This happened a long time ago. Hemavati sat in her kitchen after a meal. There was nothing much to do, and Hemavati was bored. So she picked up the thaali or plate in which she had eaten earlier and struck it with a ladle. Taaaaang, traaaaaang, traaaaang… it went. Funny sound, she thought. But then, she liked it too. It was better than many other sounds. For instance, it was better than the snoring sounds her husband made when he slept.

Making Music [Illustrations by Shiju George]
Making Music [Illustrations by Shiju George]

Soon after, the thaali she had used to create the sound, began to be featured in many music pieces. Thus goes a grandma’s tale.

People say that the origins of music and musical instruments are to be found in tools and activities. They had nothing to do with music initially.

Folk-stringed instruments like the ‘tuntun’ (right) are nothing but animal traps made portable. At least that’s what many people say.

The idea of making a harp (extreme right) started when someone noticed the twang made by a bow and arrow.

Like Hemavati, there were others who transformed kitchen vessels into musical instruments.

The tabla (bottom) or dagga were discovered when pots, pans and other containers used for storing, measuring and cooking grain, were covered with animal hide or skin. Imagine a row of such vessels.

It couldn’t have taken long for some enterprising soul to learn that striking the vessels rhythmically could produce a certain string of sounds. And thus must have begun the world’s first drums.

But the drum is not always used for music. The African talking drums convey messages over long distances through the pitch and intensity of their sounds.

Similarly, the conch shell is one of the five basic musical instruments used in India. But, like the trumpet, the conch shell was also used to announce the beginning of a battle or the achievement of a victory.

The pancha vadya, or five musical instruments comprise the sankh or conch shell (right), dholak or drum (bottom left), mohori or oboes (bottom centre) and kombu or horn (bottom right) and jhanj or cymbals.

It is clear that humans have been quick to see different uses of an object throughout history. It connected the various activities of their life so very beautifully. Whether it is a school peon who pounds a thaali to signal the end of a period or class, or whether it is a hotel that plays music as people have their lunches or dinners, our ancestors have tried out these ideas long, long ago. But there’s no harm in our trying to come up with something novel, is there?

440 words | 4 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #instruments, #shells

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