As Rongali Bihu approaches near, towns and villages in Assam will be echoing with happy sounds of melodious Bihu songs and youth rehearsing their performances for Bihu competitions. It is surely one of the happiest times of the year in Assam. In this article, we will be looking at the list of main musical instruments used in Bihu.
Dhol is an ancient musical instrument that was predominantly used by the Vaishnav community in their religious ceremonies. However, it has now become an integral part of the Bihu celebrations in Assam. This two-sided instrument can be played either with bare hands or bamboo sticks. The dhol is traditionally made of a wooden barrel with both ends covered with animal skin, and the pitch of the dhol depends on the tightness of the skin fastened on either end. Its primary purpose is to maintain the rhythm of the festival. Assam has various communities, and each of them uses different types of Dhols for various occasions. Some of the kinds of Dhols that are commonly used are the Bihu Dhol, Oja Dhol, Khram, Dhepa Dhol, Jay Dhol, Madol, Bor-Dhol, and Kavi Dhol.
The Pepa is an essential and delightful musical instrument that holds a significant place in Assamese Bihu celebrations. It is unclear how the Pepa was introduced to Bihu, but it is usually played by young male Bihu artists. The Pepa player leads the music, while others accompany him by clapping hands and playing the Toka. The Dhol is played with less intensity so that the Pepa can stand out. Different tribal communities in Assam have various names for Pepa, such as 'Pempa' for the Missings, 'xuri' for the Dimasas, 'Singra' for the Rabhas, and 'Pepati' for the tea tribe.
The Gogona is a musical instrument used in Bihu that is played by holding it in the mouth. Its origins can be traced back to Mongolian culture and it is made from bamboo, requiring skilled craftsmanship. There are different types of Gogona named after their size, such as Lihiri Gogona, Rmdhon Gogona, and Xaliki Gogona.
In addition to being an integral part of Bihu celebrations in Assam, the Gogona is also used in folk music by many other tribes in the region. In modern times, it has become essential for female Bihu performers, or Bihuwatis, to master the art of playing the Gogona for stage competitions.
Taal is a musical instrument that is made of bell metal and is used in pairs as a percussion instrument. It comes in various sizes and shapes and is widely used in all forms of folk music in the region. Different communities in Assam use different kinds of Taal in their traditional music, which are referred to by different names, such as 'Jotha' among the Bodos, 'Sengso' among the Karbis, and 'Lupi' among the Missings.
In Bihu music, the primary rhythm was maintained through hand clapping, which eventually gave rise to the creation of instruments like the Toka. The Toka is a prevalent and easily accessible musical instrument used in Assamese folk music, also known as "Thorka" in the Bodo tribe. There are three different variations of Tokas used in Assamese folk music, each with slight variations in construction. These three types of Tokas are the Pati Toka or Haat Toka, the Bor Toka or Maati Toka, and the Jeng Toka or Dhutong.
Khol is another type of percussion instrument that resembles dhol. The instrument is crafted out of clay, featuring a smaller head on one end and a larger head on the other. To play it, one usually uses both hands and wears it around the neck using a strap.
Shinga is a musical instrument that is essential to the Bihu festivities. It is crafted from buffalo horn, with a small bamboo pipe inserted into it. The instrument emits a piercing sound and is often utilized to signal the start of an event.
Baahi is primarily an instrument of Vaisnavite culture of Assam. It is extensively used in different forms of Assamese folk and is one of the principal instruments of Bihu. The Baahi is also known as Muruli, Benu, Bäxee, etc in different parts of Assam. Almost all the tribes of Assam uses Bähee in their folk music
Xutuli, resembling a half-moon in shape, is an ancient instrument that has been around for ages. It is designed to mimic the sounds of various animals, birds, and flutes. According to a popular belief in Assamese folklore, the sound of Xutuli is said to summon rain.
During Bohag Bihu, Xutuli holds significant importance. Initially, the Cowboy or Gorokhiya Lora used Xutuli as a toy due to its simple construction. Currently, both boys and girls play the Xutuli in Bihu, but it is a crucial component of Jeng Bihu and Bihuwati dances, primarily played by girls.