A man and a Sarangi

It has the ability to take out the emptiness from one’s heart. The clear and deep sound that emanates from the instrument touches the most intimate chords and almost brings one to tears. Unlike the cacophony that passes for music these days, this soulful instrument infuses in one almost a feeling of piety.

This instrument is a 150-year-old Sarangi and playing it is the young Sarwar Hussain (all of 23 years). The occasion is the latest series of SPIC-MACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth). His performances at the School of Architecture at Institute of Environment Planning and Technology left the audience enthralled on Wednesday.

After a brief introduction, he started off with Raag Charu Kesi (one of the many Raagas in Indian classical music). The heavy 45-stringed instrument seemed to be entirely pliable in the hands of Sarwar. His left hand deftly touched the metallic strings and the bow in his right hand slid effortlessly over the three main melody strings. As the melody flowed slowly and steadily through Sarangi, the sounds of Swarmandal (an Indian rhythm instrument) played by Farooq Hussain, in the background, blended beautifully. Even as the soulful sound created a sort of unexplained sorrow in the heart, this soon enough turned into joyous triumph. As Sarwar continued to play, the audience were intoxicated.


Then rhythm was added with a sudden ‘thap’ on tabla (another old rhythm instrument) by Nafees Ahmed Khan. This allowed the audience to have a taste of a more steady flow of melody for a change. Now it was Nafees’ turn to face the challenge of catching the ‘sam’ that became more and more unpredictable as Sarwar became intense in his playing. And just when the audience felt that they had caught the ‘sam’ came the abrupt ‘thap’ and both the artists smiled, evidently enjoying the synchronization.

The next composition in Raag Des set on Teen Tal saw the audiences swaying their heads and humming along as Sarwar played the well-known verse from Ramayana- ‘Hari anant hari katha ananta’. Here was a familiar tune that most remembered from the title track of the televised version of this famous mythological tale. This was broken sometimes in between when he played the Doha and then came back to the mellifluous tune, winning deafening applause.

While interacting with the audiences, Sarwar Hussain briefed the audience about Sarangi. The instrument, he said, was made of a special wood called ‘tun’ (Indian Cedar) and it has 42 metallic strings. The three other strings are made of ‘gut’.  It has roots in Ramayana and is said to be the instrument of Ravana who played it while worshipping the deity Madhava. Later, its form changed slightly and became what is today known as the Sarangi. His own Sarangi, he added, was 150 years old and he was the seventh generation of musicians from his family.


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