Shehnai is known to be one of the most popular musical instrument in India, Pakistan & Bangladesh. This tubular instrument is made up of wood, which gradually broadens towards the lower end. It usually has between six and nine holes. It employs one set of quadruple reeds, making it a quadruple reed woodwind. By controlling the breath, various tunes can be played on it. It’s sound is thought to create & maintain a sense of auspiciousness and sanctity, as a result, it is widely used in marriages, processions and in temples, although it is also played in many of the concerts.
Theory of the origin of the shehnai says that the name is a modification of the word “sur-nal”. The word nal/nali/nad is used in many Indian languages to mean pipe or reed. The word “sur” means tone or tune—musical note or simply music—and is used as a prefix to the names of many Indian instruments. The “sur-nal” is said to have given its name to the “surna/zurna” which is the name by which the reed-pipe is known throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
Whereas the counterparts played in West Indian and Coastal Karnataka are indigenous to the territory. Shenai players were/are an integral part of Goan/Konkani and temples along the western coast and the players are called as Vajantri.
INDIA has been lucky enough to be blessed with many maestros of Shehnai, such as Ustad Bismillah Khan, Anant Lal, Lokesh Anand, Daya Shankar, Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan and many more.
The legacy of Shehnai has been in trend from era of early kings & queens and continued till 21th century. The evidential proof about the legacy of shehnai have been witnessed by one of the most religious place according to Hindu Mythology, that is Banaras (Varanasi). In Varanasi, “Namaaz of mosque & prayers at temples” both were greeted by the melodies of Shehnai.
In fact Shehnai is one of those few instrument who celebrated the first Independence day
of India on 14th August 1947 at Red Fort. Not only that, Shehnai with one of it’s great maestro Late Ustad Bismillah Khan was also there to welcome the India’s first Republic Day on 26th January 1950.
Similarly shehnai has made remarkable ventures into the history of cultures & traditions for India. Weather it used to be a wedding ceremony, morning worship of gods in temples, evening Namaz in mosque or any kind of cultural gathering (mehfils), shehnai used to be there for sure to glamorize the event.
But from past few years, it seems that the shehnai has now become the shadow of its glorious past. The classical instrument, which was once celebrated by connoisseurs and patrons, is steadily losing lovers in the state. Today, musicians who breathe life into the instrument are finding it difficult to make a decent living. They say earlier weddings & other holistic ceremony was considered to be incomplete without the holistic presence of shehnai. But now they hardly gets any invitations for performance or concerts throughout the year.
They say that they are sad obviously because their work is not being appreciated now a days, but they are much more feared that they may lose the legacy of shehnai which have been maintained by such great maestros from so long years.
Still they(Shehnai artists) says, that they rely on the famous saying of Late Ustad Bismillah Khan that,
“Even if the world ends, the Music will still survive….Music has no caste”.