Music from the heart

Algoza from Punjab

Brain drain is a phenomenon that evolved in the 20th century, when talent and potential move out of India to foreign lands in search of better opportunities. Over the last few years, I have noticed a similar occurrence in the field of music. Talented singers and musicians moving abroad to study further or permanently settle down. From the many I know, the most recent aspirant to this search for greener pastures is a friend who is a descendant of the legendary Miya Tansen. With plans to settle down abroad for good after studying music at one of the world’s most prestigious music schools, it surely is a loss for our country to lose a gem related to one of the Navratnas. What is it that draws Indian artistes away from their motherland, rather than honing their skills here and unearthing hidden talents? Does formal grooming make us more ambitious instead of surrendering ourselves to music? At such times, music in its most raw and heartfelt form feels so appealing – when people make music an ingrained part of their daily lives.

Folk music represents this pure aspect of our lives, where music is how it should be — a part of our identity, entity and soul. Indian Classical Music (ICM) can be the more refined outcome of this dedication to music.

Music is and has been deep-rooted in our culture. While Indian Classical Music evolved over the last few centuries, music, as it is, has been a part of man’s life in some form or the other. In my previous articles, I introduced the different categories of musical instruments and elucidated upon the common varieties between ICM and folk music. Today, I would like to acquaint you with some of the rare music instruments from India’s rich musical history.

India is a diverse country in terms of language, customs, food and most importantly in its music — a fact we are all aware of. This diversity has brought about a wide array of music instruments that are peculiar to a particular state or share some basic characteristics with each other.

Let us have a look at some of the regional instruments that are not so illustrious but have been on the scene since ages. With curious names, they are sure to catch your interest and perhaps one of you might decide to bring an instrument out of oblivion and revive its bleak future.

From Kashmir, the land of hills, valleys and sheer paradise — Tumbaknari is an elongated goblet-shaped earthen instrument, used for every singing occasion in Kashmir. ‘Nari’ in Kashmiri is an earthen pot. Tumbknari is very similar to the ‘Irani Tumakh’, the difference lying in its structure. Its harmonious rhythm makes the whole atmosphere euphoric.

From Punjab, the land of the brave-hearted, free-spirited and flourishing fields — Algoza is an instrument widely used in Rajasthani, Baloch and Punjabi music, especially in the genres of Jugni, Jind Mahi and Mirza. A tricky instrument to play, it consists of two joined beak flutes, one for melody, the second for drone. A continuous flow of air is necessary as the player blows into the two flutes simultaneously. It is a double flute which is made of bamboo. An Algoza player needs to master the techniques of breathing so that the rhythm of the instrument does not break.

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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath
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Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath

Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. She has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy all over Mumbai.