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Singing Communities: Arunachal Pradesh
Types Of Musical Instruments: Wind Instrument, Solid Instruments And String Instruments.
Famous Musical Instruments: Ujuk Tapu, Jingre Tapu, Ame Bali, Ponu Yoksi, Kiring, Emul, Pui

The Food Of Love
Music, it is said, is in man's nature. The Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, heard it in the orbit itself where celestial bodies moved in the predestined paths. Indian philosophers heard it deep within the very being: 'Nad', the primal sound. And in various ways and at various times, this music emanated from the lips of human beings

In Arunachal Pradesh too, the sense of melody and rhythm are among the most ancient of developments. As evidence, the verse below is recited by the bard before he begins any prayer or ceremony. It is an invocatory piece through which the traditional bard introduces himself before beginning any exercise.

In the high heavens
I am the flute and the pipe
In hell and deeper down
I am the flute and the pipe
Spanning all three worlds
Filling it with music.

In the bird's call
I am the notes
In nature
I am her song
I am the priest's inspiration
The philosopher's guide.
I descend to spread the lore…

Music is thus in the soul of Arunachal Pradesh, not to mention the fact that the idea of using instruments to make music too seems to be as ancient as the vocal cords.

An Interesting Tale
A story goes that somewhere in this land, was a mythical city Calle Ddoje. A certain people who were called the "Niti-Nites" lived in this city. They cultivated sugarcane and bananas. One season, as the harvest was almost ready, people began to dream of the days of plenty. But even as they watched their crop and waited for it to mature, they found that just one night before the crop was to be harvested, it would all get mysteriously eaten up. The whole field would be ravaged and not a single plant would remain. Still they kept on wondering that who ate the crops.

Making of The Trap
Different representatives kept a tight vigil all night, but just when their eyelids blinked, the field was destroyed and the culprit was nowhere to be seen. It was then that Tapen, the bat suggested they make a trap to catch the criminal. The people of Arunachal are very good at making traps for animals.

The trap was made, and lo and behold the miscreant was also caught! But the figure in the trap made no sense. Nobody had seen a creature like the one in the trap ever before. People from all over the city came, looked at the animal and nodded their heads. They did not know.

So finally Tapen, the active Bat carried the body on his back to a hilltop. He felt it there and came back. Just then Buro Tapu, the spirit of water splashed against the hill. The second wave was bigger than the first and this time Buro Tapu could see atop the hill. Guess who he saw lying on the hilltop? His very own son! He flew into such a rage that he cursed the people of Doje. The city will be ravaged by flood and storm, he declared and lost no time in huffing and puffing out the waters.

Even as his fury was building up, flying past were two birds, Betum Bello and Lido Kango. They got ever so worried hearing Buro Tapu's rantings. Their children were still too small to fly and they feared a storm and flood would destroy their little home. Betum Bello's nest was on a low tree and she feared it would be washed away when the waters rose. Lido Kango's nest was on a tall tree, and she feared it would break and fall to the ground. Just as she feared, the storm began to rage, the tall tree broke and down came the nest.

The storm quientened, the water spirit calmed down, and poor Lido was the only one still crying. It was at this time Abo Tani wanted to go out for a walk to collect the animals killed in the storm. His mother told him not to, but Tani was at that age when he felt he must be assertive and so did not heed her advice.

As he ventured out over fallen branches and broken trees, he heard a plaintive. It was very beautiful. Very sad, but so charming and sweet that Tani went in the direction from which he heard this ode. He walked on and on in the direction of the music even overlooking the many dead birds and broken twigs on the way- the treasures he had come out to collect.

Then he came to Lido Kango. Tani told lido that the song enchanted him and asked the bird if she could give him a part of it as gift. But Lido denied his request and continued to cry. Insistent Tani asked again and again. This time, Lido told Tani that he must not ask for the song because along with the song he would get the sorrow too. She told him that even if the song sounds sweet to the ear, but it carries the burden of a bereaved mother.

Tani rushed home and swallowed the tear with a piece of ginger. With the ginger teardrop, man learnt the art of singing. It is with this art that the descendents of Tani sang their many oral epics.

Guga - The Bamboo Instrument
That was also when he fashioned the first instrument called the "Guga". In a Guga, string to is attached to a small bamboo stick, which is like a tongue within a flat bamboo base. One end of the string is held with the mouth while the other is ties to the bamboo. By strumming it, music is made and the vibration of the bamboo provides an interesting dimension.

Three Types Of Musical Instruments
All musical renditions and dances are accompanied with instruments. Instruments can be divided into three categories: the Wind Instrument, the Solid Instruments and the String Instruments.

Wind Instruments:
The 'Ujuk Tapu' are all names of wind instruments. The Ujuk Tapu is made of bottle gourd. There are four perforated cane flutes fixed in the hole of the gourd. It is very similar to the bin that snake charmers play.

It is played when a bride reaches her husband's house; her father-in-law felt she was very sad. To entertain her, he made the 'Ujuk Tapu' and told his son to play it for her. Hearing that music, a monkey came down a tree and started dancing. The young bridge forgot all her sorrow and enjoyed the music and the dance.

'Pupe' and 'Tapu' are reed flutes made of locally available bamboo. 'Jingre Tapu' is an important instrument made partly of goat bone and partly of bamboo. The bone and the bamboo are joined together in a certain measurement. The bone-end is wider and opens up like a cone. The player blows through the bamboo-end into the instrument.

Solid Instruments:
Among the solid instruments, 'Ame Bali' is a metal plate, but very heavy and made of a metal, which has tremendous resonance. It is struck with a stick and keeps beat. 'Ponu Yoksi' is a unique instrument. It looks like a sword, about two inches long and one and a half inches broad. One edge of it is sharp. Two iron plates with holes are fixed in the centre, and when the player moves his sword, they clang together and make interesting sounds. This is another way in which the priest keeps rhythm during ceremonial dances.

'Kiring' is yet another instrument very much like the Ghunghroo (also spelt as Ghunghru). Metal beads are bound together and the player jingles it with his hand. The most significant instrument is the Emul, which is a group of star shaped metal pieces. Their sound is born when they clang against each other.

String Instruments:
Among the string instruments, the 'Pui' is a common one. It is made of bottle gourd for its base, bamboo and string.

As the heart and the eyes fill with joy when seeing the beautiful landscape of Arunachal, it is but natural that many interesting instruments such as these are fashioned to express the joy. Go to top

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