Strings of Change

Daler Mehndi makes history by adding a new genre, Rababi Sufi, and a new instrument, swarmandir, to the world of music

He's singing a new tune and this time it's to a new instrument. Daler Mehndi has made history by giving the world of music a new genre — Rababi Sufi, and a new instrument, swarmandir. "The younger generation finds Indian classical music and instruments difficult to comprehend. To make things simpler, I decided to create an instrument that is traditional yet contemporary, and easy to learn," says Mehndi, talking about swarmandir, an instrument that combines the sound of three instruments — the do-taar rabab (from West Bengal), swar mandal and tanpura. It has been crafted by master luthiers Sanjay Rikhi Ram, from Delhi.

Through this instrument and Rababi Sufi, a new genre of music, Mehndi says he is trying to reinvent himself and his art, and in the process, taking it to as many people as he can. As opposed to the sarod or the mohan veena, swarmandir, claims the singer, is easier to master and play. "All one needs is four to five months to learn it and then it can be played with any genre of music, be it pop, rock, classical, Sufi or ghazal." Being light-weight, it can be carried anywhere in the world. Also, it's an all-weather instrument. "The swarmandir has been designed in such a manner that it can withstand any weather change, unlike other instruments," says Mehndi, adding that he spent months creating the instrument. "It's an uphill task to create a new instrument, to make sure it plays the perfect sound. Only those with expertise and knowledge of sur, taal and laya can manage this feat," says he.

The year 2012, says Mehndi, will be his "year of Sufi". In fact, he recently held a concert in Bhopal, where he played the swarmandir and Rababi Sufi, featuring the works of Kabir, Fareed, Baba Nanak and Bulle Shah. "I'm born into a family of Gurbani singers and have been well-versed with Sufi music since I was four," says Mehndi, who shot to fame with Punjabi hits like Tunak Tunak and Bolo Tara Rara. "It's the knowledgeable verses of the Gurus, Bhagats and many other saints that form part of Rababi Sufi," he elaborates.

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