Today, A Journalist Reveals would like to reveal about an interesting musical instrument. It is the belabaharr. So, we will be talking about it as belabaharr – a unique creative concept. I met Naviin Gandharv for an interview when I was working with a print magazine. He introduced me to belabaharr, an invention of his father, Pt. Babulal. Looking back, we thought it would be only right to interview him again for our website, at this moment of time.
Excerpts from the first part of the interview:
What is Belabaharr? What is unique about this musical instrument compared to other stringed instruments?
Belabaharr is a priceless gift to music and also India’s pride. It’s the best example of beauty and creativity in music instruments with its sonorous unique sound. Compared to other string instruments, it has a sweet refined sound with technical ease to project different lyrical expressions. In short, it literally sings.
What inspired your father to invent it?
Pt. Babulal learned the Sarangi and vocals from his father Pt. Kashiram Gandharv, who was a Sarangi maestro, around 1970. He saw a new instrument in his village. It was the violin. He was attracted to its look and style. My father fell in love with this instrument. He bought a violin for himself and started practicing. Pt. Babulal found a guru in the Dewas city – Pt. S G Ranade, who saw Babulal’s talent and taught him the violin techniques and the different ragas.
While practicing, he was happy with his fingers moving fast and the violin was technically easier than the Sarangi. But at the same time, he missed the Indian sound of the Tarabs or the sympathetic strings, which are present in the Sarangi resonating the correct note played acutely on the main strings. He ruminated on this and these thoughts brought a new vision to create something, which would be a combination of Sarangi and violin.
He added some sympathetic strings on the violin but because of the excess tension of the strings the violin began to bend and became deformed as it is made of weak plywood. Experimenting further, he began working on the principle of Sarangi and Sarod, which are made of solid wood. He bought a 2 hundred years old teak wood and designed the new instrument over a blueprint.
Six months later, he was successful in inventing a new creation and he named the instrument the Belabaharr in 1980 – Bela is the Indian name for violin and Baharr is the beauty, sound and expressions he could create on it by combining the principles and appearances of the other 2 instruments. He added fine tuners to the tarab, which in the past were not available in any other Indian tarab instruments. These enable the player to tune the tarabs within 2mins. He introduced a new playing style which is different from the Sarangi and violin, which became unique.
You are taking your father’s legacy forward. What do you feel?
The feeling is so satisfying that I can’t express it in words. The feeling that I am being chosen by the Almighty to carry the legacy of such a rare and beautiful instrument in not comparable to any kind of happiness. There is a big difference between making/inventing an instrument and playing it. If you take the sitar, for example, you will know of the greats, who played it – Pandit Ravi Shankarji, Ustad Vilayat Khan Sahab, Ustad Rais Khan, Ustad Shahid Pervez, etc. These are legends, who played the sitar. They did not make or invent it. They must have modified it at most. It was Hazrat Amir Khusrau who invented the sitar and the tabla. If he didn’t exist, all the sitar and tabla legends wouldn’t exist, either.
Lord Shiva and Goddess Saraswati chose me to take birth in such a musical family. I take it that way. I used to accompany lead singers on the tabla and now I am known as a lead artist. That results in more attention, more exposure and more respect. So it is an extra special feeling to be a young Belabaharr exponent of this century.
To be continued…