There are many fans of the sarod and sarangi. Both these instruments have become an integral component of Indian classical music, yet their origins are little known to many – they can be traced back to an ancient instrument called the rabab.
Though very popular from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, especially in Indian classical music, the instrument faded into near oblivion, and was replaced by the sarod and the sitar. However, in Afghanistan, some parts of West Asia and in Kashmir, it still holds a steady niche for itself.
In India, a rabab gharana in Kreeri village in Kashmir’s Baramulla district likes to hold themselves responsible for the instrument’s persistence in the region. For generations, as this video by Kashmir Vision shows, the family has followed the tradition of playing the rabab across the world, starting with Sonaullah Bhat.
Sonaullah was a staff artist with All India Radio in Srinagar from 1932 to 1962, and performed in countries across the world. Legend has it, as his son Ghulam Nabi Bhat states in the video that Sonaullah was invited to Kabul once by the Badshah, where he defeated a Pathan in a rabab face-off. “The Badshah suggested his immediate evacuation through the night, or Pathans would chop off his hands,” Ghulam Nabi Bhat told Kashmir Vision.
The members of the family have stuck to the tradition, playing the rabab around the world. Abdul Hamid Bhat, one of Sonaullah’s grandsons, has even started a school to teach the playing of the instrument, called the Sonaullah Bhat Music Centre Kreeri, and tutored Yawar Bhat, the youngest rabab player in the family.
“I think rabab is in my blood,” he says in the video. “Like my grandfather, his brother and my uncle, I want to take this tradition ahead.”