About the Instruments
Sitar - सितार
The Sitar is likely the most well-known instrument I play. The instrument was made famous in Western culture by Pandit Ravi Shankar. I am most inspired by the music of Ustad Imrat Khan, and I play the instrument in the traditional improvised manner of developing a Raga - a melodic framework which gradually evolves from slow and melodic to fast and rhythmic. The sitar has two bridges for its 20 strings consisting of 6 drone strings and 1 main playing string on top, and 13 resonating sympathetic strings that add an echo effect.
Arabic Oud - العود العربي
The Oud is an ancient instrument, with a 5000 year long history in the cradle of civilization: the Middle East. The instrument has 12 double coursed strings, no frets, and a bowl shaped body that gives the instrument a deep, rich sound. Many forms of Oud playing exist from North Africa to Southwest Asia. I lean more toward the Egyptian style but also like to blend musical dialects from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia together into something new.
Chinese Pipa - 琵琶
The Pipa is a 4 stringed lute with a 2000 year long history in China. Most scholars agree that todays modern Pipa is a Sinicized version of an Iranian instrument related to the 'Oud. The instrument has gone through many changes since then, such as upgrading the silk strings to metal and changing the playing technique from using a large handheld plectrum to plastic nails taped to all 5 fingers.
Persian Tar - تار ایرانی
The Tar is the national instrument of Iran. It has 3 double course strings and frets tied at micro-tonal intervals. The body is carved from a single Mulberry trunk and has many natural materials native to Iran attached to it. The frets are goat sinew, the bridge is water buffalo horn, the neck is camel bone, and the resonating membrane is a lamb skin. Honey and bamboo nails are used instead of modern construction methods. The instrument is plucked with a small bronze cone topped with a mixture of wax and charcoal.
Turkish Saz - Bağlama Türkçe
Also called Baglama in Turkish, this instrument is related to the many "long neck, bowl back" lutes found across Central Asia known as the Tanbur or Dotar. The frets are placed at microtonal intervals like the Persian Tar and the body is constructed similarly to the 'Oud, but the sound and style of playing are uniquely Turkish. The Saz has many enchanting flavors, using a mixture of neighboring classical styles and native Anatolian folk melodies. The most common technique requires very fast string picking patterns and dynamic rhythmic variations.
Japanese Shamisen - 三味線
The Shamisen is the most important Lute instrument in traditional Japanese Music. It owes its origins to a Chinese instrument of the same name Sanxian (3 strings) which was imported into Japan around 1000 years ago. There are many styles of playing Shamisen from loud percussive Tsugaru style to the quiet poetic Juita style. The long fretless neck which allows for the use of slides and microtones similar to the Oud or violin, and the large plectrum used to hit the strings contribute to the unique sound of the Shamisen.