The Rabab of Guru Nanak followed him as his shadow for over 27 years on his travels around the world, played by his beloved companion Bhai Mardana. This was the start of the Sikh Rababi (kirtani) tradition with the singing of Shabad pardhaan kirtan according to the hukam of the Guru's (following the specified raags).
India houses various types of rababs which vary from region to region, the Sikh Rabab is also known as the Phiranda Rabab, named after Bhai Phiranda who carved and created the original Rabab which Bebe Nanaki paid for and then presented to Guru Nanak Sahib ji as a gift.
Technical Specification of Rabab:
1. Wood: Indian Tunn, it is close to Red Cedar
2. Strings: Natural Gut strings
3. Skin: Goat Skin
4. Bridge: Traditionally made from ivory or bone, now it is more commonly made from rosewood
The Rabab is a lute-like musical instrument originally from Afghanistan. It derives its name from the Arab rebab which means "played with a bow" but the Central Asian instrument is plucked and is distinctly different in construction. The Rabab is mainly used by Pashtun, Tajik, Kashmiri, Baluch and Iranian Kurdish classical musicians. Rabab is a National Music Instrument of Afghanistan.
The Rabab is a short-necked lute whose body is carved out of a single piece of wood, with a membrane, covering the hollow bowl of the sound-chamber, upon which the bridge is positioned. It has three melody strings tuned in fourths, three drone strings and 11 or 12 sympathetic strings. The instrument is made from the trunk of a mulberry tree, the head from an animal skin such as goat, and the strings either gut (from the intestines of young goats, brought to the size of thread) or nylon.
The Rabab is known as "the lion of instruments" and is one of the two national instruments of Afghanistan (with the zerbaghali). Classical Afghan music often features this instrument as a key component. Elsewhere it is known as the Kabuli rebab. It is the ancestor of the South Asian sarod though — unlike the sarod — it is a fretted instrument. When the Muslim musician Mardana became the first disciple of Guru Nanak the plucked rabab became an essential component of Panjabi hymns though, once again, though it derived its name from the Rabab the Punjabi instrument adopts a different method of construction.
The Rabab is attested from the 7th century CE. It is mentioned in old Persian books, and many Sufi poets mention it in their poems. It is the traditional instrument of Khorasan and today it is widely used in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, India and Uzbekistan.
The Rabab holds as the first instrument used in Sikhi; it was used by Bhai Mardana the companion of Guru Nanak. Whenever a shabad was revealed to Guru Nanak he would sing it and Bhai Mardana would play it on his Rabab; he was known as a Rababi. The Rabab playing tradition is carried on by some Sikhs such as Namdharis is understood as Sikh music.