The Rudra Veena (Been)
The Rudra Veena (or Been) , which is the Vina of the North Indian music, is the oldest string instrument used in Indian classical music. The instrument is depicted in the temple art of the 6th Century A.D. There are also references to a bottle-gourd Veena in texts dated as far back as 500 B.C. This instrument has dominated Indian music for nearly 2000 years. According to legend, the Been was created by the God Shiva while contemplating on the wondorous form of his consort, the Goddess Parvati. The more popular sitar was developed from the Been in about the 14th century. The present day Been features a hollow bamboo tube mounted on two large gourds. These gourds act as resonators. The bamboo fret-board is about 22 inches long and 2 and 1/2 inches wide. On this are nineteen to twentyfour frets set in beeswax. Most Beens have 7 strings. Four of these are fretted and are used as the main melodic strings. Two strings are used as rythmic strings (chikari ) and the seventh is a drone string (laraj ). The strings are plucked with metal plectrums called mizrabs. The large gourds generate a deep, sonorous sound that has a meditative quality to it. The Dhrupad singers It is usually 5 or more tones lower than its younger cousin, the sitar. It has a range of four to four and a half octaves. This vast range allows a master musician to display all the nuances of a raga. Infact, the been is the only plucked instrument that can reproduce the all the subtleties of the Dhrupad singing , which is considered by Indian classical musicians as the purest musical sound and the foundation of all music. In Dagar family there have been many singers who knew Been playing. In fact, there is a lot of influense of Been playing on Dagar style of singing.
This was the reason for its importance in Indian music in the past. Despite its ignificance, the Bin is played by few in India today. This may be due to due its rather quiet tone, which is suited to majestic and meditative music. Moreover, the technique is difficult and exacting, requring long training and practice. It’s sister, the South Indian Veena, still reigns supreme in Carnatic (south Indian classical ) music.
The Pakhawaj is a two-headed percussion instrument that is primarily used to accompany Dhrupad music. The body is barrel shaped and is made of heavy wood. Both its open ends are covered with animal-hide drum heads. The heads are attached to the body by leather cords. These cords are also used to maintain tension and to tune the drum to various pitches. The right head is coated with a paste, which contains iron and the left head is coated temporarily with wet wheat flooor only while playing. This makes the sound of pakhawaj deeper and resonanat.
The result is a drum with a vibrant, low tone. In the hands of a master, it’s rhythm is powerful and almost ecstatic. This provides an evocative basis for improvisation to the main artiste.
The Pahkawaj is used to acommpany Dhrupad singing , the Been and also the Rabab, the Surbahar as well as the Sitar played in the old style of Dhrupad.
Surbahar means ‘melody of Spring’ and the instrument was developed by Sahebdad Khan. The surbahar, which is played in the noble style of dhrupad, with its wide range of over four octaves, its richness of overtones, its majesty of utterance, can be regarded as the most magnificent of all Indian instruments, capable of elevating the listener to a very high level of spiritual experience.
The surbahar is in effect a bass sitar and is played in a similar manner. The resonating chamber again consists of a gourd but in this case the gourd, instead of being sliced downwards as in the sitar, is cut across the top so that the back is flat. The neck is wider and longer than that of the sitar but its frets are fixed. Thus, because the instrument is larger and has longer strings the sound can be held much longer and this quality is further enhanced by pulling the strings across the frets, at a right angle to the neck and so raising the pitch. In addition to its six metal strings, of which four carry the melody and two the drone, and thirteen sympathetic strings underneath, the surbahar has two extra bass strings which give an extra lower octave. Because the surbahar produces a deep, dignified sound it lends itself to the alap, jorh, and jhala portions of a raga.
With each instrument, assiduous practice is necessary in order to develop the strength and technique to control the intonation and quality of the notes produced from them. Mastership over any instrument requires years of intensive and continuous practice (riyaz) and training (talim). This is a lifelong process for the true Ustads and Pandits.