Sarangi (Nepali)

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Sarangi music performed by Balaram Gandarbha in Kathmandu
A bamboo sarangi from Nepal

The sarangi (Nepali: सारङ्गी) is a folk Nepalese string instrument, also very popular as a folk musical instrument in Northeast India. Unlike the classical Indian sarangi which has many sympathetic strings which are not bowed, the Nepali has only four strings, all of which are played. Traditionally in Nepal, sarangi was only played by people of Gandarva or Gaine caste, who sing narrative tales and folk song.[1] However, in present days, it is widely used and played by many. The sarangi has largely usurped the role of the previous Gaine instrument, the plucked lute arbajo.[2][3]


Nepali sarangi
A song performed by Balaram Gandarbha in Kathmandu

Traditional Nepali sarangi are made up of a single piece of wood having a neck and hollowed-out double-chambered body; they are often made from a very light wood called khiro. The lower opening is then covered up with dried sheep-skin upon which the bridge rests, while the upper chamber is left open. The neck is fretless, and the strings are tuned with the kunti.

The original strings were made out of sheep intestine, similar to the use of catgut (made from the intestines of cattle) in violins. The village people allotted intestines of sheep, sacrificed during major festivals like Dasain, to the Gandarvas. The Gandarvas left the intestine in a pot for some days. Once the meat was fully rotten, it was pulled out, leaving behind the fine nerves of the intestine which were then woven to get the strings, which produced fine quality sound.[4] However these days, readily available nylon and steel strings have generally replaced gut strings.

The bow was traditionally strung with horse tail-hair (as used in violin bows), but in the modern day nylon bowstrings are common. Different notes are made by touching the strings with the nail of fingers of the left hand.

The range of the traditional sarangi starts from G4 and almost covers two octaves. Traditionally, the sarangi is tuned G4 C5 C5 G5 (Pa Sa Sa Pa). Because of its popularity, historical importance and socio-cultural value, the Sarangi has been featured by a number of television and radio programs in Nepal. The life imitating radio drama Katha Mitho Sarangiko and radio magazine Sarangiko Bhalakusari produced by BBC Media Action Nepal have used the term sarangi in their names as a tribute to this outstanding instrument. Dilu Gandharba, the popular vocalist and composer, has developed video tutorials on Sarangi.[5]


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  2. ^ James McConnachie; Rough Guides (Firm) (2000). World music: the rough guide. Rough Guides. pp. 198–. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  3. ^ Alison Arnold (2000). South Asia: the Indian subcontinent. Taylor & Francis. pp. 698–. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1. Retrieved 24 March 2012. . ... one of the most important of these rites is puja 'worship' performed to music of the sararigi and the arbajo, believed to be its predecessor.
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