Nepali Sarangi is a folk instrument that is played by bowing. Traditionally, the Sarangi was played by the Gandharvas or Gaaine (गाइने in Nepali), whose profession was to sing narrative and folk songs using the instrument all over Nepal. However, other people of different caste widely use and play the Sarangi. The use of Sarangi has crossed the boundaries of just folk songs and is used in various rock music in concerts and movies.
Sarangi is made from a single piece of wood and has a neck and hollowed-out double-chambered body. It is usually made from readily available trees such as AAP, saaj, khirra, or lakuri. The lower portion of the Sarangi is generally covered by goat or sheep’s dried skin, while the upper part is left open.
Sarangis come in various shapes and sizes, which can differ from the player and their preference. The neck is fretless, and the strings are tied upon and tuned with the tuning pegs. Traditionally, Nepali Sarangi has four strings which are usually made using sheep’s intestine.
During various festivals like Dashain, different cattle like goats and sheep are sacrificed, and the intestine of these animals is taken by Gandharvas and stored in pots for some days. When the entrails are entirely rotten, it is pulled out, leaving many delicate nerves of the intestine. These nerves are woven to make Sarangi’s strings. Nowadays, various lines of badminton, nylon, and steel have replaced the gut strings. Similarly, Bow was strung with fine horse tail-hair traditionally and is now replaced by nylon bowstrings.
Tuning of Sarangi
The tuning of the Sarangi provides a range of almost two octaves and is tuned in 5ths. From right to left, the strings of Sarangi are adjusted to lower fifth, root, root, and fifth notes of a significant key. The 2nd and 3rd strings are used as a drone. The tuning is checked by the player’s ear according to their discretion or tuned with western music.
There are various methods to produce Sarangi notes. Usually, the players play the Sarangi with their left hands slightly pressing the strings and the right hands bowing. Some players rub their left-hand fingernails to rub against the strings to create sound.
Traditionally, the Gandharvas bowed the root note continuously along with the song’s notes. The root node’s continuous sound provides the ambiance as the Gandharvas only play the Sarangi while singing their songs. But nowadays, the Sarangi is played with other instruments, so constant bowing of root node is unnecessary.
Gandharvas are the cast members famous for singing various historical, social, political, and cultural songs like gatha, karkha, gatha saba, etc. these are the songs that were written to praise kings, ministers, and other national and international figures.
Gandharvas travel to different places to sing songs of legendary heroes, history, tales, and people’s lives in their journey. This tradition is still followed by various generations of the Gandharvas and earn their livings. They now collaborate with multiple musicians and work with them to produce modern music compositions.
Jhalak Man Gandharva is one of the most famous and legendary singers and Sarangi players who have produced many songs using Sarangi. His most famous song is Aama Le Sodhlin.
Various modern bands like Kutumba who are inspired to learn these traditional songs and instrument. Due to the historical and cultural importance, Sarangi is featured on multiple shows on radio and television, which have helped increase the instrument’s importance.
- Sarangi is a traditional Nepali folk musical instrument, initially played by the Gandharva community, one of many ethnic groups in Nepal whose profession was to sing Nepali folk songs playing this instrument.
- It is made from a single piece of wood that has a neck and hollowed-out double-chambered body.
- The upper chamber is left open and the lower chamber is generally covered up with dried skin of goat or sheep upon which the bridge rests.
- The neck is fretless, and the strings are tied upon and tuned with the tuning pegs.
- The Nepali Sarangi consists of 4 strings made from nylon.