Garo Music and Musical Instruments
“Music is in the blood the Garos”, it is often can be said metaphorically. Music plays an important role in the life and culture of the garos. They have a rich oral tradition and music is one way through which knowledge and folktales are transmitted through generations.
Songs and dances are often inspired by the natural environment, the annual agricultural cycle, or by historical events like war and conflicts of the past, the founding of the village, or waves of migration.
Garo Traditional Music and Instruments:
Group songs may include Nangorere, Serejing, Pandu Dolong etc. Dance forms are Ajema Roa, Mi Su-a, Chambil Moa, Do-kru Sua, Kambe Toa, Gaewang Roa, Napsep grika and many others. The traditional Garo musical instruments can broadly be classified into four groups.
Self-sounding and made of resonant materials– Kakwa, Nanggilsi, Guridomik, Kamaljakmora, all kinds of gongs, Rangkilding, Rangbong, Nogri etc.
Wind instruments, whose sound come from air vibrating inside a pipe when is blown– Adil, Singga, Sanai, Kal, Bolbijak, Illep or Illip, Olongna, Tarabeng, Imbanggi, Akok or Dakok, Bangsi rosi, Tilara or Taragaku, Bangsi mande, Otekra, Wapepe or Wa-pek.
Stringed instrument–Dotrong, Sarenda, Chigring, Dimchrang or Kimjim, Gongmima or Gonggina.
Which have skins or membranes stretched over a frame– Am-beng Dama, Chisak Dama, Atong Dama, Garaganching Dama, Ruga and Chibok Dama, Dual-Matchi Dama, Nagra, Kram, etc.
Garo Traditional Musical Instruments:
The A·chiks have a variety of musical instruments that have been made by them. It is composed of different kinds of drums, wind instruments, gongs and cymbals and the horn. The musical instruments used by the A·chiks in most of their dances are:
This is a long drum with one end wider than the other. It is made up of a hollow bark of a tree covered with cow hides on both sides.
This is another type of drum which is shorter in length but wider in diameter. It is also made out of wood with both ends covered with cowhide. This is usually used in solemn occasions like funerals and religious ceremonies. The kram cannot be taken out of the owner’s house except on certain important occasions, or else it is believed by the A·chiks that some misfortune may befall the owner.
It is a small wooden drum which is used as an accompaniment for the kram.
This is a large drum consisting of an earthen pot covered with cowhide and it is used only to call the people to assemble at the chiefs’ house. It is considered a sacred possession and can be owned only by the Nokma. The A·chiks believe that if somehow the Nagra is taken out of the Nokma’s house, ill luck is certain to visit the owner. There are two types of wind instruments namely the trumpet and the flute that are used by the A·chiks to the accompaniment of drums.
This trumpet is made from the horn of a buffalo or any other wild animal. It is about six inches long.
It is made up of a buffalo horn and can produce sound only two or three times at a breath. The flutes used by the A·chiks are made of bamboos only. There is no decoration or inscriptions on them. The different types of flutes that are used by them are:
It is a big bamboo flute about three feet long and one inch in diameter with only two finger holes.
It is a small bamboo flute with three holes.
It is a much smaller flute than the others with only three notes.
It is another kind of flute made out of a short piece of thin bamboo, closed at one end and an opening at the other.
Gongmina or Jew’s Harp:
This flute is made out of a thin slit of bamboo about four inches long and half an inch wide.
It is a big gong made of brass or metal plate of a raised border of about an inch high around its edge. They are used for various purposes by the A·chiks. They are played as a musical instrument during dances and festivals, and they are also used as gold reserves because a man’s wealth is measured by the number of Rang one possesses. There are two kinds of Cymbals used by the A·chiks, and they are Kakwa and Nenggilsi. This is also made of brass and is used as a musical instrument in the dances.
Other musical instruments of equal importance are guridomik, kamaljakmora, bangsirosi, bangsimande, chigring, dimchrang, ambengdama, chisakdama and others. The A·chiks also believe that deities reside in all their musical instruments and therefore they take proper care of the instruments.