This rare Rajasthani musical instrument needs your attention
In a mud hut with a thatched roof, shielding us from the glare of the desert sun, Bhanvru Langa offered us our first glimpse of the surinda, a rare musical instrument. “There are only about 15 plays in India. My father brought it back from Pakistan many years ago and only he and I play it in our samaj,” Bhanvru told us. We were immediately intrigued.
On the surinda trail
My partner and I had accompanied our talented friend and musician Nawab Khan, to explore the unique village of Badnawa, 100 km from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, which is home to over 500 Langa musicians, who are generational professional musicians who have traditionally performed for rich bosses to earn a living.
Today, their music is recognized worldwide. Some of the musicians we met had thick passports and stories of their performances in Europe, America, Canada, Asia and the Middle East. While many of them had accompanied classical musicians like Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain on international concerts, some found recognition in popular Bollywood music and TV shows like Coke Studio. Some of the younger musicians are now broadcasting their work on digital platforms. Sikandar Langa, one of the musicians we met in the village, showed us a YouTube video of him singing Choti Si Umar, a traditional Rajasthani folk song, which has over five lakh views.
Most of the musicians in Langa play Sindhi Sarangi, but we were surprised to notice another string instrument that looked quite different. It was the surinda, Bhanvru told us, a single-bowed wooden chordophone. When we closed our eyes and listened to Bhanvru play surinda, the music had a calming effect on us, instantly transporting us to a moonlit night in a desert.
Ropes are traditionally constructed from steel and goat gut. This instrument can have a varying number of strings, with simpler versions having five to seven strings and the more complex ones having 11 to 13 strings. Outside of Rajasthan, surinda is played in Iran, Pakistan, and parts of eastern India.
How surinda reached Rajasthan
About 40 years ago, renowned musicologist and founder of Rupayan Sansthan, Komal Kothari took my father, Mehruddin Langa and some prominent musicians to a music fair held in Pakistan. This is where Komal Da spotted the surinda played by one of the performers in the show. He loved the sound and wanted to bring it to India, ”Bhanvru told us. Sipping on his hot chai, he continued, “Komal Da told my father that if he learned how to play surinda well, he would find several ways to play with it. , and that’s how the instrument came to us “.