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The "qaplious" player
or "been",
François Baltazard
Les Hindoûs (publication),
Paris, 1810



A     Back

Alap: The prelude of a raga, which unfolds in three parts: alap, jod and jhala.

Alapini-vina: One-stringed stick-zither that was prevalent in ancient India.

B     Back

Balki: A Persian distortion of the Sanskrit term vallaki, which denoted a harp during the era of the Natya-shastra.

Bandish: Second movement in a raga performed in dhrupad, usually called the "composition" and is the part where the two-sided drum, pakhavaj, joins in.

Bansuri: A transverse flute made of bamboo or reed. This instrument, associated with Lord Krishna, was for long played in a devotional environment. The last few decades have seen the instrument become part of the repertory of North Indian classical music.

Binkar: Bin player.

Bipanchi: Persian distortion of the Sanskrit term vipanci that denoted a lute during the era of the Natya-shastra.

C     Back

Chikari: Secondary strings of the bin that have a primarily rhythmic and drone function.

D     Back

Damaru: Small hour-glass-shaped drum that is played with one hand : the rapid rotatory motion of the wrist propels a small ball attached to a string to strike alternately the two sides of the drum. One of the signs of Lord Shiva, featured mainly in depictions of this god in the form of "Nataraj" or Lord of dance, it then becomes the symbol of sound as the primary element of the cosmos in creation. Widely used in Himalayan areas, it is prevalent in both ritual and profane music. During the Mughal period, this drum was associated with a class of musicians called hurukiya who performed mainly on festive occasions but also knew dhrupad singing.

Dandi: Stick or tube of the vina on which the resonators are fixed.

Deccani: Those orginally from Deccan, a huge plateau located to the south of the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Dholak: Cylindrical two-sided drum.

Dhrupad: Vocal art form composed of poems written in medieval Hindi, and first surfaced in the beginning of the 16th century A.D. Considered to be the the expression of the raga in its most refined form. Dhrupad has today lost its prime position to the Khyal, yet remains the musical benchmark in Hindustani music. Dhrupad compositions, called bandish and consisting of four sections, are accompanied exclusively by a horizontal two-sided drum called the pakhavaj.

E     Back

Ekatantri-vina: One-stringed tube-zither that succeeded the alapini-vina.

Esraj: Fiddle invented during the 19th century, made up of a neck resembling that of the sitar and fitted into the case of the fiddle chikara.

G     Back

Gamak: Vocal ornamentation that consists of producing a note by stressing on the preceding or following notes and consequently obtaining contracting or slackening movements of the larynx or the diaphragm. To get an instrumental transposition of this technique on stringed musical instruments, musicians perform energetic and rapid strokes with simultaneous movements of lateral extension on the plucked strings.

Gat: Name given to instrumental "compositions" performed in the khyal genre.

Ghosaka: One-stringed instrument prevalent during the era of the Natya-shastra whose resonator was made of gourd.

J     Back

Jantar or yantra: Tube-zither similar to the bin but with five strings at a time (towards the end of the 16th century) when the bin had only three. Today, the same name is given to a rudimentary stick-zither played in Rajasthan by story-tellers of the bhopa community. The same kind of instrument is played with a bow in Madhya Pradesh.

Jiva: In earlier times, a small mechanism made of a bamboo fibre positioned between the string and the bridge; this mechanism made it possible for musicians to enrich the sound with overtones.

K     Back

Kakubha: Tailpiece of the bin in the shape of a swan or a peacock.

Karaj: The thickest string tuned on the keynote.

Khyal: Ornamented vocal art form that gradually replaced the dhrupad. It flourished during the second half of the 18th century and was adapted to the instrumental repertory (sarangi, sitar and sarod) – with the exception of the bin.

Khyal-baj: Recent performing style of the bin strongly influenced by khyal and practised mainly in the state of Maharashtra.

Kinnari-vina (Kingra): Tube-zither fitted with frets and two or three resonators – an instrument that witnessed considerable improvement in medieval India.

L     Back

Laraj: Ancillary string of the bin tuned on the keynote: the one playing the role of drone string.

M     Back

Ma: Equivalent to the note Fa (F) in the solfege. The chanterelle or main melodic string of the bin, called nayaki, is tuned at this pitch.

Mind: The lateral extension of the string on to the frets which produces a glissando.

N     Back

Naqqara: Kettledrum set in three sizes and a characteristic of a royal orchestra, an emblem of power.

Nayaki: The name given to the main melodic string.

P     Back

Pa: Equivalent of the note Sol (G) of the solfege. Pa or Pancham is the name of one of the strings on the bin.

Patrika: Flat bridge of the bin, once made of ivory or metal. Nowadays made of cervid horn.

R     Back

Rabab: Generic term for a variety of string instruments – plucked or bowed – from the Arab-Persian world. Made from a single block of wood, this lute, which was in vogue during the Mughal period, has a resonating chamber covered with goatskin.

Raga: A word whose roots are derived from the Sanskrit term ranj which stands for "that which affects or colours the mind". A dynamic musical entity whose association with a particular mood, a season or a time of the day is as important as its melodic structure. The raga can be considered a melodic framework suitable for composition and improvisation. Made up of a fixed scale, each raga has a certain number of identifiable characteristics such as the order of appearance and the hierarchical ranking between its intervals, the magnitude and duration of each note and even the exact technique sometimes needed for its appearance.

Raga-ragini: The classification system for raga transposed into in iconographic repertory where they are personified and accompanied by their spouses (ragini).

Ral: Resinous substance found in the sap of a tree and used for fixing frets on the tube of a bin.

Ranjani-vina: A transient innovation occurring in the late nineteenth-century. The instrument shaped like a bin but whose dandi, frets and bridge are similar to those of the sitar.

Rudra-vina: Term used today to denote a bin. Earlier it was the appellation prevalent in South India for a tube-zither distinct from the bin.

S     Back

Sa: Equivalent of the note Do (C) of the solfege. Keynote, tonic of the music scale.

Sarangi: Fiddle made from a single block of wood once used by bards and wandering musicians in North India. Used subsequently to accompany the songs and dances of courtesans, the sarangi became part of the classical repertory, associated with Khyal. Despite a waning tradition today, it has becomes a soloist instrument to the same extent as the sitar or the sarod.

Sarasvati-vina: Long-necked and fretted lute prevalent in South India.

Sarika: Denotes the frets of a chordophone.

Sarod: A lute with a smooth metal fingerboard whose sounding board is covered with goatskin. It first appeared in the first half of the 19th century, strongly influenced by the Afghani rabab.

Shastra: Ancient treatise or tome that was generally written in Sanskrit.

Surbahar: Plucked string instrument whose structure resembles that of the sitar but is more bulky, with a deeper tessitura.

T     Back

Tabla: The name given to a set of two drums, largely used in North Indian music. One of them is a small drum on a vertical frame of lathe-turned wood whereas the other is a metallic kettledrum. Each skin is covered with a wide, black disc made of iron filings mixed with a rice paste, a combination that gives the instrument its characteristic tonality.

Tambura (Tanpura): Long-necked, unfretted lute whose structure is identical to that of the sitar. Fitted with four strings played open-handed, it plays the role of the drone and systematically accompanies vocal and instrumental music.

Tube-zither: A (plucked or bowed) musical instrument whose strings are stretched all the way along its resonator which is made of a wooden tube.

Tuila: Single-stringed stick-zither similar to the alapini vina in ancient India; it is still played in our times in the state of Orissa.

Tumba: Resonator made of gourd.

V     Back

Vichitra-vina: An instrument whose structure is similar to that of the bin but without frets. It lies on the ground on its two resonators and is played by sliding a polished stone or a glass sphere on the strings. The playing technique is reminiscent of that of the ancient ekatantri-vina.

Vina: Generic term for all chordophones as well as some aerophones.

Y     Back

Yogini: A young woman having taken a vow of renunciation and living as a hermit. An allegoric image often found in Mughal or Deccani paintings.

Z     Back

Zenana: Women’s quarters or apartments within a palace. Identical to a harem in the Arabic-Islamic culture.
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