Jal Tarang – A Musical Instrument on the verge to Vanish

Classical music is the reservoir of religious and spiritual music artistically wrapped with the roots of traditions. Classical music can refresh your soul, heal your heart, and calm your mind.

Classical Music can bring positivity to oneself. It can make your cheer and smile. In many Bollywood movies and old stories, the music has played an important role. The legendary singer Tansen was believed to lit lamps, and even brings rain by singing. These classical raag when sung with classical instrument can bring spiritual joy to us. The melodious tone of Indian musical instruments such as Sitaar, Veena, Shehnaai, Tabla, and Harmonium are mesmerizing.

JAL TARANG also known as water music is losing its popularity from past few decades. Today’s youth are totally unaware of this art. It is one of the oldest musical instruments in the world played since ancient times. You don’t need any particular instrument to learn this music. Jal-Tarang is played using Bone China bowls filled with water and two light sticks called as mallet. Bowls are arranged in a semi-circular position, and are filled with water. Then with the use of mallets the bowls are struck one by one. The music formed with the water waves on striking the bowl is melodious. The motion of sound with water varies with the change in the quantity of water. The quantity of water and the bowl size gives high and low pitch sounds, and this creates sweet tones and rhythms.

Bowls of lower octave notes ‘Mandra Swar’ are large and for higher octave notes are smaller in size. The number of bowls is decided as per the melodies to be played. Earlier, when Bone China bowls were not available, metal bowls were used, but today only Bone China bowls are preferred by the artists numbering around sixteen normal cups. Inspired by Jal Tarang, glass music too became popular somewhere in sixteenth century using glasses in place of cups.

‘Sangeet Saar’ considered one to be complete Jal Tarang is with 22 bowls and with 15 bowls is to be of mediocre status. This heritage Indian music is mentioned in “Sangeet Parijaat.” It was also found in Burma in Gongs and Gamelan. This music is played in Buddhist Temples of Japan and in Kabuki theatre. This music is categorized under ‘Ghan-Vadya’ an Idiophonic instruments played by stucking with kaanch tarang, Kasht tarang, Chimta, Jhanj, Khartal. Very few artists like Milind Tulankar, Ragini Trivedi, Ranjana Pradhan and Anayampatti S Ganesan has adopted this music instrument as main instrument for classical performance.

Jal Tarang was regularly shown in 80’s and 90’s television programs on Doordarshan. Once Dulal Roy the Maestro of Jal Tarang while performing in concert said, “Today’s youth is unaware of Indian classical music. No one is showing interest in preserving our musical heritage. It is the absence of publicity that has made this musical instrument rare.”

But from last few decades, Jal Tarang is rarely played at any concerts. Due to the popularity of western music, it is getting old-fashioned. It seems that this harmonious musical instrument is vanishing not only from concerts but also from people’s heart and mind. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has confirmed that they will not let this musical instrument disappear. They have organized concerts in some cities and have also planned to organize concerts abroad to increase awareness about it.

One can easily make their version of Jal-Tarang and play the sweet and melodious music. Once you understand how to balance the tones, you will surely get connected to the classical music. Involve kids and make them learn this beautiful art of cultural heritage.