Indian Traditional Music

Sitar & Indian Traditional Music
Sitar is a string instrument, belonging to the family of the long-necked lutes and one of the instruments in traditional Indian music. The body is made from a hollowed pumpkin and the neck is made of tuna wood (Cedrela tuna or teak wood) called SAGU, which grows in the Kashmir region. The smaller resonator or echo box (kaddu/pumpkin), also made of pumpkin, is attached to the upper end of the neck.

There are 7 main strings, which are plucked; 5 for melodies and 2 for drone and rhythmic effects. The sitar also has 11-13 sympathetic strings, which lie under the frets almost parallel to the plucked strings and vibrate giving the instrument its characteristic sound. The strings are made of steel and bronze. The bridge, with 19-23 moveable metal frets was made with ivory, but now deer or camel bone is used. The bridge is placed in the middle of the body and is about 3 cm in width. The strings are plucked by the right forefinger, which has an attached plectrum or MIZRAB.

The very heart of Indian traditional music is the RAGA created by a combination of melody and rhythm, called TALAS. A TALA consists of a repeated cycle of beats, ranging from 3 to over 100 beats in length. RAGA comes from the saying in Sanskrit "Ranjayathi iti Ragah" which means, "that which colours the mind is a raga". Through the beautiful, rich melodies created by sitar every human emotion and every subtle feeling in humankind and nature can be musically expressed and experienced.

Sitar performance should reflect the natural law or flow, for this reason music can change every 3 hours according to the day and night cycle. There are sunrise, morning and evening ragas performed and influenced by the natural rhythm in nature. Ragas are also associated with specific gods, deities, seasons and festivals.
RAGAS are scientific, precise and subtle melodies with innumerable fixed compositions, with the framework (basic rules and techniques) established by tradition. Within the framework of a raga the artist can create and improvise a limitless variety of music. In performance, the artist considers not only the time of day, but also the setting, his mood and the feeling he discerns from the audience creating a resonance between artist and audience.
Sitar is a popular instrument enjoyed all over the world. Sensitive by nature, it is tuned during performance, so the subtle, soft and smooth tones, like a human voice will be heard in all its shades.

In concert, a tabla (Indian drums) and tanpura (4-6 string instrument) accompany the sitar.


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