Resonance Music

Performing Bihu to Gogona music

On an invitation from our friend, we went to Assam recently and our itinerary included a visit to the Kamakhya temple, which is one of the Shakti peetams.

During our stay, we got a chance to acquaint ourselves more with the region’s culture and arts. It was during a performance of the popular Bihu dance that our eyes fell upon a strange instrument resembling the Jaw harp, which was being played as an accompaniment. We found out that it is called Gogona.

Apart from being played during Bihu performances, Gogona is also used by the Mongoloid and Kirat tribes in their folk music.

The characteristic feature of the Bihu dance is the use of traditional instruments such as Baanhi, Dhol, Gogona, Taal, Toka and Xutuli. These instruments lend a unique musical flavour when rendering the songs for the dance.

Gogona is a vibrating reed instrument made of a single piece of seasoned bamboo or horn that has a bifurcation on one end. It requires great skill to make the Gogona. The centre of the instrument has the resonating strip that is carved in such a way that it does not touch the external semi-flexible frame.

The performer holds the instrument in the left hand and places it on his/her mouth. The right thumb plucks repeatedly or strikes the free ends to produce Gogona’s characteristic sound. Only the semi-flexible frame is plucked while the resonating strip is not disturbed. The movement of air across the instrument as well as the contour of the mouth brings changes in its timbre.

Assam’s Lahori Gogona, a jaw harp.

Assam’s Lahori Gogona, a jaw harp.  

Several aspects including the length, width and the quality at the base of the resonating strip determine the pitch of a Gogona. In order to raise the pitch, the mass of the strip at the free end is reduced to make it thinner. To lower the pitch, the strength at the base is reduced.

According to the size, Gogona is known by different names such as Lahori Gogona, Ramdhan Gogona, and Xaliki Gogona.

The Ramdhan and Lahori Gogona are used more commonly. The former is played by men and is short, broad and a bit heavy. It is usually tucked into the tongali that is tied around the waist or inserted into the gamocha tied around the head.

The Lahori Gogona is performed by women. It is a more slender and long. While performing Bihu dance, women tuck this instrument into their knotted hair. A female Bihu perfomer is referred to as Bihuwati.

The writers are well-known Carnatic musicians

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2021 8:49:46 PM |

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