On World Music Day, Sangeet Natak Akademi inaugurated the five-day Jyotirgamaya festival to showcase musical craftsmanship from across the country. As traditional instruments fade due to their waning popularity and guardianship, the festival aims to raise people’s awareness of the need to safeguard the craftsmanship of making and the skill of playing rare musical instruments. For this, 75 “unpublished” artists will perform at the festival.
Sungna Ram, who makes the ravanhatha, said Ravana is believed to have made this stringed instrument by hand. “I think my family is the 35th generation to make and play this instrument in Rajasthan, especially when we tell stories in certain prayer ceremonies,” he said. Happy to have had the opportunity to present the instrument in the capital, Ram regretted that the demand for ravanhatha (its price starts from Rs 5,000) is down.
Another Rajasthani craftsman, Lalu Khan, makes and plays the string kamaicha. Noting that the country was losing its musical heritage, Khan said: “The new generation is only interested in Bollywood and English songs and does not value traditional music. Moreover, the fact that the price of a kamaicha starts at Rs 32,000 means that people are opting for cheaper instruments. Khan banded together with kamaicha players and Sindhi Sarangi to captivate the crowd by performing the popular folk song ‘Padharo mhare desh’.
During the live instrument-making demonstration, artisans explained that it takes years to complete a single instrument. Rajesh Dhawan from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh revealed that it took 8-10 years to make a sarangi. “After recovering the wood, we leave it aside for five to six years to dry it. A new piece of wood contains a lot of moisture, which affects the sound and causes cracks in the instrument,” Dhawan said. “Once the humidity is completely gone, we need one and a half years to make the sarangi.” Dhawan’s grandfather started making sarangis in the 1960s.
Dulal Chandra Kanji, 85, a sarod maker for more than six decades, said demand for the instrument is low as only classical musicians have purchased it. “Carved from a single log of tun wood, a sarod is made from coconut shell and goatskin,” the Kolkata resident said.
Many instruments made at the event are popular in their specific communities. The urumi, a percussion instrument, is mainly played at temple festivals in southern India, while the dukkad is beaten to accompany the sehnai in northern India. Duitara, ka dymphog, ka besli and ka tanglod are part of Khasi folk music in Meghalaya. “Traditionally, Khasi instruments were only played at home, but now some people have started playing them in stage shows,” said Banniew Nonghri, luthier.
An official from the Sangeet Natak Akademi said, “Even after the end of the World Music Day festivities, we will continue to save the endangered performing arts in India.
look Fading tunes: Sangeet Natak Akademi exhibition brings instruments from across India to life