The origins of music in India are deeply spiritual and devotional. Many of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses are associated with music and rhythm and often depicted in the act of music making. Lord Krishna is able to seduce his followers with the enchanting sound of the bamboo flute, Saraswati is inseparable from the Vina, while Shiva dances to the beat of the damaru (hour-glass) drum. Even today, the auspicious sound of the shehnai, filling the atmosphere with a soothing sweetness and sublime peace, can be heard in temples at the time of early morning and evening prayer while its presence at a wedding is said to bring good fortune for the newly wed.
The precise origins of the Shehnai, also known as the oboe of Northern India, are uncertain. One line of research links it to the Persian Nai, which is depicted on Egyptian tombs as early as 3000 BC. One of the earliest pictorial representations of this instrument is found in the Gandhara region of North-West Pakistan from about the beginning of the Christian era, where a straight blown instrument having a flaring bell is depicted with the player's fingers clearly splayed to stop holes on the instrument. In India, the Shehnai was one of the nine instruments associated with the ensembles of royal courts where it was called Mangal Vadya, which translates to"auspicious instrument."
It was the main the feature of the naubat, traditionally played by musicians in courtyards or over gateways in palaces and temples to mark the hours of the day. The Hindu elephant God Ganesh is also depicted playing the shehnai in ancient sculptures. Although the shehnai has played a prominent role in Indian music culture for centuries, its introduction in classical music has come only in the last century. The shehnai to be played with a proper co He has completely revolutionized the technique and approach of Shehnai Playing.
Shehnai is a type of wind instrument and it is double reeded. Shehnai has two upper reeds and there are two lower reeds. That is why it is also called a quadruple reed Musical Instrument. Shehnai is made of wood and it has a brass bell attached to one end. The bell is nickel covered brass; the nickel is engraved to show the brass underneath. Usually the length of a Shehnai varies from12-20 inches (30-50 cm) in length . The wooden tube of the Shehnai generally widens at the lower end. A brass tube is attached to the reed of the Shehnai seven keyless finger holes along its body. Possessing a one and half-octave range,
The reed mounts in the mouth piece, the upper end, on the outside. This instrument has a sealed air chamber. Do not try to remove the bell from the shaft. When playing, your lips are placed on the upper end, this places the reed inside your mouth. Your mouth is now part of the instrument and acts as an air chamber. Prior to playing the reed must be soaked to soften it. You may soak the reed for up to 5 and 6 minutes. Test the reed occasionally to see if it has the sound you like, there is no need to over soak it.
A player holds the shehnai vertically, The fingers of the right hand cover the four bottom holes. The fingers of the left hand play the upper three holes. blowing into the double reed made of a kind of cane called patti or pattur. Semi-tones are produced by partially closing the holes with the fingers as well as by adjusting the blowing pressure in the pipe.Blow steady but do not blast the air through the instrument. As you play the reed will be kept damp by your breath. You may find that it becomes too damp and you will need to dry it out. It can be left to dry naturally, never put it in sunlight or near heat. You can adjust the opening of the reed by placing a clip on the reed when it dries to minimize the opening. Or, dry it with a toothpick between the reeds to increase the opening. As you play, you will become familiar with the style of reed that works best for you.
A typical shehnai recital features a shruti peti, which serves the purpose of a tanpura drone by giving out just one or two notes. On the percussion side, the shehnai is traditionally accompanied by a nakkara, a pair of small kettledrum played with sticks. In modern times, it is accompanied by the tabla. Generally, a leading shehnai player will sit for a recital, accompanied by two or three other shehnai players with dukkar a small earthen kettledrum played with fingers. the shehnai is a difficult instrument to play, as the musician must master a wide range of finely nuanced embouchure and fingering techniques.