Thursday, December 3, 2015

In search of ...

I have been way long gone touring India, with a side trip to Kathmandu, Nepal. We spent three incredible weeks in the land of kings, and temples, and 330 million deities. (Yes, indeed, as claimed by the Hindu scriptures!)

I had two musically related items on my list of things to see while in India. The first, of course, was a santoor, ancient relative to our modern day hammered dulcimer. Second, just for fun, I decided to seek out one of those many deities ... Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music. Now there's a goddess that speaks my language!

It turns out that Saraswati was easy to find. She is actually the goddess of knowledge, wisdom, learning, and arts, as well as music. Her likeness is found wherever teachers and those seeking wisdom and knowledge gather, e.g. in schools and universities.

The santoor, on the other hand, proved to be a bit more elusive. Like our hammered dulcimer, the santoor is a trapezoid-shaped musical instrument. It is native to Jammu and Kashmir, and commonly used in the playing of classical Indian music. Perhaps commonly is an overly confident phrase.

Asking the average person in India where one might find a santoor elicited a similar response to to asking the average American where one might find a hammered dulcimer. “A what?” We had the opportunity to hear some traditional music, but the most common musical ensemble we witnessed was harmonium with tabla and the occasional set of finger cymbals.

We heard temple bells, and various drums. We even saw an impromptu jam session at the Pushkar Camel Fair. These guys were having fun! But, alas, no santoor.

I had high hopes of finding a santoor player in the holy city of Varanasi, a place known for its classical music schools and performers. I have no doubt I would have been successful if I had had more time. As it was, I never did actually see a santoor. But above the din of Dev Dewali, Festival of Lights, we detected the unmistakable sound of the santoor coming through the sound system of one of the many stages set up along the banks of the Ganges River. We searched, but in the mass of humanity and festival d├ęcor we never could find the musician. That's India!


  1. Great photos. Especially the last one. That one is awe inspiring in it's 'hugeness'.

    1. Thanks, Lee. I like that one, too. It captures a piece of the moment.