Best traditional music instrument in Sri Lanka
M.B. Dassanayake lists five traditional musical instruments in Sri Lanka: Atata, Vitata, Vitata-taya, Ghana, and sisiraya. In ancient Sri Lanka, 56 instruments were used, including drums, violins, wind instruments, and metal percussion. Today, drums include ”geta-bera’, udekki, ‘tammattama’, ‘hewisi’, and ‘rabana’. Wind instruments include ‘horana’, naga, sinnan, ‘vas-dandu.
A traditional Sri Lankan drum called the GataBera has a trunk and ends made of wood such as asala, Kohomba, or kos. Its harmony and melody are produced by the mix of deerskin strings and cow skin, making it appropriate for wedding music in Sri Lanka. The Geta Bera, commonly referred to as the “magul bere,” is the most significant drum in Kanyan dance.
It narrows at the ends and on the right side, and the tones produced by the ox and monkey skins are distinct. To get the proper tension, you can tighten the strings and deerskin bracing on the sides. Usually, the drum is played with both hands while being slung around the neck. Twelve fundamental exercises must be practiced by a learner before they can begin their Geta Bera training.
The Yak Bera is a three-foot drum with a two-ended body made from Kithul timber and cow stomach ends, commonly used in low country dances in Sri Lanka. Made from Kohomba, Ehela, Kitul, or Milla trees, it is cylindrical in shape and played with hands. The openings are covered with cow stomach lining and cattle skin strings tighten the sides. The Yak Bera is a popular instrument in low country dances and folk plays, with twelve elementary exercises for students to learn.
The Dawula is a smaller, barrel-shaped drum native to the Sabaragamuwa dance style in Sri Lanka. It is made from kithul timber and cattle skin, and is decorated with art and brass strips. The Dawula is used in most Buddhist ceremonies across the island, and is cylindrical but shorter than the Yak Bera. It is played with one hand and the other with a stick, covered with cattle skin and tightened with a specially designed string. To play the Dawula, players must complete twelve elementary exercises.
Raban is a one-sided drum made from goat hide, jackfruit, or vitex wood. It comes in two types: Hand Raban and Bench Raban, with diverse compositions and functions. Hand Raban is smaller and played by one person, while Bench Raban is used by groups during festival seasons. Hand Rabana, made from Kos and Milla wood, is about one foot in diameter and uses goat skin. Bench Rabana, the largest drum in Sri Lanka, is played by two or more people using both hands and is popular during New Year festivals.
The Bummadiya is a clay-made water vessel-shaped drum, played during harvesting festivals. It is made from goat, monitor lizard, or monkey and has a single opening covered with goat, monkey, or iguana skin. The drum is played with both hands and is shaped like a pot, accompanied by singing.
Thammattama, also known as the Twin Drum, is played with two sticks, with the right drum producing a louder sound and the left producing a looser one. The top side is covered with cow or buffalo skin. The wood used is from Kos, Kohomba, and Milla trees, and special sticks are made from Kirindi creeper.
Thalampata is a smaller cymbal with multiple tiny cymbals connected by a string. Shaking it produces two sounds, ‘thith’ and ‘thei’, which harmonize with traditional Kandyan dance movements.
The HakGediya, a conch shell flute, is played by an artist-like performer to announce grand ceremonies opening with slow, dramatic notes. The performer opens their chest wide and throws their head back, creating a memorable performance.
Other music instrument in Sri Lanka
- Dandu Bera
Q & A
01. What is a traditional music instrument?
Collective term for the instruments, current or ancient, that characterize a culture, era or style of music
02. What is the most popular folk music instrument?