Lesson 1: South and Central Asia–Instruments

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All Around This World: South and Central Asia--Musical Map

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With so many different rhythms developed over so many centuries you’d be right to guess you’ll find many different kinds of instruments in South and Central Asia. In South and Central Asian music interaction between an instrumental soloist and an ensemble is key. Virtuosos on instruments that can embark on hours of improvisation, like the sitar and tabla, still need to return to home base and the melodic context of other instruments like the harmonium. There are also many stringed instruments in the region, especially in Central Asia, that masterful musicians use as accompaniment when they sing intricate poetry or relate epic tales.

Take a look at Chandra and David’s “Indian Instruments” page for information about a couple dozen of them, including photos and, when available, links to video. For example, you can learn about the khartals, a pair of wooden blocks with light metal jingles on them that a percussionist hits together to accent the rhythm, a goblet drum from Andra Pradesh called the gummeta, and the Santhal tamak, which you can see in action on YouTube (it’s the one being hit by sticks).

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