Popularity of Tumbi
The tumbi gained prominence in modern times through the pioneering efforts of Punjabi folksinger Lal Chand Yamla Jatt (1914-1991). In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, numerous Punjabi singers embraced the tumbi, effectively incorporating its unique sound into their music. This trend was followed by Punjabi Sufi singers like Kanwar Grewal and Saeen Zahoor. The instrument's popularity grew as it became an integral part of Punjabi folk music and subsequently gained recognition within Indian and Pakistani expatriate communities in the UK and the U.S. This surge in popularity led to its inclusion in Bhangra scenes in Bollywood movies.
Design and Construction of Tumbi
The tumbi features a simple yet elegant design. It consists of a wooden stick mounted with a resonator, covered with skin. A single metallic string passes over a bridge on the resonator and is tied to a tuning key at the end of the stick. The player produces sound by striking the string with a continuous flick and retraction of the first finger.
Features of Tumbi
The tumbi exhibits several characteristic features, including a varnished wooden staff, a varnished gourd resonator (toomba), a whitewashed skin covering the resonator's top, a half-varnished peg, a wooden bridge, and a steel string with a diameter of 0.25 mm. These elements combine to create the distinct sound and aesthetic appeal of this ancient instrument.
Use of Tumbi in Western Music
The tumbi's distinct sound has also found a place in popular Western music. Notably, the introduction of the tumbi into the mainstream music scene can be attributed to renowned producer Timbaland and artist Missy Elliott. Their collaboration on the hit single "Get Ur Freak On" in 2001 incorporated the unique tumbi sound, bringing it to a wider audience.
Another well-known example of tumbi's presence in Western music is the hit song "Mundian Ton Bach Ke Rahin" (Beware of Boys) by Punjabi MC. This track achieved significant success in the United Kingdom charts and introduced the tumbi to a global audience. The tumbi has also made appearances in other Western songs, showcasing its versatility and appeal. For instance, "20 Inch" by Master P, featuring Jamaican reggae artist Cutty Ranks and rap artist Kobra Khan, includes tumbi played by Shawn Ramta, a Canadian musician with Punjabi heritage.
The tumbi holds a significant place in North Indian musical heritage, particularly in the folk music of Punjab. From its origins as a staple accompaniment for folk singers in the region, it has traversed borders and genres, capturing the attention of global audiences. The tumbi's unmistakable sound has become a defining feature of Western Bhangra music and has left its mark on popular Western songs. With its rich history and cultural significance, the tumbi continues to enchant listeners worldwide and serve as a vital accompaniment in folk music in India.