Music has ancient roots in Jammu and Kashmir. The music of Kashmir signifies cultural glory and not just mere ornamentation or entertainment, but as an intrinsic part of heritage. Kashmir holds a history of traditional musical instruments which became the soul of Kashmiri Music.
Kashmiri Musical instruments were also beautifully used in famous Bollywood movies like Fitoor, Haider, Raazi
Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a Kashmiri historian said Kashmir was not densely populated, in the past and there were more forests.
“In the countryside, there were willow orchards, shades of chinar, and greenery. When the breeze would brush these trees, it would create a natural soothing music.”
We Kashmiris have a natural taste for music and the trees have provided us a sense of rhythm.
He said, “Music from Kashmiri Traditional Music instruments is something that is fascinating to the ears, relaxes the soul and etches in the memory.”
“The music serves as divine food for a person. Therefore, the congregations of Sufis and Saints would create a transcendental effect and would take a person into the divine worlds. Kashmir is the garden for Sufis and saints and these people are attached with the traditional music of the valley.”
Kashmir has a rich variety of musical instruments such as Tumbaknari, Sarang, Rabab, Noet, Nai, Santoor, Sitar, Saz-e-Kashmir etc. and every musical instrument has its own sound, importance, and historical background.
Tumbaknari: It is an earthen shaped instrument which is used for singing in every Kashmiri function, especially the weddings. The instrument is believed to have its origin in Iran. Women folk usually play Tumbaknari during wedding functions in the valley and without it the weddings are incomplete. Tumbaknari is also played in Central Asia but there the Tumbaknari is made of wood and in Kashmir it is made of clay.
Kashmiri Sarang: The 'Kashmiri Sarang' looks like a 'Sarangi' from India.
Kashmiri Sarang is smaller than Sarangi. It is made of a block of wood, preferably of mulberry or teakwood. The entire body is hollow from inside with two combined parts. Both the sides of the lower part are punched and the whole is covered with hide.
Sarang is mostly used by the traditional folk singers in traditional folk music. The sound produced by the Sarang is very soothing and pleasing to ears.
Rabab: Rabab is an integral part of Kashmiri music culture. It is made up of second mulberry wood. It is about three and a half feet in length.
Rabab is usually played during occasions and weddings in the form of songs. It brings peace and composure to the soul.
Rabab is the most pleasant instrument and people cherish it. Many young artists of Kashmir are showing interest in playing Rabab. The main three strings of Rabab and the body are made of goats’ intestinal skin which means this musical instrument bears the soul of someone therefore it is called “Rubab”.
The instrument has started making its marking worldwide.
The word 'Rabab' is pronounced as Rabab in Persian and Rabab in Arabic, which in Arabic is Rab-O-Raba; literary meaning to collect, to make available, to arrange or to manage.
Noet: Noet is traditionally used in Kashmiri music. Noet used for musical purposes is made of brass or copper. It is a round shaped earthen pot which has an opening at the top.
Noet is traditionally used in Kashmiri weddings in combination with the traditional Tumbaknari. It is said water should never be stored in the Noet stored for this purpose; otherwise it will not produce clear music.
Surnai: In Kashmiri language, the normal meaning of ‘Nai’ is related to flute. In Kashmiri folk music, the prevalence of Nai is older than two thousand years.
It is the combination of two words Sur and Nai, Sur meaning musical note and Nai meaning flute. It is a musical instrument consisting of a wooden pipe around 18 inches long with a bell-shaped outlet at the bottom. It has seven outlet holes and one blowing hole.
In Kashmir we have two types of flutes , the first type of flute is empty from inside and there are seven holes for seven swaras. While playing it, fingers of both the hands are used. This type of flute is more prevalent in folk music and the second type of flute is called 'Pi-Pi' in Kashmiri language. This type of flute is made of walnut’s wood. Even this flute has seven holes but the hole from where the air is blown is absent, but its adjacent hole is put into the mouth and blown. This type of flute is more famous in Kashmir
Santoor: Santoor plays an important role in Kashmiri folk and Sufiyana music. Among the musical instruments, it occupies an important place in Kashmiri music Sufiyana singing is not possible without its accompaniments. This instrument emits loud and enchanting sounds.
The shape of Santoor is trapezoidal. Its right side is called 'burn' and the left 'Jil'. Twelve wires on the right side are of brass and those on the left are of iron. There are also twelve knobs on the right and twelve on the left side. Four wires are fixed to each nob. The production of the tune depends on the nobs.
These days, Santoor is getting popular even outside Kashmir.
Sitar: The Kashmiri sitar has a long body and seven playing strings. This sitar is smaller in size than the other sitars available in India. Kashmiri sitar is played with mystical music which keeps harmony with a song.
It is also usually used by folk artists.
Saz-e-Kashmir: This round wooden musical instrument remained intact in the Kashmiri music without any major modification. It is more like a traditional version of violin which produces a soothing sound.
Saz-e-Kashmir is a stringed instrument made of Ivory, softwood, parchment, and steel. This is a traditional instrument found and majorly used in traditional forms of music.
It is a bowed instrument decorated with ivory work which is played with a bow.