The sarangi has been taken from its traditional accompanying role and transformed into a solo instrument of creative expression by Udaipur Rajasthan, born Ram Narayan. Urdu poet Ali Sardar Jafri claimed that Narayan "has discovered the sau rang (100 hues) of this instrument"; classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin explained, "I cannot separate the sarangi from (Narayan). So thoroughly fused are they, not only in my memory, but, in the fact of this sublime dedication of a great musician to an instrument which is no longer archaic because of the matchless way in which he has made it speak."
The son of a dilruba player, Pandit Nathuji Biawat, who established a distinctive fingering technique, Narayan represents the fifth generation of musicians in his family. Fascinated by a miniature sarangi that he found while searching for a toy in his bedroom at the age of five, he began formal lessons two years later. His teachers included Ustad Mehboob Khan, Pandit Udayall, Pandit Madhav Prasad, and Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan. By the age of 14, he was proficient enough on the instrument to be hired as a staff musician for All-India Radio in Lahore (now Pakistan). He moved to All-India Radio in Delhi following partition.
Although he built his early reputation as an accompanist for vocalists, Narayan was frustrated by the supporting role. In the early '50s, he began performing as a soloist with his brother, Pandit Chatur Lal, on tabla. In the nearly half century since, his playing has continued to evolve as modifications in the structure of his sarangi and bow have enabled him to thoroughly explore the instrument.
Narayan has received numerous awards, including the Padmashree and the Sangeet Natak Academy awards. Manchester University Press published his book on Indian classical music. Narayan's musical legacy has been passed on to his daughter, Aruna Narayan Kalle, a well-known sarangi player in her own right. ~ Craig Harris