I'm a fan of traditional Sitar Raga Music and Sitars used in popular/psychedelic/progressive music. The other night I was listening to an NPR station and briefly thought I heard a piece of Jazz music that featured a sitar!

I honestly know very little about Jazz music, but I had never considered this idea before and was wondering if I was mistaken or if there are or have been sitar instruments used in Jazz or some subgenre of Jazz music?? Just how uncommon is this?

If So, I would love to get some recommendations to.

4 Answers 4


The history of the sitar in jazz, that is the fusion of the sounds of Indian classical music with Western jazz, dates back from the late-1950s or early-1960s when musicians trained in Indian classical music such as Ravi Shankar started collaborating with jazz musicians such as Tony Scott and Bud Shank. Later jazz recordings containing sitar music include albums by Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Joe Harriott (in collaboration with composer John Mayer), and Ornette Coleman.



Try out Purbayan Chatterjee. He's a sitar player that plays both traditional Indian music and Jazz. There are several videos of him online in various ensembles. His subgenre is called "Raga Jazz." You can search for that on YouTube.


In addition to the musicians listed by Chris Sunami, the jazz band "Oregon" featured the sitar and tabla music of Collin Walcott in a series of very influential recordings with Ralph Towner on guitar and piano, Glenn Moore on acoustic bass, and Paul McCandless on oboe. Walcott studied sitar with Ravi Shankar and tabla with Alla Rakha, so his sound will be more familiar to you than, say, George Harrison's noodling on the sitar with The Beatles.

Walcott played in several other ensembles besides "Oregon," and you will find many delightful recordings by following his discograpy. Walcott died tragically in an automobile accident in 1984. If you like the music of shehnai master Bismillah Khan, the two-reed oboe of Paul McCandless should add to Oregon's appeal for you and lead you to other excellent virtuoso recordings with East/West fusion bands such as the Paul Winter Consort and Vasant Rai.


John Maclaughlin's bands, Shakti and Mahavishnu Orchestra have used the sitar in many of their songs. John, although Australian, was heavily influenced by Indian music.



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