A land of great strength and unity in diversity, India has been the home to culture, traditions, art and development. Indeed with every region came its own flavour in food, clothing, climate and the arts. Being one of the few countries that have all kinds of topology, India exhibits unparalleled diversity that is reflected in everything – music being no exception. India has witnessed and contributed to the birth of a number of unique musical instruments, which have in turn given rise to a lot of other derivatives. Let’s look at the unique musical instruments from different parts of India.
Bulbul Tarang – Origin: Punjab
The bulbul tarang is the Indian equivalent of a banjo. It is also known as the Indian or Punjabi banjo. It is said to have been created in the pre-partition Punjab, but has a striking resemblance to the Japanese taishogoto. It was likely derived from that.
Sarangi – Origin: India, Nepal and Pakistan
Believed to have been derived from the India folk music instrument Chikara, the Sarangi is a bowed string instrument that is said to be very close to the human voice. It can be played to imitate many different kinds of sounds that a human being can make with her voice. Indeed, an instrument that can sing!
Santoor – Origin: Jammu and Kashmir
Also known as the Shata Tantri Veena, this musical instrument is made of 100 different strings, arranged in a trapezoid wooden box. It was traditionally also used by Sufi artists to accompany their hymns. But was later used extensively in Hindi film music too.
Tangmuri – Origin: Meghalaya
This instrument is a double reed blowing instrument. It has a very special place in the Khasi or Hynniew Trep people of Meghalaya. Much as the shehnai is part of Indian marriage rituals, the tangmuri holds an important place in the burial rituals of these people. It is also used in accompanying music for the traditional dance form.
Ekkalam – Origin: Tamil Nadu
Consisting of a single long brass pipe, this instrument requires much effort and skill on the players part as different notes can be produced only by varying the pressure of the air that is blown into the instrument. It is typically used in temple traditions and rituals in Tamil Nadu.
Mashak – Origin: Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh
Indian Bagpipes! The mashak has a very merry connotation to it as it is traditionally played on happy occasions, such as weddings. It is believed to have been derived from the Scottish Highland bagpipes. Several other bagpipes were also developed in India following this instrument.
Ghumot – Origin: Goa
This instrument is a membranophone that is made by mounting a large animal hide on one end of a double-faced earthen pot. While it is largely popular in East Indian People, the instrument is also often enjoyed in parts of Andhra Pradesh. In Goa it forms a typical member of the ensemble for mando music.
Idakka – Origin: Kerala
Similar in form to the damru, this percussion instrument is regarded divine and is only played during prayers. However, it is more popular as one of the 5 instruments that form the panchavadyam ensemble of the state of Kerala. It is believed to be a rather difficult instrument to play.