The strong influence of dhrupad, beenkar and Seniya rabab traditions on sitar and sarod players are evident in their influence on the evolution of sitar and sarod technique, repertoire and presentation. Equally, sitar and sarod players have been influenced by khayal and this too is obvious in their performances.
In the sixth episode of our series exploring multi-instrumentalists and those who are equally at ease with instrumental music as with vocal music, we listen to three musicians who have each played on an instrument different from their main instrument.
In the case of the renowned sitar player Vilayat Khan, we listen to two tracks with the same raag. The first track has an aalaap or introductory movement of the raag Bilaskhani Todi played by him on the sitar.
The following track features a surbahar recital by Vilayat Khan. Simply put, the surbahar is a bass and larger version of the sitar and therefore lends itself to extended aalaaps or introductory movements replete with meends or long glides between notes and gamaks or quick oscillations around notes. Listeners will also note that the instrument is tuned almost to the fifth of the lower tonic of the sitar from the earlier track. Unlike the previous exposition, this aalaap does not have the unaccompanied rhythmic sections called jod and jhala. The elaboration is more reposeful and spaced out obviously because the instrument allows for such a treatment.
Respected sarod player Radhika Mohan Moitra plays the raag Jaunpuri. He plays an aalaap followed by two gats or instrumental compositions set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units.
The next track features the raag Jaunpuri presented by Radhika Mohan Maitra on the mohan veena, an instrument that he invented. It resembles the sarod in many ways, but importantly does not have the skin-top across the belly as is the case with the sarod. Instead, it has a wooden top across the belly like the one on the sursringar. This is one of the many reasons for a tonal quality distinct from that of the sarod. The mohan veena is also tuned lower than the sarod. (Although the descriptor for this track mentions the instrument as sursringar, Arnab Chakraborty, sarod player and representative of this tradition, confirmed that this was indeed a mohan veena.)
The respected rudra veena player Zia Mohiuddin Dagar, one of the chief exponents of the Dagar lineage, plays on the next two tracks. He plays an aalaap in the raag Bhairavi on both tracks, the first one on rudra veena and the second on the sitar.