Bulbul tarang

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Bulbul tarang
Electric bulbul playing

Bulbul tarang (Hindi: बुलबुल तरंग) (Punjabi: بلبل ترنگ) Shahmukhi) literally "waves of nightingales", alternately Indian or Punjabi banjo) is a string instrument from Indian and Pakistani Punjab which evolved from the Japanese taishōgoto, which likely arrived in South Asia in the 1930s.[1]

The instrument employs two sets of strings, one set for drone, and one for melody. The strings run over a plate or fretboard, while above are keys resembling typewriter keys, which when depressed fret or shorten the strings to raise their pitch.[2]


The melody strings are commonly tuned to the same note, or in octaves, while the drone strings are tuned to the 1st and 5th of the melody strings. Tuned in this manner, the instrument is uni-tonic, or unable to modulate to new keys. The melody strings may be tuned to different pitches if desired, however, rendering it multi-tonic, but more difficult to play. The bulbul tarang is most commonly played as accompaniment to singing. Similar to the Autoharp, a chord can be selected when a key is depressed, and the strings are often bowed or strummed with a pick.

Bulbul Tarang (from Emil Richards Collection)

Related instruments[edit]

The Indian version is sometimes known as the "Indian banjo" or "Japan banjo", due to its descent from the taishokoto; similar instruments in Germany and Austria are known as akkordolia, and in Pakistan as benju. In the Maldives it is known as a kottafoshi, and as medolin (pronounced "mendolin" after the mandolin) in the Fijian Indian diaspora.[3]

A more complicated and electrified version is known as the shahi baaja.

Notable players[edit]


  1. ^ Society for Asian Music (1993). Asian music. Society for Asian Music. Retrieved 17 April 2012. - toy Taisho Koto, probably first imported into India in the 1930s, which has caught on both in India and Pakistan and become a legitimate instrument, now called bulbul tarang (the nightingale's cascading voice) or banjo.
  2. ^ Mary Jo Clark; Thomas Corbett; Haywood Turrentine (July 2011). The Other Side of the World: Vision and Reality: Selected Reflections of India 44's Peace Corps Volunteers. Strategic Book Publishing. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-1-61204-438-5. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  3. ^ Kevin Christopher Miller; University of California, Los Angeles (2008). A Community of Sentiment: Indo-Fijian Music and Identity Discourse in Fiji and Its Diaspora. ProQuest. pp. 307–. ISBN 978-0-549-72404-9. Retrieved 17 April 2012.