August 2008

Ravi Shankar has proved to be the most influential musician in western world. His concerts held in western auditoriums have always been sold out hits. Other noticeable performers with sitar are Vilayat khan and Nikhil Banerjee.


Apart from stringed instruments like Veena, Sitar, Sarod, and the lesser known Surbahar, Sursingar, Santoor, other instruments used in Hindustani music are Wind Instruments, bowed instruments and Percussion Instruments. Wind instruments include Bansuri (Bamboo Flute), Shehnai, and Harmonium whereas Bowed Instruments are;

Sarangi, Esraj (or Dilruba), and Violin. Percussion Instruments are Tabla, and Pakhawaj. Some of the famous Hindustani instrumental artists associated with different instruments are;


Sitar – Enayet Khan, Pt Ravi Shankar, Shahid Parvez, Vilayat Khan

Sarod – Allaudin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

Surbahar – Imrat Khan, Annapurna Devi

Veena – Birendra Kishor Roy Chowdhury, Asad Ali Khan

Tabla – Chatur Lal, Alla Rakha, Pt.Kishen Maharaj, Zakir Hussain, Yogmaya Shukla

Slide Guitar – Brij Bhushan Kabra, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

Vichitra Veena – Dr Lalmani Misra, Pt Gopal Krishna

Shehnai – Bismillah Khan

Santoor -Shivkumar Sharma, Omprakash Chaurasia

Sarangi – Ram Narayan, Ustad Sultan Khan

Esraj – Ashish Bandopadhyay, Ranadhir Roy

Violin – N.Rajam, Allaudin Khan, L.Subramaniam


Carnatic music players are;

Mridangam Players – Palghat Mani Iyer, Palani Subramaniam Pillai, Mannargudi Easwaran, and Guruvayur Dorai

Flute Players – N.Ramani, Thyagarajan, Mala Chandrasekharan, Sikkil Sisters

Violinists – Rajamanikkam Pillai, Papa Venkataramiah, T.N. Krishnan, M.S.Anantharaman

Ghatam Players – T.H. Vinayakam, N. Govindarajan


The main secondary instrument is violin but this useful and musical instrument always had high privileged position amongst the practitioners of music. Other percussion instruments normally used in carnatic music are mridangam, a double-conical, two-headed drum, basically used for rhythmical effect. Every instrument is associated with one particular practitioner of it. Like, shehnai is associated with Bismillah Khan whereas sarangi is associated almost exclusively with Ram Narayan. The names are associated primarily because they have achieved national and international fame courtesy their talents in playing that particular instrument. Interestingly, one of the concert halls in Tehran is named after Bismillah Khan because of his proficiency with shehnai. Shehnai is most commonly heard in north Indian marriage functions.


Other famous players include, Zakir Hussain, an internationally admired tabla player. He is also credited to collaborate with several western musicians and produced many fusion recordings.   There have been many notable tabla players, but a phenomenon unto himself has been Zakir Hussain, who has also combined with various western musicians to produce many “fusion” recordings. To showcase his real talent just a single fact will suffice and that is tabla is basically an accompanying instrument but he has performed many solo performances. Shiv Kumar Sharma is renowned for his Santoor playing skills. Santoor is a Kashmiri folk instrument with more than 100 strings. He brought this instrument in the focus of classical music on the sheer strength of his talent.  

The most popular and used instrument in North Indian or Hindustani music is generally either the sitar which has a long-neck fret lute, or the sarod. Later one is a plucked lute sans any frets and it also has a relatively shorter neck than the sitar. There are several other stringed instruments as well which are heavily used in this genre of music. The list includes Surbahar, similar to sitar albeit a bit larger and sarangi, another short-necked bowed lute.


Hindustani music also uses several wind instruments like Bansuri and Sehnai. Bansuri is a flute made of bamboo and it is played using holes in its side. It has approximately six or seven holes which are blown from the side and that action produces that magical sound. Whereas Sehnai has no keys and it is played straight up by blowing it from the top. Other notable instruments are Tabla and Tanpura. Tabla is sort of small drums, in a pair. These two combined with other mentioned instruments provide that soothing music in any concert. All of them have this rhythmic connection with each other.


Talking about Carnatic music or South Indian music, most used instrument is Vina. It has seven strings and a long neck with fretted plucked lute. In carnatic music Bansuri and Sehnai is replaced by Vina and Nagaswaram respectively. Nagaswaram is a double reed instrument with finger holes.

One of the most important rags of Hindustani sangeet is rag Yaman. Yaman is the primary rag in Kalyan. One of the first rags to be taught in musical classes, the origin of rag Yaman is not confirmed. Historians are divided about its origin. Some ascribe its origin to Persian tradition whereas some others find its roots in carnatic music. Rag Yaman is also known as Kalyani in classical carnatic music. In its essence it can be traced back to Greek era as well as Indian origins.


Rag Yaman has got very peaceful and serene effect. This rag is also associated with evening time. This rag is also related to Bilawal. Both of these are taught early in musical teaching. This rag is also suitable for harmonium playing because of the simple fact that it can be easily played by just using white keys on the instrument.


Famous songs based on this rag is ‘Aap ke anurodh pe main ye geet’, ‘Aaye ho meri zindagi mein’, ‘Abhi na jao chodke’, ‘Ansu bhari hai ye jivan ki rahe’, ’Ang ang rang jhalakae’, ’Ansu samajh ke kyu mujhe’, ‘Bada dukh dina tere lakhan ne’, ‘Bade bhole ho’, ‘Bhuli hui yadon’, ‘Chandan sa badan chanchal chitvan’, ‘Chuppa lo yun dil mein pyar mera’, ‘Dil diya dard liya’, ‘Dil-e-betab ko sine se’, ‘Dil job hi kahega manenge’ etc among others. The way this rag is popularly used, this is going to be a part of musical jounrney for a long time to come.

Songs are based on rags and ragas are numerous. Ragas used in tandem with soothing music results into melodious and touching music. There are many classical ragas which have been used in Indian songs which have been proved to be rage. Few of the famous songs based on classical rags are;


Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal, Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, Manmohan Man mein Ho Tumhi, Radhike tune bansuri churaye are based on rag ‘Adana’.  ‘Abhogi Kanada’ has been used in melodies like, Jiya lage kya karu sajna, Na jaiyo re sautan ghar sainyan etc. Rag ‘Ahir Bhairav’ has been used in songs like Apne jeevan ki uljhan ko, Albela sajan aayo re, Chalo man jaye ghar apne, Dheere dheere subah hui hai jag uthi zindagi, Humein koi gam nahi tha, game-aashiqi se pehle, Mai ri mai, Ram teri ganga maili ho gayi, Vandana karo archana karo, Zindagi ko savarna hoga, Solah baras ki baali umar ko salam, Pucho na kaise maine rain bitayi etc.


Other rags starting with A include Alhiya bilawal, Anandi, Asavari, Audav bilawal etc. songs based on these rags are, Udjaje re kaga, Yaad piya ki aaye etc. Musical fraternity has been blessed with number of rags which has inspired composers since ages to produce soothing music. Bahar, Bageshri, Barawa, Bhairav, Bhairavi, Basant vihar, Bhairagi bhairav, Basant mukhri, Bhimpalasi, Bhatiyar, Bhinasadaj, Bhupal todi etc.