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south Indian ektar
South Indian Ektar


north indian ektar
North Indian Ektar

Ektar is a simple folk instrument.  It is used to provide both a drone as well as simple rhytmic accompaniment to folk songs.  It may be the oldest stringed instrument in the Indian subcontinent.  The ektar is described in ancient Sanskrit texts as the ekatantri vina, literally the "one stringed lute".  In Punjab the ektar is known as the tumbi

The construction is very simple, it is nothing more than a gourd which has been penetrated by a stick of bamboo.  Another piece of bamboo forms the tuning peg.  The bridge is merely a coin, piece of coconut, plastic or similar object.  Ektars such as this are common in the south.  In the north, their construction is a little more complicated.  A membrane is stretched over the gourd and the bridge is placed over the taut membrane.

The term ektar literally means "one string", as such the term is loosely applied to a variety of one-stringed folk instruments.  This includes such instruments as the tuntun, katho, anand lahari, and gopichand.

The ektar is very popular in folk music and has a strong rustic connotation.  It is very much associated with the saint Mira Bai.  The smaller Punjabi version (tumbi) is much associated with the bhangra style of song and dance.  Among the Gadaba and Paraja tribes of Orissa, it is known as dudumah and dung-dungi.



Selected Video (Performances)

An Ektara - Indian instrument


Blind Musician - Indian Raga


Ektara on the Underground


Tumbi medley


Tumbi 2


Tumbi - Tumbiwalla does urban music again!


indian baba sings and plays a song in varanasi


Musicians in Orcha, India


Ketara Player, Tribal Market, Orissa, India


Haridasa singing outside of Pancamukhi Hanuman temple





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© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at david@chandrakantha.com