Santoor is a string musical instrument which is believed to have originated in the north-western corner of India, more specifically Kashmir. This is one of the most ancient instruments of India dating back to the Vedic period
History of Santoor
The modern day Santoor hypothetically traces its origins to the Shata-Tantri Veena of Vedic times. This instrument was made from the strings of the Munja grass, and was called the Vana Veena, or the Veena
of the forests in ancient times. It is held by musicologists that there are many different varieties of the Santoor which exist in countries all over the world. While the instrument is said to have existed in Kashmir, after a series of Islamic invasions during the medieval times, it underwent many modifications. Sufism took the place of the predominant Shaivism
and the Sufis adopted the Santoor as part of their musical ensemble called the Soofiana Qalam, where it was played along with instruments like the Rebab
and the Sitar
to the accompaniment of religious singing.
The Santoor of today is largely the result of the innovations and changes brought about in the Soofiana instrument by Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma
. Though there are players who use the Soofiana instrument with the 100 strings, the Santoor used today by Shiv Kumar Sharma has only 86 strings and is tuned differently.
Structure of Santoor
There are certain variations existing in the structure of the Santoor. Variations exist with regard to the number of strings, their arrangement and thickness, the number of bridges as also the modes of playing adopted by different players. The sound box of the Santoor, which acts as a resonance chamber, is made of the wood of mulberry or walnut. The bridges are made of rosewood, and their upper portion is covered usually with ivory to obtain a fine tone. The strings, which are approximately 86 to 100 in number, are tuned differently. The ones made of steel are tuned to the higher octave, while the thicker strings made of copper or bronze are tuned to the lower octave. The strings are hooked to metallic pins on one side and, on the other, tied to tapering tuning pegs through a hollow drilled in them. The player tunes the instrument by using a tuning key with which he tightens or loosens the strings. The number of strings passing through each bridge is usually three or four. The number of bridges varies from 25 to 29.
Playing of Santoor
The player usually places the instrument on his lap and strikes the strings with a pair of strikers, resembling the upper body of a snake, made of rosewood or walnut. Notes are produced by striking the set of strings that produce the notes of the Raaga
using both the strikers. The left hand strikes have to be complemented by the right hand strikes to produce the desired notes. The volume of each note would depend on the strength of each stroke. Players get the desired tonalities and pitches by shifting the angle of the striker, as also the stress given to the strikes. Stylistic variations are numerous in this regard.