Salonee Pareek Via Flickr
All good things begin with a Shehnai
If there is one musical instrument that defines north Indian wedding music, it is the Shehnai. The unique notes of a Shehnai are considered to ring-in auspicious events such as a wedding, engagement or even occasions such as festivals and temples events!
For the uninitiated, the Shehnai is a double reed, woodwind musical instrument. It produces a unique note that we have come to automatically associate with sanctity and good beginnings. The Shehnai is an integral part of north Indian wedding music as it has a calming and soothing note that sets the perfect atmosphere for a solemn event like a wedding. Shehnai is considered to be “managal vadyas” (translates to auspicious musical instruments) along with Nadaswaram which is popular in south India.
Wondering how a Shehnai is made? Check out this video.
The predominant theory about the origin of Shehnai is that it is of Persian origin (In Persian, “Sah” means “King” and “Nai” means “Wind Instrument”) and that the instrument may have found it’s way to India from Persia by the Mughals.
There is yet another story about the origin of Shehnai. It is thought that the Shehnai evolved from Pungi, a musical instrument used for snake charming. Apparently, the Shah banned Pungi from his court because of the shrill sound it made. It is said that a barber modified the instrument to create the Shehnai – the instrument played at the Shah’s court made by a Nai (barber).
According to The Hindu, “The shehnai was originally a folk instrument — some say that it formed part of military ensembles — but musicians with royal patronage developed it in the context of Hindustani music (and an integral part of north Indian wedding music as well).”
Ustaad Bismillah Khan – The doyen of Shehnai
Ustaad Bismillah Khan is probably the only name that comes to your mind when you speak about Shehnai. He has singlehandedly elevated the art of playing the Shenai way beyond the confines of north Indian wedding music and established it as a Hindustani musical instrument in the same league as the Sitar.
Here are some interesting tidbits about the Ustaad from the book Indian Music Masters of Our Times by Pradeep Thakur.
Bismillah Khan was a living example of Hindu-Muslim unity in India. He was born as a Shia Muslim but was also a devotee of Goddess Saraswati and regularly performed at Hindu temples.
Although Bismillah Khan was an international rock star, he remained a man of simple tastes who often spoke of his “dal-chawal” and the cycle-rickshaw, his constant mode of transport.
The maestro advocated introducing music in schools. “If music were to be incorporated into the daily curriculum of little children, I can assure you we would be evolving better human beings. I am sure you cannot tell me once example where music has been the cause of clash between man and man.”
The Ustaad has received numerous awards and recognition for his stellar contribution to Hindustani music and the art of playing Shehnai. Here are a few notable feathers in his cap – He was invited by Pandit Nehru to play Shehnai on 15th August 1947 at the Red Fort; he was awarded the Padma Shri in 1961, Padma Bhushan in 1968, Padma Vibhushan in 1980; Bharat Ratna in 2001.
In December 2016, four silver shehnais and a silver-plated wooden shehnai belonging to Ustaad Bismillah Khan were stolen
from his son’s home. Guess who the culprits were? It was none other than the grandson of the Ustaad and a couple of other men! Luckily, two of the five Shehnais were covered intact by the Varanasi police and a kilogramme of silver extracted from the other three shehnais was also recovered.
Shehnai in popular culture
Shehnai has become an integral component of popular culture in India. Be it north Indian wedding music, classical Hindustani, Bollywood music, pop music and even art! Here are a few examples.
Check out the wonderful composition by AR Rehman in the Bollywood movie Rockstar. This is an exquisite mashup of Shehnai and Guitar!
Coke Studio @ MTV is a live studio-recorded performance by various artists. Check out this wonderful composition by Amit Trivedi that that incorporates Shehnai masterfully.
Even social media posts announcing online contests start off with a Shehnai! Here is one created for BIBA by Vaishali Bawa.
Need more proof that the Shehnai is synonymous with north Indian wedding music? Most wedding invitation card designs in north India will feature a Shehnai.
North Indian Wedding Music Playlist For Shehnai
We lined up a must-have list of Indian wedding songs list for your big fat North Indian wedding. These are not Bollywood wedding songs, just elegant, melodious Shehnai tunes from the master himself that you can use for Sagai, Sangeet, Baraat, Kanyadaan, and Vidai.
Just in case you have a lower bandwidth, here is the Ustaad’s playlist from SoundCloud just in case you have a lower bandwidth.
Subsequent to Ustaad Bismillah Khan’s death in 2006, other artists have continued to carry forward the glorious tradition of playing Shahnai. Ustad Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan is considered to be another maestro who plays the Shehnai at the same league as that of the Ustaad Bismillah Khan. Pandit Daya Shankar and Pandit Rajendra Prasanna are also considered to be great Shehnai artists.
As we have seen with the traditional Indian wedding bands, there has been a steady erosion in the interest people have in retaining traditional or old school cultural elements when it comes to wedding music. People are gravitating away from using Shehnai musicians and instead prefer to use DJs at their weddings!
All said and done, the Shehnai has established itself as the heart of North Indian wedding music. No matter what the fad is in this day and age, we believe the melodious tune of Shenai will resonate at every North Indian wedding for years to come.
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Posted in Art
Tagged with: Art, Music, Musician, North Indian Wedding Music, Shehnai
Yes, there are rules for dating a musician! Now imagine what happens when you choose to marry one!
Marrying a musician will eventually become common
If you are in India and dating a musician, your parents might have already created enough drama to make sure you have fixed a wedding date. And now, you are marrying a musician!
Music happens to be a growing business in India. According to KPMG, the music industry in India will be worth over $300 Million in less than 5 years from now!
Bollywood music comprises 80% of the music industry and the rest includes regional and classical music as well as western music. As the music industry grows in size and reach, brace yourself for seeing the word “musician” in matrimony ads!
It is obvious that if you are planning on marrying a musician, you need to tune yourself to a different lifestyle after marriage!
We decided to listen to what famous musicians have to say about their marriages to draw important lessons that you will find useful and also figure out why it is difficult for musicians to have relationships and how to handle a relationship with a musician.
1. Learn to love traveling
Musicians, the world over, have one common challenge to deal with. They end up traveling a lot. Let’s say you are marrying a popular classical musician or even an upcoming classical musician in India. They probably are dabbling with playback singing for a couple of regional languages film industries or even mainstream Bollywood movies. Recording songs can take them places. One in a while they also need to travel to different cities for private shows.
You also have seasonal music festivals (such as the December Carnatic music festival in Chennai as well as the Thiruvaroor festival in south Tamil Nadu). That’s not all, musicians end up traveling abroad (especially to the US) where there is a strong demand for classical musicians.
So be prepared to either travel a lot get ready to take charge of the household when your spouse is globe trotting!
2. Be ready to be ignored
Being a musician requires a lot of hard work. The only difference is that the amount of preparation that successful musicians put in before major concerts and events are enormous.
They will be busy preparing for weeks at a time for an upcoming event and there is only one thing on their minds, i.e. music. Everything else, including you, becomes secondary!
Image Credits: Kayaniv
Here is what Bombay Jayashri, who sang Pi’s Lullaby in the movie – “The Life of Pi” had to say about her marriage and the difficulties faced by her husband.
“I think it was very difficult for my husband Ramnath to understand me for a long time. I don’t think it is easy because several days before the concert I go into a zone and nothing can shake me out of it. And once I have gone out, sometimes even I forget that there is someone out there waiting for me to come home. And when I am on stage I completely forget that I am a wife, a mother or a daughter. So to cope with all this and still believe in oneself is not easy for a spouse.”
3. Dealing with adoring fans
If you are marrying a musician known for looks and talent, be prepared to deal with hordes of adoring fans who really don’t care about the fact that your spouse is no longer single! You will have to deal with groupies as well as stalkers. Here is what Sonu Nigam, a leading playback singer for Bollywood Movies had to say in an interview.
Image Credits: Bollywood Hungama
“I started getting slightly popular, the female interest around me grew. I met with a lot of wonderful women of different mindsets, qualities, and nationalities.
During a concert tour in Israel, I first realized how popular I had become. As soon as we came out of the airport, the women who were swooning over Chunky Pandey left him and showered me with kisses. My face was plastered with lipstick. I quite enjoyed that phase. I still get a lot of female attention and like it. Who wouldn’t?”
Jealousy and suspicion can destroy your marriage. Marrying a musician requires an inherent ability to trust your spouse.
4. Your spouse and your parents
Let’s assume you are marrying a woman who is a famous musician. It does not change the equation your wife will have with your parents.The same tensions, prejudices, cultural issues that plague women in every other profession can come into play. Musicians don’t have a “get out of the in-laws” pass. Their hectic schedule and preoccupation can sometimes come in the way of performing family obligations that your parents might consider very important. Be prepared for some fireworks!
This is what happened to Asha Bhosle.
“When she was only 16 years old, she fell in love with 31-year-old Ganpatrao Bhosle; he was Lata’s personal secretary. Asha was resolute in her desire to marry him, and much against the wishes of her family, she eloped with him.
However, her married life to Mr. Bhosle was short-lived; after a few years with him, she returned to her mother’s house with her two children and pregnant with her third. Although the details may never publicly be known for sure, the stated reason for the collapse of the marriage was her mistreatment at the hands of her in-laws.”
5. Learn to love your spouse and her music
Image Credits: Bollywood Hungama
Researchers have found that couples that adore each other and put them in a pedestal tend to have a life-long relationship. This is true for musicians as well! If you are marrying a musician, be prepared to learn more about her music and what makes her talent special. Show your commitment to her by supporting her in whatever way you can. A supportive spouse is a sign of a mature, long-lasting relationship.
Shreya Ghosal is an award-winning Bollywood playback singer. She got married to her long-time boyfriend in 2015. Here is what one of her close friends had to say about Shreya Ghoshal’s relationship.
“He would often come after office to my studio if we were recording Shreya’s songs and our adda (jam) session and khana (food) would happen. I love his unconditional love for her. He knows her as a friend and that friendship is unconditional. He is a techie, an entrepreneur, loves music, is a wonderful person and is her biggest admirer and one of the most solid supporters of her in her life in whatever she does. He is besotted by her singing.”
6. Musicians and ego
When you are a successful musician, you will end up having trouble in managing your ego when things go south. This is true for any successful artist in any profession. Rajesh Khanna’s marriage to Dimple Kapadia is an example of how volatile relationships can become when things don’t go well.
Let’s take the case of Pandit Ravi Shanker. He was once married to another Sitar exponent, Annapurna Devi. In the 1950s, she performed along with Ravi Shanker and supposedly received more adulation than Ravi Shanker! Then, all of a sudden, she vanished from the limelight and took a backseat. Here is what she had to say about her vanishing act.
Image Credits: Alexandra Ignatenko
“Panditji (Shankar) was not happy, as I received more appreciation than he did from both the audience and the critics whenever we performed together in the 1950s, and that had a negative impact on our marriage. Though he never categorically stopped me from performing in public, he made it clear in several ways that he wasn’t happy with the fact that I was drawing more applause.”
7. Musicians are arrogant
Musicians are not born arrogant. Nobody is! It’s just that once they start becoming popular, they are worshiped wherever they go. They are no less than a movie star in a country that adores music. No wonder, they end up living in a world that is completely insulated from the reality. This translates into arrogance. You may have married a musician before she became famous or have seen through all these issues to marry a musician. But, remember to play your role in keeping everything grounded!
T.M. Krishna is a popular Carnatic musician. He is known for his articulate views on classical music and is an active proponent of classical Carnatic music. In an interview to The Hindu, here is what he had to say about musicians.
Artists are very easily arrogant because we have at least 50 people around us telling us we are the best in the world. We live in this bubble.
If you are grappling with the question – “Should you marry a musician?”, here is a simple takeaway:
Marrying a musician is no different from marrying someone from any other profession. However, before marrying a musician, it helps to be aware of their unique characteristics that are dictated by their lifestyle and work-related pressures. At the end of the day, marrying a musician requires the same amount of hard work and sacrifices that you will need to make in any marriage. Finding someone that can reciprocate the emotional investments and personal sacrifices you will be making will ensure that your marriage remains strong for the long term!
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Posted in Arranged Marriage, Art, Bollywood, Love Marriage, Marriage, Relationship
Tagged with: Love, Marriage, Musician, relationship