The santoor is a stringed instrument, indigenous to the Kashmir valley as a folk instrument. In ancient times it was known as "Shata-tantri-veena", or hundred stringed lute. The santoor is made of maple or walnut wood, shaped like a trapezoid, and the strings are steel. The santoor is played with a pair of curved mallets made of walnut wood.
For centuries it was a popular folk instrument, and it was Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma who elevated the santoor to the status of a classical instrument by making major changes in the design and structure of the instrument, and also introducing new playing techniques. These techniques enable the player to produce the meend, or glissando, required in classical Indian music. The form of tuning was also changed, and made a big difference to the style of playing. The melodic range was also increased to three octaves. Generally, the bridges to the right side of the santoor are tuned to the notes of the raag, and the instrument can also be tuned in a chromatic fashion.
Since the santoor is played not by bowing or plucking but by striking, it can be said to be percussive in nature, and as such, offers tremendous rhythmic possibilities.
Arshadji will be accompanied by Samrat Kakkeri on tabla.
Arshad Syed is a disciple of the great santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, and has been performing on the santoor in the U.S. and abroad. The santoor has been gaining in popularity in classical Indian music due to Shiv Kumar Sharma’s immense contribution, and Arshad is keeping up the tradition with his dedication and well-rounded playing. Arshad brings to the santoor his formidable training and experience as a tabla player, developing his own style of santoor playing. His performances on the santoor are marked by his tremendous control over rhythm and layakari, and being an accomplished tabla player has helped him achieve the same finesse and dexterity on the santoor.
Arshad Syed first distinguished himself as a tabla player and percussionist, having studied since childhood from the legendary Ustad Alla Rakha. In addition, he has collaborated with many western musicians. Amongst his accomplished works are the Diga Rhythm Band, with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, the Rhythm Experience with Zakir Hussain, as well as fusion works with bands like Ancient Future and Flamenco guitarists in Spain.
Arshad then embarked on a new sadhna, taking up the santoor and seeking guidance from Shivji, from whom he received wonderful support and encouragement. With this support and teaching, Arshad Syed is fast emerging as an accomplished santoor player, and also has his own band, Feelings, which features his santoor and performs light classical and fusion music based on ragas.