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Shenai, sahnai, or shehnai

The shenai, sahnai or shehnai is a member of the conical double reed family although it actually has a multiple reed that can embody four or six reeds. The reeds are made from folding a leaf and cutting it so that when it is bound to the mouthpiece, the reed spreads with an equal amount of tongues on both sides. Usually the shenai has a small piece of wool around the reed so that when tightened it can splay the reed further.

The shenai is common to North India and is used in religious events, but has also become an instrument of virtuosity. It was introduced to the West on George Harrison’s Wonderwall album and helped fuel the West’s passion for Indian music in the late 1960’s. In the hands of a great player the shenai creates a fluid tone rich in subtleties and expression. The shenai is played with the pads of the second joint of the finger rather than the finger tips to enable the fingers to be slowly rocked off the holes to produce a flawless unbroken portamento of up to almost a full octave. The shenai is usually played with another shenai (sur) holding a drone.

Country: India
Region: Asia
Type: double-quadruple reed

shenai, sahnai or shehnai - Indian quadruple reed "oboe".
©  R. Raine-Reusch, May 2002