Know your scales? It is also known as the murli or the been, this double-reedpipe instrument made from a gourd is primarily associated with snake charmers on the Indian subcontinent. The dried bottle gourd acts as a mouth-blown air reservoir, channelled into the two reedpipes, known as the jivala, one of which has finger holes spanning an octave, the other a single drone note, making comparisons with the bagpipe. The jivala, made from bamboo, are fitted to the gourd with beeswax, which can be adjusted for pitch modification. Players don't stop to take a breath, but instead employ circular breathing, blowing out though the mouth and breathing in through the nose, a technique also used by the most accomplished jazz players on saxophone or brass instruments.
The pungi is also variously known across India as tumbi, nagasar, sapurer an bansi in northern areas; nagasvaram, mahudi, pambatti kuzhal and pungi in southern parts of the country.
Used as a traditional folk instrument, snake charmers come to the fore at the annual Hindu festival Naga Panchami, which is celebrates the victory of Krishna over the giant serpent Kaliya. Snakes, usually the cobra, while dangerous and often poisonous, are actually a symbol of vitality and growth. In the temples, milk and rice is offered in front of images of the serpent Vasuki.
The music from the pungi is equally mesmeric or discordant as the fingered notes move in and out of harmony with the single drone. Watching the reaction of these cobras, perhaps they are not completely under the spell of the player's performance:
The pungi is not merely used for snake charming, but also for more formal and traditional music:
Shri Bhanwarnath from Parau village near Balotra is regarded as one of the most skilful players:
Some been music, as it is also known can also sound electronic, as in this except from the collaborative album Sheshnaag:
Any other pungi music or films come to mind? Feel free to share other examples in songs, instrumentals, on albums, or other contexts in comments below. You can also get in touch the contact page, and also visit us on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. and Song Bar Instagram. Please subscribe, follow and share.
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained in About/FAQs ...