Name: Shenai.

Type: Double Reed > Aerophone.

Region: India > South Asia.

Dimensions: Length cm.

Specimens: Two in collection.

Acquisition Date:

Acquisition Source: Both specimens are from Ian Mackenzie, from a trip to Rajasthan India.

Description: The Shenai or known by its alternate names Sahnai, Shanai, Shehnai or Mangal Vadya, is a double-reed aerophone found through out India. The shenai can be historically linked to a Central Asian instrument called a “naubat” that was played in military bands. In Rajasthan the shenai is accompanied by the Dukar-Tikar (a type of kettle drum) both are played in the Naqara genre. The sound of the shenai is auspicious, as a result it is used in North India for weddings, ceremonial procession, lunar occasions and festivals. In South India the Nadaswaram is closely identical to the shenai, accept for the volume and length. 

The Origins: The name shenai has derived from several words, that include [Saina] the name its player [she] meaning “breath” and [nai] meaning flute. In the Persian language the name shenai means [king] and [flute] or “the king's flute”. Along time ago a shah had banned the punji in his court due to its shrill sound. So a barber belonging to a family of musicians is thought to improve the shenai from the punji. In the 1960s the Shenai found its self in the Wonderwall recording by George Harrison who introduced the shenai to its Western audiences. 

Playing Techniques: Traditionally the shenai is played in pairs, the first shenai is a lead instrument and the [sur] is a drone instrument. Both of these instruments would often be accompanied by percussion. In the hands of a masterful player the shenai can express great subtleties in the performance. When learning the shenai a student undergoes long hours of practice, a lot of patience, circular breathing and a good set of lungs are required to fully master this instrument.

Construction: The Shenai is constructed from a conical wooden bore that is approximately 50 centimeters in length. Shenai shorter to longer size in length. A metal bell often of brass is affixed to the bottom end. On the top end of the instrument a hollow thin metal tube is inserted in the instrument. The shenai has roughly 7 to 8 finger holes and no thumb-hole. A cane reed is tied together and placed onto the mandrel. This is achieved by tying the cane reed together after the reed has been cut and folded in a particular manner. Multiple coloured thread is wrapped around the tubing for ornamentation. 

Citations: New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments pages 283, 284 by Stanley Sadie Vol. 3. K. S. Kothari, Indian Folk Musical Instruments, New Dheli 1968; B.C. Deva -The double reed aerophone in India 1975. N. A Jairazbhoy The South Asian Double Reed Aerophone 'reconsidered' EM, 1980. A. Dick Earlier History of the Shawm in India.