Every culture has its own indigenous forms of music and musical instruments, which are intrinsically linked to the culture and traditions of the local populace. The ancient tradition of musical instruments dates back to the Vedic period, when a particular occasion called for a particular instrument. Goa, too, has its fair share of instruments, and these are especially prominent during festivals and occasions. Most of these are locally made, and sadly, some are on the verge of extinction.
In Goa, musical instruments are largely categorised into percussion, sound and individually played instruments. Some of them are played individually, while others only serve as accompaniments. Traditional Goan instruments include the dhol, mridanga, tabla, ghumat, dholak, kasale, mhadalem, shehnai, surt, tasso, nagado and tambura. Percussion instruments such as the dhol, tasha and kansalem are a common sight during Shigmo.
Here are some of the most common percussion instruments, seen all over Goa.
GHUMAT: The ghumat is the most common (and favourite) local instrument in Goa, and is basically an earthen pot with two mouths — one wide and the other narrow. The wider mouth is covered with monitor lizard skin, and secured with string. The ghumat is suspended from the neck or tied to the waist of the musician. It is an essential part of Hindu festivals, some temple rituals such as Suvari vadan and bhivari. It is also popular at Ganesh Chaturthi, Shigmo, vrats, zatras and jagrans.
TASO/TASHA/ARAB: This instrument was formerly used on the war front, and is common during the Shigmo festivities. Thin cane sticks, of about 30 cm length, are struck onto the leather membrane to create a sound. This instrument is strung around the neck or tied to the waist of the musician. A large tasha is also called an arab in Goa.
MHADALEM: It is probably the most ancient of all percussion instruments, and is used as an accompaniment to the ghumat during the Zagor performance, and during tonya kheḷ, dhalo etc. It is an earthen cylinder, covered with the skin of the monitor lizard.
DHOL: The dhol is a common sight in the folk music scene of Goa and is a barrel shaped drum, made of wood, with goat skin stretched across both ends.
MRIDANG: This was commonly used in temples. It is largely similar to the pakhawaj. A mridang player strikes the instrument with his hand, with the fingers clasped and released to create the desired sound. Mridang and pakhawaj are slowly disappearing from the local music scene, and are being replaced by the tabla.
ZOD SHAMEL: This is a pair of shamel, slightly different from the original shamel. With this instrument, the player maintains the rhythm by beating it with two cane sticks — one of which is thin and straight, and the other has a slightly curvy end, creating a distinct sound.
DAMARU: The damaru is a small drum, shaped like an hourglass, and is associated with Lord Shiva.
KASALE: The kasale consists of two round metal pieces. Both pieces are struck against each other to create a sound much like a cymbal. This instrument is played along with a ghumaṭ and shameḷ, and is a common sight during Shigmo.
Catch the sounds of these instruments at Goan Hindu occasions, including the on-going Shigmo festival in Goa.