Dhola is a percussion instrument used widely in folk music. It is a double headed drum and is prevalent throughout the country. Dhol of Punjab is however the most famous one, owing to its prominent rhythm in Bhangra music. The barrel shaped drum is made of wood which is covered on both the open ends with animal or synthetic skin. Ropes, nuts and bolds are provided to tighten the skin, through which the pitch of the instrument can be altered. It is played by dholi, with the help of two sticks made of either cane wood or bamboo.
Dotara is a stringed pluck instrument, similar to a Mandolin. It is common in eastern part of India. Use of Dotara can be traced back to 15th and 16th century when this instrument was used by Fakirs and Bauls, the ascetic cults. Dotara is used in different forms of folk music. This instrument has two main strings, as the name suggests which suffices as an octave. Contemporary Dotara however have sometimes four strings which enhances its versatility. The forms of folk music this instrument mostly accompanies are Mahishali, Bhhawaiya and Jaalpariya, prevailing in West Bengal.
Dramyin is another Indian Folk Musical Instrument. This seven stringed instrument mostly accompanies the songs of Buddhist culture in Himalayan West Bengal. Techniques used to play this instrument include finger picking, plucking and strumming. Dramyin is basically a double waisted, fretless lute with a long neck. It is usually made out of a single piece of wood.
Ektara is a single stringed instrument which complements the Indian folk music greatly. The string is plucked with fingers to produce beautiful melodies. Ektara comprises of a head, made of wood, coconut or dried gourd or pumpkin, which is covered with animal skin. The string is stretched over this head. A split bamboo cane neck completes the structure of Ektara. Ektara are commonly used with Kirtans and devotional music. It is also a favourite musical instrument of the Sufi singers of Sindh and Punjab.
Folk Musical Instruments of India also include Khamak which is a string instrument having its origin in India. The instrument consists of a single drum to which a string is attached. This string is plucked to produce enchanting melodies. Khamak is one of the oldest musical instruments of eastern India. Bengali Baul songs blend beautifully with the sound of Khamak.
Sitar is another stringed instrument used widely along with the folk music of India. This instrument popularized during 16th and 17th century. It underwent various modifications over years and reached its present form during the Mughal Empire, 18th century. A Sitar may have 18-20 strings which are plucked to form melodies. Apart from these, there are sympathetic strings as well. For playing a Sitar, it is usually balanced between the right knee and left foot.
Rawanhattha is one of the most ancient musical instruments used in folk music which is quite rare these days. The instrument is made up of dry coconut in which a long bamboo piece is set. It has a single string which is played with the aid of a bow. The instrument is popular among the Bhopa community of Rajasthan.
Algoza is a tricky instrument. It is a double flute which is made of bamboo. Out of the two flutes, one plays a continuous tune while the other one produces different musical notes. An Azola player needs to master the techniques of breathing so that the rhythm of the instrument does not break.
Been is a common instrument found among the snake charmers. Been is composed of two pipes, made of bamboo, wood or metal, and attached to a gourd. Playing of a Been requires great stamina.
Sarangi is another stringed musical instrument accompanying folk music. This instrument is however also used along with Indian classical music. Sarangi is made of a hollow wood covered with a parchment having three main strings. It is played with the help of a bow.
Kansi is a percussion instrument used in folk music. It is single sided drum in which one of the sides is open. Kansi is played with hands and is popular in the hills of Himachal.
Manjira accompanies all genres of folk music but blends the best with devotional songs. It is an easy to play instrument and is quite inexpensive. Manjira consists of two small copper plates with a string tying the two. High pitched sound is produced when these plates are hit with each other.
Kartal is famous among the Ahir community. It is used along with the Biraha singing of this community. The instrument is composed of two iron bars, each a foot long. The bars are tapered at both ends. High pitched sounds are created by striking these bars against each other.
Other Folk Musical Instruments
In addition to these other musical instruments that accompany the folk music of India are Bansuri, Harmonium, Shehnai, Tambur, Riwana, Toomba, Dholak, Mridangam, Tabla, Dhak, Hudka, Dhad, Timki, Matka, Dabo, Thali, Chimta, Nakkara and Khanjari.
Folk Music of India has numerous genres owing to the diverse folk culture of India. Each genre however adds to the richness of Indian culture. Folk Musical Instruments further enrich this heritage of India by adding more charm to it. These instruments have popularized the folk music of India even in the urban areas.