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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A Hindustani/Indian stringed classical musical instrument, typically having a gourd as its resonating chamber.


Sitar in popular music

Early use of the sitar

Its first known use in a western pop song was in 1965, when The Yardbirds hired a sitar player to provide the main riff of their "Heart Full Of Soul" single. That version and the band's original take of "Shapes Of Things" also featuring the sitar, were however not released at the time.

The Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones used the sitar in "Paint It, Black"; he also played the Tambura on "Street Fighting Man". The sitar was used by The Beatles in "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", "Love You To", "Within You Without You", "The Inner Light", "Tomorrow Never Knows", and "Across the Universe" (with Ravi Shankar). Prior to this however, the sitar did appear on the American release of Help!, on an instrumental track called "Another Hard Day's Night" (a medley of "A Hard Day's Night", "Can't Buy Me Love", and "I Should Have Known Better"). This track has not been included on The Capitol Albums, Volume 1. George Harrison was introduced to the sitar by The Byrds, though this group never featured the instrument on records; guitarist Roger McGuinn used a retuned 12-string guitar to recreate the harmonies of Ravi Shankar (as did Brian Jones on some occasions). Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers used the sitar in their single "Don't Come Around Here No More". A fad for sitars in pop songs soon developed. The late 1960s saw the release of The Monkees' "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day", Rick Nelson's "Marshmallow Skies", Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco", The Cowsills' "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things", John Fred and His Playboy Band's "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)", The Turtles "Sound Asleep", The Box Tops' "Cry Like A Baby" (electric sitar), The Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine" (electric sitar), Traffic's "Paper Sun" and The Kinks' "Fancy". And even Sergio Mendes & Brazil '66 with “Chove Chuva”. Though the craze had died down by 1970, the sound of the sitar had become an indelible part of pop music.

John Renbourn used sitars prominently while with folk band Pentangle, on songs such as "House Carpenter", "Cruel Sister", "Rain And Snow" and "The Snows".

The Dutch band Shocking Blue used the sitar in many of their songs, most prominently in "Love Buzz", "Acka Raga", "Water Boy", "Hot Sand", and "I'm A Woman".

Roy Wood from The Move played sitar on "Night of Fear" by using the same riffs as Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and played the electric sitar on "Open up said the world at the door".

Although often overlooked, one of the most extensive users of the sitar in contemporary music were Mike Heron and Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band, combining folk, psychedelia with eastern influences.

Eric Burdon and the Animals had a sitar in the songs "Winds of Change" and "Monterey".

Strawberry Alarm Clock would use a sitar in their songs such as "An Angry Young Man" and "Sit with the Guru".

Art-Rock bands such as The Moody Blues used the sitar on a few albums, particularly on the album In Search of the Lost Chord. The Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow also had a sitar on a few tracks on the album, as did Procol Harum's epic song "In Held 'Twas In I" on the segment "Glimpses of Nirvana". Jethro Tull used the sitar on "Fat Man" and "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day". The Strawbs on many recordings used the sitar. And Genesis used the electric sitar on their song "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" on their 5th album Selling England by the Pound. Yes Used the electric sitar on their album Close to the Edge.

Even Donovan's hit song "Hurdy Gurdy Man" used a tamboura as well as other songs by Donovan such as "Sunny South Kensington", "Breezes of Patchulie", "Celeste", "Guenivere", "Three King Fishers", "Ferris Wheel", and "Fat Angel".

Richie Havens made extensive use of the sitar in the title song to his second album, 'Something Else Again'.

Blue Cheer used sitar and tabla in their song, "Babji (Twilght Raga)".

Elton John's song "Holiday Inn (song)" from the Album Madman Across the Water has a sitar solo.

Steely Dan's 1972 hit, "Do It Again" featured an electric sitar solo by original guitarist Denny Dias.

T. Rex (band) used an electric sitar on "Chrome Sitar".

Other hits with prominent sitar parts include B.J. Thomas' "Hooked On a Feeling" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours".

In the Playstation 2 video game Kingdom Hearts II, the Organization XIII boss, Demyx, wields a sitar (possibly electric) as well as the element of water.

Use of the sitar by contemporary bands

More recently, the sitar has started to regain some of its prominence in western mainstream music. The late sixties Indian inflected jazz-funk track "Mathar" by the Dave Pike Set, featuring sitarist Volker Kriegel, later became a massive club hit when rediscovered in the early 90s. The metal band Metallica used an electric sitar on "Wherever I May Roam". Rival band Megadeth used a sitar on the song "Secret Place" from the album Cryptic Writings, as did the Christian hard rock band Blindside on their song "Shekina". The Scottish band Belle & Sebastian uses the sitar most notably in their song "Legal Man". Bon Jovi's "I'll be there for you" starts off with an electric sitar. Cornershop's album When I Was Born for the 7th Time uses it extensively. The avant-garde rock band Polvo, psychedelic rock bands Kula Shaker, The High Dials, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the electronica group Morcheeba all use the sitar in many of their songs. Oasis has used an electric sitar on the song "Who Feels Love?" on the album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, and Incubus used a sitar on the bridge of "Nowhere Fast" on the album Make Yourself. Sitar has also been featured in No Doubt's hit album Tragic Kingdom, and Green Day has also used the instrument on the song "Extraordinary Girl" on American Idiot. System of a Down has also been noted for sometimes using the sitar in their songs, as well as the band Dream Theater in the song "Home" on Scenes from A Memory; however, it was only used as a synthesizer effect. Sitar was featured in the songs "Still" (recorded for the Dogma soundtrack) and "Knees of my Bees" (from her fourth international album "So-Called Chaos") by Alanis Morissette. Nightwish has made use of the sitar in The Siren, Creek Mary's Blood and Ghost Love Score, where it is played by Sami Yli-Sirniö, as on albums by Tiamat, Grip Inc., Samael and Waltari. Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell used a guitar-sitar for the song "What the Hell have I"; Type O Negative used a sitar interlude in their song "Less Than Zero" from their 2003 CD Life Is Killing Me. A sitar is prominently featured in Thievery Corporation's "Lebanese Blonde". The band Ra uses the sitar in some if their songs. Jack's Mannequin used a sitar in the choruses and outro of their song "Kill The Messenger". Also, metal band Disturbed uses a sitar in songs such as "Stupify" and "Ten Thousand Fists". The nu-metal pioneers KoRn have also used a sitar in the song "Cameltosis", off of their third album, Follow the Leader. On the new album The Hardest Walk, the band The Soledad Brothers use the sitar in their song "True to Zou Zou". The last track on Pearl Jam's self-titled album has a hidden track that appears just four seconds after the end of "Inside Job"; it is Eddie Vedder playing a melody on a sitar. Screaming Trees use the sitar for the main melody in the song "Halo of Ashes" from the album Dust (Screaming Trees album). The sitar features prominently in the song "Petrol and Chlorine" by Silverchair. The Cat Empire have also used a sitar in their song "Cities". The band Stuck Mojo's latest CD Southern Born Killers has extensive sitar samples on the controversial song "Open Season".

In Red Hot Chili Peppers song Behind the Sun, guitarist Hillel Slovak plays the sitar

Sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, composes music in a worldbeat vein.

Paul Young's "Every time you go away" uses an electric sitar.

Robbie Dupree's hit "Steal Away" uses an electric sitar.

Lenny Kravitz plays the electric sitar on "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over (Lenny Kravitz song)" and "Again (song)".

Janet Jackson's song "Runaway (Janet Jackson song)" contains a sitar.

On a smaller scale, it is used as a backing synth in "Right Here, Right Now", by Fatboy Slim.

The industrial super-group Pigface also uses the sitar on a few songs.

The Japanese band Spitz used the electric sitar on their song "Kimi ga Omoede ni Naru".

The sitar is used extensively by American multi-instrumentalist and singer Gabby La La. Her solo release, an album called Be Careful What You Wish For..., features her playing the sitar along with several other instruments including the toy piano and the theremin. She has collaborated with well known funk-rock bass player Les Claypool of Primus on his solo album Of Whales and Woe, as well as on Be Careful What You Wish For.... In the summer of 2006, Gabby La La played sitar for Les Claypool's Fancy Band at numerous jam band music festivals including Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival and Bonnaroo Music Festival. Gabby La La is signed to Les Claypool's record label, Prawn Song.

South African band Firefly makes prominent and unusual use of sitar in the song Falling Rain. The sitar is played by Rex van der Spuy, a student of Ustad Irshad Khan, in a style the band dubs "Country and Eastern". The band takes a completely different approach with the song How? where sitar is used in a psychedelic rock style. "How?" was written by Firefly's lead singer, Zaria, for her siamese cat, Tashijru. Firefly also uses sitar in a similar eclectic vein in their songs "I Want to Know" and "Someday."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sitar" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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