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Shehnai

Shehnai

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The shehnai, shahnai, shenai or mangal vadya, is an aerophonic (wind) instrument, a double reed
Double reed
A double reed is a type of reed used to produce sound in various wind instruments. The term double reed comes from the fact that there are two pieces of cane vibrating against each other. A single reed consists of one piece of cane which vibrates against a mouthpiece made of metal, hardened...

 conical oboe
Oboe
The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. In English, prior to 1770, the instrument was called "hautbois" , "hoboy", or "French hoboy". The spelling "oboe" was adopted into English ca...

, common in North India
North India
North India, known natively as Uttar Bhārat or Shumālī Hindustān , is a loosely defined region in the northern part of India. The exact meaning of the term varies by usage...

, West India
West India
West India or the Western region of India consists of the states of Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra, along with the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It is highly industrialized, with a large urban population. Most of Western India was part of the Maratha Empire before...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, made out of wood, with a metal flare bell at the end. Its sound is thought to create and maintaining a sense of auspiciousness and sanctity and, as a result, is widely used during marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

s, processions, and in temples of West India
West India
West India or the Western region of India consists of the states of Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra, along with the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. It is highly industrialized, with a large urban population. Most of Western India was part of the Maratha Empire before...

, although it is also played in concerts. The South India
South India
South India is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of India's area...

n equivalent of the shehnai is the nadaswaram
Nadaswaram
The nadaswaram, also spelt nadhaswaram, and also called nagaswaram , is one of the most popular classical musical instruments in the South Indian culture and the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instrument...

.

This tube-like instrument gradually broadens towards the lower end. It usually has between six and nine holes. It employs two sets of double reed
Double reed
A double reed is a type of reed used to produce sound in various wind instruments. The term double reed comes from the fact that there are two pieces of cane vibrating against each other. A single reed consists of one piece of cane which vibrates against a mouthpiece made of metal, hardened...

s, making it a quadruple reed
Quadruple reed
A quadruple reed is a type of reed by means of which the sound is originated in various wind instruments. The term "quadruple reed" comes from the fact that there are four pieces of dried palm leaf vibrating against each other, in pairs...

 woodwind. By controlling the breath, various tunes can be played on it.

Ustad (Master) Bismillah Khan
Bismillah Khan
Ustad Bismillah Khan was an Indian shehnai maestro. He was the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna , the highest civilian honour in India and gained worldwide acclaim for playing the shehnai for more than eight decades....

 was a well-known shehnai player. Another player of the shehnai is the Ahmadi
Ahmadiyya
Ahmadiyya is an Islamic religious revivalist movement founded in India near the end of the 19th century, originating with the life and teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad , who claimed to have fulfilled the prophecies about the world reformer of the end times, who was to herald the Eschaton as...

 Black American jazz musician, Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef
Dr. Yusef Lateef is an American Grammy Award-winning jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer, educator and a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community after his conversion to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam in 1950.Although Lateef's main instruments are the tenor saxophone and flute, he is known for...

. Dave Mason
Dave Mason
David Thomas "Dave" Mason is an English singer, songwriter, and guitarist from Worcester, who first found fame with the rock band Traffic...

 played shehnai on the Rolling Stones' 1968 hit song "Street Fighting Man
Street Fighting Man
"Street Fighting Man" is a song by English rock and roll band The Rolling Stones featured on their 1968 album Beggars Banquet. Called the band's "most political song", Rolling Stone ranked the song #295 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.-Inspiration:Originally titled and recorded...

". The shehnai is also played extensively on the Suns of Arqa
Suns of Arqa
Suns of Arqa are a World Music collective founded in 1979 by Michael Wadada. Since the group's formation, over 200 people from around the world have played and recorded with them, and in many cases these were like-minded musicians Wadada met as he travelled the world...

 albums 'Cradle' and 'Jaggernaut'.

Origin of the shehnai


The origin of North Indian shehnai is believed to be from persian Surna (Sur = feast , Nai=Ney
Ney
The ney is an end-blown flute that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. It is a very ancient instrument, with depictions of ney players appearing in wall paintings in the Egyptian pyramids and actual neys being found...

= flute.
The shehnai is believed to have originated in the Kashmir Valley, where people use the instrument in band-i-pather. The shehnai is thought to have been created by improving upon the pungi
Pungi
The pungi, also called the been, or bin is a wind instrument played by snake charmers in India. The pungi is similar to the Chinese Hulusi but has only two reed pipes, known as the "jivala". The pungi was improved to produce the Shehnai. The pungi originated in India and is still played by snake...

 (a woodwind folk instrument used primarily for snake charming
Snake charming
Snake charming is the practice of pretending to hypnotise a snake by playing an instrument. A typical performance may also include handling the snakes or performing other seemingly dangerous acts, as well as other street performance staples, like juggling and sleight of hand...

).

There are varying legends of the shehnai's origin. In one of these, a shah
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

 initially banned the playing of the pungi in his court due to its shrill sound. A barber, belonging to a family of musicians, improved on it and created the shehnai. As it was played in the Shah's court and giving due reference to the nai or barber, the new instrument was called shehnai.

In other variants of the legend, the shehnai was
  • named after a shehnai player called Saina,
  • derived from sheh (breath) and nai (flute), or
  • derived from the combination of the Persian words shah
    Shah
    Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

    (king), and nai
    Nai
    Nai may refer to:*Nai , a Barber caste in India* Nai language, a language of Papua New Guinea* Nai , an album by singer Anna Vissi*Nai , a wind instrument, also known as the Moldavian pan flute...

    (reed, flute) to give the meaning "the king's flute".


Another theory of the origin of the shehnai is that the name is a modification of the word "sur-nal". The word nal/nali/nad is used in many Indian languages to mean pipe or reed. The word "sur" means tone or tune—musical note or simply music—and is used as a prefix to the names of many Indian instruments. The "sur-nal" is said to have given its name to the "surna/zurna" which is the name by which the reed-pipe is known throughout the Middle East and eastern Europe. Shehnai is usually played at traditional North Indian weddings and is associated with the bride leaving her parental house for her husband's house. Sometimes, two shehnais can be tied together, making it a double shawm similar to the ancient Greek aulos
Aulos
An aulos or tibia was an ancient Greek wind instrument, depicted often in art and also attested by archaeology.An aulete was the musician who performed on an aulos...

.

Whereas the counterparts played in West Indian and Coastal Karnatka are indigenous to the territory.Shenai players were/are an integral part of Goan/Konkani and temples along the western coast and the players are called as Vajantri and they were alloted lands for services rendered for the temples.

Range


The shehnai has a range of two octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s, from the A below middle C
Middle C
C or Do is the first note of the fixed-Do solfège scale. Its enharmonic is B.-Middle C:Middle C is designated C4 in scientific pitch notation because of the note's position as the fourth C key on a standard 88-key piano keyboard...

 to the A one line above the treble clef (A3 to A5 in scientific pitch notation
Scientific pitch notation
Scientific pitch notation is one of several methods that name the notes of the standard Western chromatic scale by combining a letter-name, accidentals, and a number identifying the pitch's octave...

).

See also


  • Reed instrument, a brand of woodwind instrument.
  • Shawm
    Shawm
    The shawm was a medieval and Renaissance musical instrument of the woodwind family made in Europe from the 12th century until the 17th century. It was developed from the oriental zurna and is the predecessor of the modern oboe. The body of the shawm was usually turned from a single piece of wood,...

    , a brand of reed instrument.
  • Mizmar
    Mizmar
    In Arabic music, a mizmar is any single or double reed wind instrument. In Egypt, the term mizmar usually refers to the conical shawm that is called zurna in Turkey....

    , a shawm similar to the shanai.
  • Nadaswaram
    Nadaswaram
    The nadaswaram, also spelt nadhaswaram, and also called nagaswaram , is one of the most popular classical musical instruments in the South Indian culture and the world's loudest non-brass acoustic instrument...

    , a similar South Indian instrument

External links