When it comes to diversity in films, languages, music or dance nobody can beat India. India’s rich heritage allows it to contribute immensely to the world of art and the credit goes to the different cultures that stem out from every corner of the country.
And when we talk about music India indeed has a lot to offer. Each culture and religion has its own folk music which contributes to the enriching pool of artists in the music industry and the richest culture of them all is the Bengali culture. Bengal gave us famed personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray, and Kishore Kumar and it continues to contribute to the music world via some amazing Bengali instruments which I am here to talk about.
Folk music has influenced the music industry since ages. Instruments like dhol, nagada, bansuri, sitar etc have become a part of mainstream music.
However, there are some lesser known Bengali instruments which when played give out the essence of the culture they belong to and are rocking the music world today!
So let’s have a look at 5 of the amazing Bengali instruments which are widely played across the country.
Remember the song ‘goonja sa hai koi iktara iktara…’ from Wake Up Sid?
As its name suggests, Ektara is the musical instrument with one string. Also known as the “gopijanra”, it is used by the native people of Bengal for making folk music. More specifically ektara is an essential component of a very famous form of music in Bengal known as the Baul music where the Baul singers roam around with their ektaras singing popular bards from Bengal’s folk music.
Baul music has an immense influence on Bengal’s culture as it is today. In fact, it has been included in the list of “the Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2005!
Coming back to the instrument ektara is a simple spherical resonator made of dried pumpkin with a split bamboo cane attached as its neck. The instrument is played by plucking at the single string present on its neck reaching inside the pumpkin resonator.
Simple but rich is what it feels like when someone hears the music originating from this Bengali instrument which is actively used in composing Bollywood music. You will feel it too once you hear it:
Dotara is an instrument containing two, fair or sometimes five strings and resembles a sarod. Dotaras were also used by the Bauls to create folk music for their balards across Bengal, Assam, and Bihar.
The dotara is also an instrument that is played by plucking its strings and is used alongside other folk instruments like dhol or mandira in Bengali folk music groups. Have a look at how it sounds and I’m sure you’ll be spellbound:
Interesting Fact: Dotara is also called the Mirabai because Queen Mirabai used to play bhajans on this instrument to express her devotion to Lord Krishna!
This Bengali instrument is similar to the Ektara (one-stringed instrument attached to a drum) and is used alongside other traditional instruments in creating folk music especially the baulgaan (songs sung by the bauls).
Khamak comprises of three basic parts: a base made out of wood which is connected via multiple strings to another art made out of wood. This instrument is also played by plucking the strings with one arm and adjusting the tension of the strings with the other.
And this is how it sounds:
The morsing is one of the unique folk music instruments from Bengal which have influenced and are used in multiple cultures like the folk music from Rajasthan, Carnatic music in South India and is even referred to be similar to the Jews Harp.
Looks wise it is nothing like the other folk music instruments from Bengal. It comprises a metal ring in the shape of a horseshoe, two parallel frames which form the basic frame and a metal tongue in the middle of it.
And unlike other stringed Bengali instruments, the Morsing is popularly used in playing Rabindra sangeet (songs written and composed by Bengal’s and the whole world’s beloved Rabindranath Tagore) and hence you can tell how popular it must be in West Bengal’s and the whole country’s music realms with musical biggies like RD Burman and SD Burman using it in Hindi Cinema.
Hear out the unique music that it makes:
Last but certainly not the least we come to Dramyin which is not just native to Bengal but finds it deep roots in Himalayan folk music including Nepal, Tibet, and Sikkim.
The dramyin is a long-necked lute cut out of a hollowed piece of wood with seven strings attached to the base. Similar to other folk music instruments, the dramyin is also used by fingerpicking or plucking on the strings.
It is the go-to instrument to create folk music in Bhutan and the likes as well! This will make you believe its magic:
So these were indigenous instruments from Bengal which are not only used to serenade the local folks by creating folk music but are increasingly becoming mainstream and taking the all India music industry by storm!
Images source: Google images