the Instrument - Sarangi
whose versatility cannot be doubted. The name itself reflects this,
and is believed to be a derivative of Sarang (Sanskrit for 'spotted
deer') or Saurangi (Hindi for 'of a hundred colours'). The antiquity
of the sarangi cannot be questioned either, for the instrument finds
mention in both the
Ain-i-Akbari and the Sangita Ratnakara
the sarangi is a small instrument, no more than two and a quarter feet
high. Carved out of a singel piece of wood, it has a hollow body, with
a one-inch thickness at the upper and lower surfaces, and less than
half-an-inch thickness at the sides. The instrument is strengthened
by a bar across its height. There is a parchment-covered belly usually
with holes and 'waist'. This shaping is more marked on the left side.
The three main playing strings (made of gut) and one brass sympathetic
string are tuned by the four pegs in the lower part of the peg-box on
the side. The upper part of the peg-box has eleven tuning pegs for the
other sympathetic strings which may be from thirty-five to forty in
number. The sarangi is conspicuous by the absence of frets.
The strings are suspended by four bone bridges: one bridge carries the
playing and the sympathetic strings through different notches, the second
bridge raises the main playing strings approximately half-an-inch above
the instrument; two bridges carry five or six sympathetic strings each.
These bridges resemble the sitar bridge and, similarly, serve to enhance
The bow (made of horsehair) is held in the right hand while the left
hand is used to stop the strings. A distinctive style emerges through
the 'fingering' technique: the strings are stopped by bending the finger
and working with the nail next to the cuticle. The third finger is used
most often while playing, the middle and index fingers next. On a rare
occasion is the little finger used.
Interestingly enough, the music produced by the sarong, more than that
of any other instrument, is believed to resemble the human voice. It
is thus the ideal instrument for musical accompaniment, and allows the
singer to pause without causing a break in the singing. It can be played
simultaneously with the singing, it can fill in gaps, or 'shadow' the
song by being played just a little behind it.
The magic of the sarangi is its bane as well! Since it easily imitates
the human voice, it can prove a distraction for the singer. Besides,
the large number of sympathetic strings that create the special sounds
demand a lengthy time-period for tuning. The sarangi requires mastery
(of playing and tuning) and maturity (in understanding the raga & not intruding on the vocalist). It is due to the skill of the sarangiyas
that the sarangi has come into its own as a solo instrument.