Guest Author - Preena Deepak
The sitar is an integral part of Indian classical music and Indian culture. This stringed instrument was designed more than 600 years ago and its origin can be traced back to the Moghul Empire. The tambura, another classical Indian instrument closely resembles the sitar and both belong to the lute family. The Sitar produces a twangy, deep resonating sound and was used in Indian worship rituals in the past. Sitar is largely used in Hindustani music which is renowned in North India while the veena, a close cousin and counterpart of the sitar is used in carnatic music which is popular in South India.
Sitar is made out of wood and it's neck often ends in a smaller gourd which acts as a resonating chamber. Sitar musician’s balance the round base of the instrument on the left foot and right knee while performing. There also exists a simpler form of sitar with fewer strings in which the gourd or resonating chamber is absent. Ethnic patterns often adorn the sitar.
The sitar is similar to the guitar in that it is a stringed instrument. It has 19 to 23 metal strings and 20 movable frets. However, unlike the guitar which is played using a plectrum or a pick, sitarists use a mizrab which can be attached to the finger to play the instrument.
Pundit Ravi Shankar is India’s renowned sitarist with several accolades in playing this instrument. He popularized the sitar beyond the Indian soil and made it one of India’s best known classical instruments. The maestro teamed up with The Beatles and introduced the sitar into pop music. Further his work has played a significant part in the fusion of Indian classical music with jazz music.
Another innovation in the sitar namely the electric sitar emerged in the 60’s with a fret board and tuning similar to a guitar. This was much easier to play than the traditional sitar with its numerous strings. However, the absence of movable frets which is a highlight of the sitar proved a huge disadvantage because of which the electric sitar failed to make inroads in the world of music.
Playing the sitar is tough and challenging. In ancient times, teachers of music had pupils residing with them to learn to play the sitar. However there are simpler ways to learn the sitar now. With the prominence of sitar in world music, new sitarists are constantly emerging making the twangy notes of this Indian instrument echo across the globe.
Here's the link to buy Pandit Ravi Shankar's Biography
Buy "My Music, My Life" from Amazon.com
You can buy a sitar from the link below
Buy a Sitar from Ali Akbar College Store