The musical medium of choice to most of us is undoubtedly the human voice.
Using the main note from a musical instrument such as a Tanpura or a voice as a tonic we can explore every detail within a musical scale and experience the rich harmonics and micronotes that are characteristic of most musical traditions, but chiefly those from the east.
Tanpura is a string instrument that we find in India mainly in the classical music tradition. It does not play any melody or rhythm but instead gives a continuous sound of the tonic for the scale that's being used.
A tanpura uses 4 strings, and the first one is tuned in the 5th or 4th note of the tonic, but we can also find tanpuras that uses more strings such as 5 or 6.
The Sitar is one of the most popular musical instruments of North India.
The quality of it's sound, which is rich in harmonics, creates the base and atmosphere for the creation and expression of a Raga, like the canvas to a painter ready to create a painting.
We can find references to the Sitar from the 13th century. Its origin was inspired by the Persian instrument Tar and the Rudra Veena. It has been in it's current form since the 18th century.
Today there are two main variations of the Sitar, the Ravi Shankar and the Vilayat Khan. The main difference is that the Ravi Shankar style has two more (base) strings. Both of them use "sympathetic strings" (strings that vibrate when coordinated with the same frequency) offering a rich sound.
The Sitar is very versatile, making it popular for different styles of music, from Bollywood to Indian classical music.
The Surbahar, or as it's translated, ‘sound of spring’ is similar to the Sitar but larger in size. Due to it's potentially very deep sound it is preferred to play the part of Alap in a Raga. It is also one of the main musical instruments of the Dhrupad tradition.
The Rudra Veena is the oldest stringed musical instrument found in India today.
The Rudra Veena is one of the very first instruments to have been introduced to Indian classical music.
‘Rudra’ is another name of Lord Shiva and therefore, ‘Rudra Veena’ means ‘the Veena that is dear to Lord Shiva’.
Mythology has it that Shiva had created the stringed instrument Inspired by his wife Parvati’s beauty. Linguistically, it is also assumed that the name Rudra is a derivative of the Persian word Rud that means strings.
Ravana is also known as a master of Rudra Veena and he used to worship Lord Shiva by playing it.
The Rudra Veena symbolizes the Indian ethos throughout the subcontinent and connects the listener to the cosmos, as it is the only acoustic string instrument that can produce the sound of Om.
It is called the mother of all string instruments.
This ancient instrument is rarely played in today’s time. Due to its association with Lord Shiva, the Rudra Veena gained popularity among yogis and ascetics.
Its sound was considered to possess the power to uplift the mental state of musician as well as the listeners.
Today, the Rudra Veena is on the verge of extinction that is about to take away with it a great history of Indian classical music.
While it is still worshipped as the greatest of all musical instruments, it is rarely found anymore on musical platforms.
Despite being integral to the esoteric Dhrupad stream of music of North India, the Rudra Veena now has only a handful of practitioners.
It takes lifelong devotion and discipline to master the art.
A new curiosity is being noticed nowadays about its deep, resonating and penetrating quality of music in the fast and restless lifestyle of this globalized world.
The Rudra Veena is being rediscovered by a growing international audience, who are in search of a subtle and fine sound.
Music Therapy and contemporary Yoga practices have also included the sound of the Rudra Veena to relieve stress and anxiety.