One of the world's most complex instruments, the Sarod, originated from an Arabic instrument known as the rebab. Around 1300 AD it was named the Sah-roda; a bowed, gut instrument introduced to the Moghul courts of Northern India. Modifications and changes to the Sarod continued until the end of the 19th Century since when it has remained constant; wire strings plucked with a coconut or ivory plectrum.
The body of the Sarod is carved from one piece of solid wood such as teak, mahogany or red cedar. It can vary slightly in length when custom made for a specific performer. It is tuned according to its length. The sound box is covered by a parchment thin, stretched goatskin which is glued in place. One of two bridges rests on this skin, which is extremely sensitive to vibration and temperature change. The brass bowl attached to the neck of the instrument helps to stabilize it. The fretless fingerboard is metal, often chrome plated. Not having frets allows for both precise individual notes and a variety of intonations through glissando.
Of the 25 strings, 4 are used for melody, 2 for rhythm, and 4 are tuned to the dominant note of the raga. The remaining 15 are sympathetic vibrating strings tuned to the micro notes of the raga. The full resonance of a note is produced by pressing a string onto the fingerboard using a fingernail of the left hand while simultaneously plucking the string with the plectrum held in the right hand. The range and sonority of the Sarod makes it one of the most beautiful of North Indian instruments; its complexity allowing for an extraordinary diversity of sound and mood.
A Beautiful and Complex Instrument
India has a long and varied tradition of the use of sound and music to worship the Divine. It's all there – the chanting of sacred texts, the ringing of bells, the thumping of drums, the keening voices in call and response, the repetition of various names given to a particular God or Goddesss, the singing of praise to the Beloved, the whispered pleas of prayer, the ecstatic trance inducing melodies, the silence between inhalation and exhalation. To experience sound is to experience the Divine.
Since Indian classical music is ninety-nine percent improvised on an aesthetic structure known as raga, each performance is spontaneously composed. Thus, a musician improvising with sound starts fresh each time. In fact, it is the ambiance of the audience that is a primary inspiration for the coloration given to the music. This cannot be planned in advance. Until you arrive at a particular moment, you don't know what is there to experience.
There is an art to listening. If you go to a temple in India you leave your shoes outside the door. Just so, you leave the intellect and ego out of the act of listening. Come with an open heart. If one listens with the attitude of "I like" or "I don't like" then one has already slipped out of the experience. You just surrender to the sound. Only when one can hear clearly can the magic begin. As the raga unfolds; the musician, the instrument, and the audience become one.
In the western world, music is most often considered to be a form of entertainment. The combination of music, breath, posture, and attunement is not common. However, to K. Sridhar they are inseparable. Just as a struck tuning fork will cause nearby forks to emit their own tone, a concert of Nada Yoga can be considered a form of communal expression.
Union Through Sound
Breath & Tone Workshop: Fundamentals to a Yogic Approach to Vocalization
In this workshop you'll learn the two most fundamental practices for nada yoga. Pranayama is essential to the production and projection of tone. Whether you are a hatha yogi or an opera singer, pranayama is beneficial to the body/mind. Secondly, toning will be practiced as this is an experiential workshop. Each body has its own tones and the voice can be freed to slide between notes. This practice is suitable for all levels of both yoga and music students and everyone will receive some individual attention.
If you come with a "3-D" mentality, ie. with Devotion, Dedication, and Discipline; you will be able to get much from this workshop. K. Sridhar's training was highly disciplined and he teaches in the same manner. This is not an academic course full of theory. It is very experiential and, with practice, these exercises will bear fruit. There are skills which must be mastered first before moving on. The skills involved in breathing and producing sound are fundamental to the practice of nada yoga.
Participants may want to bring a personal cushion or mat. Dress in loose, comfortable clothing. Like any form of yoga, it should not be done until after two hours of your last meal.
Download the full description of this workshop, including a short bio and learning objectives.
To the ancient yogis of India, music and worship were intertwined. In fact, the production of sound could lead to samadhi, a much desired state of union with the Divine. In Vedic texts there are many references to the metaphysics and science of sound as well as the artistic and therapeutic applications of music. The Sanskrit word "nada" means tone or pitch. Nada Yoga is a spiritual practice that involves tone.
"It's not about entertainment. It's about attainment."
- K. Sridhar