Music can be understood and enjoyed by anyone, no matter what your economic or cultural background is. Music transcends language barriers, political divides and moral beliefs. Music is simply about enjoying the sound vibrations and having a good time. Well, this has been the case for thousands of years. Within that time, there have been hundreds of musical instruments that have had a vast cultural effect on various regions, with some even shaping the instruments we use today.
So with that in mind, we take a look specifically at the lesser-known instruments from the country of India. We aim to show you the region's finest selection of instruments and explain just what they offer. Here is our guide to the traditional instruments of India.
We begin with the instrument that most of you will be aware of: The Sitar is a plucked instrument that originated in the 16th century. This instrument usually has 21 strings, two bridges, is often made of Teak and has featured in popular western music, such in songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Tabla is a pair of hand made drums, one smaller than the other. These are commonly made of wood, clay or metal, and the smaller drum is used to create tonal and treble sounds, whereas the bigger drum acts as the bass drum. These are often personalised with rings and wooden dowels, which can help adjust the tone of the drums.
This is a chordophone instrument that is helped for the lute and the arched harp. It has a large, hollow body, four melodic strings and three auxiliary strings and is played with a mixture of plucking and strumming motions. It can produce sounds on a three-octave range and is usually made from gourd or jackwood. However, more modern models are made from fibreglass.
A sarangi is a short, bow and stringed instrument which has the innate ability to mimic the human voice, producing truly unique melodic sounds. This instrument is carved from a block of red cedar wood and has three hollowed-out resonance chambers, each producing various sounds that get progressively deeper.
The Tambura is a long-necked string instrument that is similar in shape to a lute or a banjo. This instrument is somewhat similar to bass in that it doesn't produce melodies but instead produces drones or harmonies that support the vocalist in musical performances. This instrument has four strings, no frets and usually has metal strings.
The Mridangam is a long percussion instrument not too dissimilar to a bongo. This drum originated back in ancient times, is often made with hollowed-out jack fruitwood and is often accompanied by instruments like the Ghatam, kanjira and morsing.
The Dholak is not too dissimilar to the above entry. This musical instrument is also a drum made with a mix of buffalo skin, goatskin and mango wood. However, the larger drum head is played with a stick making this one slightly different and offering a deeper sound. It is combined with the smaller drum head that produces a high pitched noise.
Then you have the Dhol drum, which is another drum that offers a middle ground between the Dholak and the Tabla. This drum offers a heavy bass sound and has animal hides for drum heads, and these skins can be stretched or loosened with a tightening mechanism to change the drum's tone. These drums can be made from wood, steel, plastic or fibreglass.
A Bansuri is a bamboo flute that is played sideways and is often heard within Indian classical music. This instrument can have six or seven finger holes, cover two and a half octaves, and offer deeper, lower tones than other traditional flutes.
The Ghatam, otherwise known as the Water Jug, is a percussion instrument synonymous with Punjab music. This clay pot has a narrow mouth, even walls to make the tone consistent and an outward-facing ridge with copper or iron fillings. These pots are filled with water to change the pitch of the pot when struck.
The Kanjira or the South Indian Frame drum is a form of tambourine with a single pairing of jingles and is often played to support the percussion of a Mridangam. The Kanjira is usually made from Jack Fruitwood and often has a drum head made of lizard skin.
Then lastly, we have the Khol. This instrument is a two-sided terracotta drum with one large drum head and one tiny one. The heads are often made from cow or goat hide and are triple-layered with rice paste, glue and iron. This instrument is most common within the Bengal region and is played with the palms and fingers.
So there you have it, all the lesser-known instruments from India all in one neat little package.
What instrument stuck out to you the most? Are there any of these instruments that you would love to get your hands on? Are there any essential Indian instruments that we missed? Let us know in the comments section down below, and thank you very much for taking the time to read.