Here we are, on another “Music Monday”! I hope you all enjoy this post while I, your hardworking muse, do a Manhattan-to-Queens all quick poses all day and night with no time to eat dinner rushing to catch trains during harrowing NYC rush hour art modeling double that will keep me posing/undressing/dressing nonstop until 10:00 at night 😮
I don’t know if George Harrison deserves most of the credit, but all the individuals who helped introduced the sitar to western pop music audiences rate a heartfelt “thank you” in my book. A long-necked stringed instrument which dates back to the Middle Ages, the sitar is used primarily in the Hindustani classical music genre which originated in the northern regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
It’s easy to fall in love with the unique, unmistakable sound of the sitar which can be described as mystical and otherworldly. Sitar strings are arranged in a way that creates a “reverb”, a humming drone behind the melody. It’s all in the construction. Underneath the main playable strings are “sympathetic strings”. These are not strummed. They exist only to react and resonate. The resulting vibrations of the sympathetic strings against the bridge create that reverb or distinctive sitar “buzz”. No other stringed instrument sounds anything like the sitar. It is instantly recognizable after just a few notes.
The name we immediately associate with the sitar is, of course, Ravi Shankar, the preeminent sitarist of the past six decades. It was Ravi who gave George Harrison his first sitar lessons, and Harrison was soon incorporating his sitar playing into Beatles’ recordings, the first of which was the beautiful “Norwegian Wood” from the 1965 album Rubber Soul. Harrison developed into a fine sitar player. But Ravi Shankar is a true master. Sitar is an incredibly difficult instrument to play. It requires tremendous dedication, concentration, and years of practice. Even the tuning process is variable and complicated. With no default settings like in other instruments, the sitar is tuned according to the key of the specific music being played and/or the personal preference of the sitarist.
In this video from 1971, Ravi Shankar performs “Raag Bihag”. The close ups are great because you can see the distinctive large curved frets on the neck of the sitar. Also, the whole tuning issue is evident at 3:05 when Shankar pauses to make adjustments. Best of all, we get amazing views of Shankar’s skillful technique, intense focus, and expression of profound spiritual devotion. The man is totally in the zone: