Resonance Dance

Traditional musical instrument made of wood

Rajasthan is as much popular for its food and textiles as its music. There are several instruments such as Ravanhatha, Nagphani, Kamaicha, Morchang, Jantar and Khartal unique to the region.

During our recent trip to Rajasthan to perform at a music festival, we took time out to visit the Jaisalmer Fort and Folklore Museum, besides experiencing the thrill of the desert at Sam Sand Dunes. At the festival, we heard the Manganiyars. What drew our attention was the Khartal that they were playing during their performance.

Traditional musical instrument made of wood

A traditional percussion instrument, it is an important part of Rajasthani music. There are different types of khartals; the Rajasthani ones are plain wooden blocks without any bells embedded in them. The manjeera or cymbals, referred to as karatalas; the chipla or chaplankatta with bells attached (used in Harikatha) and Odisha’s kathia are similar to khartal. The word ‘karataḷa dhvani’ in Telugu means sound produced by clapping of the hands.

Hand rhythm

We desired to know more about the Rajasthani khartal. This instrument is played by the Manganiyars and the Langa communities in Jaisalmer and Barmer. Used during religious and social celebrations, the instrument derives its name from the Hindi words ‘kara’ means hand and ‘tala’ means rhythm — rhythm of the hand.

Khartal, also referred as kartal, kartah, khar taal, khartaal and khurtal, comes under the category of idiophones of the self-sounding variety, where the properties of vibrator and resonator are combined by the instrument. This wooden clapper is a Ghana Vadya, which has discs or plates that produce a clinking sound when bought together. It is traditionally made from sheesham wood or teak since this produces the required nadam or sound. It is learnt that the best sheeshams come from the villages of Rajasthan. It is also difficult to find the right wood and is quite expensive. Most often the performers make their own khartals to suit their requirements.

Traditional musical instrument made of wood

Khartals can also be made of metal. The instrument is usually plain but sometimes designs are drawn on it. This instrument is held on the hand and played. Sometimes the performer (usually played by men) play pairs of khartals with both the hands.The flat surfaces are struck together by alternately closing and opening the fingers. . Since the instrument looks like animal bone, it is also called rhythm bone.

The instrument is available in different sizes. The small varieties measure around 1.5 inches by 8 inches while the standard size is 1.75 inches by 9 inches. The bigger ones are around 2 inches by 9 inches.

Khartals can be played both as a solo instrument or part of an ensemble. A common feature of performances in Rajasthan is the rhythmic exchange between khartal and dholak artistes. Complex and fast rhythms are performed by khartal players, who stand, sit or kneel down.

The sound of the khartal carries with it the warmth of the desert sand and the emotions of the wandering minstrels of Rajasthan.

The writers are well-known Carnatic musicians


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 6:34:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/sounds-of-the-desert/article25058500.ece

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