The biggest drum, Dhak, one of the oldest instruments of
Bengal is made of big wooden-shell having two parchment heads
tightened by leather straps, and is hung on the shoulder slantingly
when played. Its peculiar use in Bengal denoting the festivals
of Saiva and Sakta type perhaps justifies the tremendous volume
of sound befitting such uproarious occasions. The instrument
is thus as old as the Sakta festivals. Therefore, its loud
play by two light and thin sticks on one side has developed
a technical method imitating all possible Tals of quick tempo.
When it is played, the accompanying strokes on a metal plate,
known as Kangsya or Kansar, reinforces the Tal with an equal
effect of a metallic pitch. Dhak is used in major Sakta or
Saiva religious ceremonies even today. In the olden days,
the master-Dhak (Dhak player) used to be sumptuously remunerated
during the worship of Goddess Durga. Dhak players would decorate
the Dhak with features and make swinging dance-like movements
while playing. This percussion instrument is hardly used with
vocal music excepting in cases of dance-cum-vocal recital
like Gajan of Malda and such other items.
The Dhol happens to be the most important of the percussion
instruments used in folk music as well as the oldest of the
useful percussion instruments of Bengal. Dhol has developed
a brilliant technique of its use in different types of items
- loud or moderate. The wooden-shell or medium type has two
parchment-heads as played by hand on the left side and by
a small stick on the right. The two sides are tightened by
leather straps and a heavy tope helps it to be hung around
the neck. Dhol is not a mere accompanying instrument of the
music of the villages. It has been widely used with song and
music of Panchali-parties and other narratives since the early
days. Dhol was raised to the status of a skilled percussion
instrument of technical type played with the Kavi songs in
the 18th and 19th centuries. Often Kansar (Kangsya) is seen
to be used as accompaniment for metallic rhythm of Tal. Connoisseurs
of music used to take a fancy to expert Dhol-playing in their
parlors. It is a singularly prominent solo-playing instrument
in the rural areas and was accompanied to the rural imitation
- Shehnai, mainly in marriage festivals of East Bengal.
Khol, widely used in a variety of folk songs, was originally
borrowed from keertan. Bengals hols are clay-shells of cylindrical
type, laced all around the body by leather straps, the head
parchment being pasted with heavy vellum of iron filling.
Khol of Manipur is known as Poong. Its shell is made of wood.
As we know, the metal instrument (plates) utilised mainly
is Kartal or cymbal, though cymbals of different size and
shape are also in use. It has been claimed that Khol is basically
a non-folk percussion instrument though used in folk music
and light music of today (see earlier Padavali keertan). In
Tagore music and in some other modern devotional music, Khol
is extensively utilised.
Khanjari is one of the handy instruments of high round wooden
frame with jingle-plates attached to the frame like miniature
tambourine played by hand, popular all over India esecially
with Oriya and Hindi devotional folk songs and less utilised
in Bengali folk songs.