The Instrumental Role of the Sitar in Rock Music History

The world of rock as we know it is indebted to the coming together of a few seemingly disparate musical movements. While it may not be certain whether rock can still be considered a genre at this point, the evidence is certainly there that the international music industry has been shaped by its roots in blues, jazz, and soul. The electric guitar, the synthesizer, and the drum machine have all played their parts in the world of rock, and the contributions of the sitar have been just as important as those of any other instrument.

The sitar, a stringed instrument of South Asia, gained new prominence in the 1960s and 1970s as a mainstay of rock and roll music. The sitar’s influence can be heard in the likes of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Cream, and Led Zeppelin, to name a few. In this article, we’ll explore the role of the sitar in rock music history, its place in the history of the guitar, and how it became such a popular instrument in the first place.

What Is A Sitar

The sitar is a stringed instrument of South Asia. It is a plucked instrument, meaning that its strings are set in a frame and plucked using plectrums. As such, the sitar is often compared to the western guitar and fiddle, which are also plucked instruments. The instrument itself is known by many different names, including sarod, santoor, and dutar. Some of these names are even used interchangeably with the word sitar, but it’s important to note that they are all different instruments. The sarod, for example, is a family of instruments that are similar to the sitar but have different designs, tunings, and construction. A full-blown discussion of the instruments themselves would require a separate article, but for the purposes of our discussion here, we’ll limit the discussion to the sitar.

The Early Days Of The Sitar

The sitar as we know it today is thought to have originated in the Mughal court in India. It was an expensive instrument of status and was often used by royalty. The instrument’s popularity outside of the courts of the Mughal empire was limited, and the sitar continued to be used mainly as a court instrument until the early 20th century. The sitar was popularized by the Muslim musician Baba Allaudin Khan, who gained legendary status in the field of Indian classical music.

Khan was a gifted musician, recognized not just for his mastery of the sitar but also for his zeal for teaching. His students included many of the greats of Indian music, including composer Ravi Shankar. Shankar, in particular, became a prominent figure in the history of the western music industry and was one of the first people to bring the sitar to the attention of a western audience. Shankar’s interest in the sitar was not limited to musicians. He was also an avid collector of Indian art and artifacts, and his museum housed an important collection of Indian musical instruments. The sitar’s popularity in western society was greatly aided by the fact that it was used in South Asian pop music. This was largely due to the efforts of the musician Ravi Shankar, who popularized the sitar in the western music scene.

The Rise In Popularity Of The Sitar

The sitar’s popularity among rock musicians can be attributed to several factors. The sitar’s large range and unique timbre make it well suited to rock music, which often has a range of timbres that need to be replicated by guitars, organs, and other instruments. A well-placed sitar can be heard at the center of many popular rock recordings. The sitar’s large range and unique timbre also make it an ideal instrument for extended soloing. The popularity of the sitar in rock music extended beyond the western world. The sitar was popular in western pop music in India, where it was often considered to be an exotic instrument. The sitar was also popular in western pop music in the Middle East, where it was often used in pop music as a solo instrument. As with western pop music, the sitar found popularity in Middle Eastern Arab music. A seminal figure in the music of the Middle East and North Africa is the violinist and composer Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin was one of the most celebrated violinists in the world during the 20th century and played many instruments, including the sitar.

Although the sitar is most commonly heard in solo settings, it was also commonly used in combination with Western instruments in rock music. It was frequently used by guitarists in combination with electric guitars and keyboards. The popularity of the sitar in rock music led to an increase in the number of rock groups that featured a sitar on their recordings.

Groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were not just a great influence on rock music, but also on the culture of the 20th century. The Beatles have been cited as the most important band of the 20th century and have even been called the “greatest band in the history of music.” By adding a sitar to their recordings, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and many other artists helped to popularize the instrument in the western world.

Summing Up

In its short history, the sitar has been used as a solo instrument, in combination with Western instruments, and even in pop music. The sitar’s versatility and wide range make it an ideal instrument for rock and roll music, which often has a similarly large range of timbres to be replicated. The sitar’s popularity in rock music history has helped to popularize the instrument in western society and to make it a more familiar and accessible instrument for guitarists. So where does the sitar go from here? In many ways, the sitar’s future in rock music is bright. It has found popularity in the western world, but its influence has stretched far beyond that. In India, the sitar has always been considered an important part of the Indian classical music tradition. The sitar’s popularity outside of India has been limited in the past, but its popularity in the western world has led to a renewed interest in the sitar’s place in Indian musical history. From a musical standpoint, the future of the sitar in rock music looks promising.