(Last Updated on : 27/11/2014)
This String instrument of India basically means a single-stringed (ek - one, tara - string) instrument. It is also known as iktar, ektar or gopichand and perhaps the oldest of the stringed instruments in the Indian subcontinent. It is famously associated with the saint Mirabai. Originally, this instrument was a regular string instrument, which is plucked with one finger. Thus, the playing style of this instrument is a simultaneous pluck and gong, matching the rhythm of the music. This instrument is very popular in folk music, having a strong rustic connotation. Thus, these instruments are commonly used in chanting kirtans by Sadhus, holy men or also for Sufi chanting as well as by the Bauls of Bengal. It is also used for the traditional and modern forms of Bhangra, which sometimes use it to accompany the singer and dhol.
The ektara usually has a stretched single string, an animal skin over a head, which is made of dried pumpkin/gourd, wood or coconut and pole neck or split bamboo cane neck. By pressing the two halves of the neck together, can change the pitch, thus creating an unusual sound. The strings of the ektara give a range of tones by applying pressure at various points along the neck. This is a musical instrument that does not have markings for notes, and is played by assumption. The various sizes are a soprano ektara, tenor ektara, or bass ektara. The bass ektara, sometimes called a dotara often has two strings.
But a typical Bengali Ektara is constructed out of a half of a dried gourd shell serving as the sound-box, with a metal string running right through the middle of the shell. At the top, the string is tied to a knob, which adjusts the tension of the string and thereby, the tuning-the knob and the string-tension is supported by two bamboo-strips, tied to two opposite sides of the gourd shell. The Ektara and the Ghati Baya, together form a complete set accompaniments, especially to Devotional and Deolati musical traditions. The string, as in a Dotara, is tuned to the main/root note of the composition.