Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Vadya: Mangal Vadya.
Specimens: 2 in collection.
Region: South Asia.
Acquisition Source: Ian MacKenzie, trip to Rajasthan, India.
Description: The shehnai, shenoy, sanai, shahnai, shenai, shanai or mangal vadya or sahanai [in Hindi: शहनाई, Bengali: শানাই, Marathi: सनई, Odia: ଶାହାନାଇ, Kannada: ಸನಾದಿ] is a member of the conical double reed family. The shenai is common to North India and over all South Asia.
The variant names of this instrument including Sahanai [Nepal] are virtually the same type of instrument they may differ in tuning due to over all size and length. The shenai is used in religious events but in recent times it became an instrument of virtuosity. The introduction of the shenai to western audiences was by George Harrison’s “Wonderwall” album. Furthering a passion for Indian Classical Music in the west since the 1960s.
Techniques: 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.
Construction: The shenai has a reed that is folded multiple times, this allows for the embodiment of four or six reeds. The reeds are made from folding a leaf and cutting it in shape, so that when its bound to the mouth piece, the reed spreads with 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.
Citations: Bibliography: Ranade, Ashok Damodar 2006 ; Music contexts: a concise dictionary of Hindustani Music. Bibliophile South Asia – ISBN 81-85002-63-0 ; Hoiberg, Dale – Indu Ramchandani 2000 Students’ Britannica India. Popular Prakashan ; Websites: