touch this difficult to play and much more interesting piece of instrument. Kanjira requires expertise and precision because it has a pretty sophisticated pitch tuning system. Amazingly, there are records of the use of this instruments in places like the Eastern part of the country and even the valleys of Nepal.
Kamanche is one of the most authentic and primitive bowed instrument that predates the existence of rabab or sarangi.
Veena is an archaic instrument of seven strings that find references in both mythology, religion and history which dates back as old as the cave paintings. It is believed to deliver all the gamakas in carnatic music, which in itself is a feat that only few vocalists are believed to have.
It is nothing short of surprises that our music end up sounding the same; while we have so much of meat at our backyard rotting for no good. It’s time we demand some taste and variety from our composers, it’s time that our music starts sounding a little less dependent on the visuals and is largely focussed on the merits of the qualities associated with music exclusively.