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In the beginning of the 20th century, Santoor entered the Indian classical arena of Music. There were about 50 different shapes and varieties of Veena during the ancient period. There is a reference of an instrument called ‘Baan’ in Rig-Veda. It was used in ‘Sama-gayan’. The literary meaning of word ‘Baan’ is hundred stringed Veena which is also called ‘Shat-tantri Veena.’
There is a difference of opinion about the origin of Santoor among scholars. Some scholars believe that the Santoor arrived from Iran (Central Asia) to India but most agree that it is derived from the ancient Indian instruments. Santoor has been a popular instrument in Kashmir since ancient times especially in ‘Sufiana Mausiqi’. Sufiana Mausiqi is not folk music instead it is similar to Indian classical Ragas. The use of Santoor in Sufiana Mausiqi especially in Makam (vocal) is as old as the form itself. The Santoor is a hollow box, with wooden pieces on top called bridge. The Santoor is played with strikers, one held in each hand. The player’s fingers do not touch strings.
In traditional Sufiana Santoor, there are 25 bridges. On the left side, steel strings are used and on the right side brass strings. There are 4 strings on each bridge which makes it 100 stringed instrument. In classical Santoor there are 3 strings on each bridge for 100 strings.
There are instruments across the globe which are similar to Indian Santoor.
To name a few:
Salterio (Maxico), Santur (Iran), Khim (Thailand/Siam), Hackbrett (Germany), Tympanon (France), Hammarharpa (Sweden), Hammered Dulcimer (USA), etcetera.
Please Note- size, tonal quality and techniques to play the above instruments are quite different from Indian Santoor.
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