The musical instruments of Tangkhuls are not younger than the music itself. The Tangkhuls are music loving people; they used different musical instruments for different purposes. Everything has its own time and musical instruments are play according to time and season. The musical instruments of the Tangkhuls can be broadly divided into three categories. 1. String instruments 2. Blowing instruments 3. Percussion instruments
String instruments: One of the most popular stringed instruments used by the Tangkhul was a single stringed lyre called tingteila. These are violins of rudimentary design. The sound-box is commonly made of half-gourd covered with a pig’s bladder or a bit of goatskin fastened to the gourd by pegs of wood. The string is made a wire or hair taken from the tail of a horse. The bow, with which the string is set in vibration, is also procured from horse tail.
Like any people of musical lover of the world, the Tangkhuls have high regards and respect for the person who can play music with expertise. The musical instrument, single stringed lyre is found in many songs of the Tangkhul. One example of the Tangkhul folk song in which the tingteila is found are as follow, with free English translation.
Tangkhul – English
He tingtei kathemo, oh, tingtei kathemo, (he, tingtei expert, oh tingtei expert)
Rapamlu, rahuichitheilo, (Come and sit, come play for us (tingteila)
Oh, rahuichitheilo, oh, rahuichitheilo, (Oh, come and play for us,)
Tingtei khiwui shokmeilo! (Tingtei, how you play)
Oh, rahuichitheilo, (Oh, come and play for us),
Oh, rahuichitheilo. (Oh, come and play for us.)
Tingteila can be played by both the sexes, there is no restriction of gender in playing cup violin, yet it is usually played by male. However this instrument is not allowed to play during the busy season. It is taboo to play after the festival called Manei phanit.
Blowing instruments: The flute and trumpet are two most important wind instruments of the Tangkhul. The flute is called ‘sipa’, it is transverse flute made from a length of bamboo with six finger holes to play the tone and a hole near the base of the notch where the performer directs air against the edge. It was usually cut off above the joint so that the cork was natural. Wind instruments are not allowed to play once transplantation of paddy begins till the harvest has been completed. The reason behind this restriction in playing flute during this season could be fear of wind which might damage paddy. Another type of musical instrument similar to flute is used called ‘muiza’. It is usually used by women. During harvest time, girls return home carrying paddy from the field. They use to bring such flutes for blowing on the way for relief! It is made of reed; it is usually used only by women.
Trumpet of different shape and size is another important musical instrument use by the Tangkhuls. Traditional materials like bamboo, buffalo’s horn, mithun’s horn etc. were used for the making of trumpets. The Tangkhul calls it ‘talla’, it is generally made of plant which is neither wood nor bamboo called sita. To give a vibrating sound effect a horn usually of mithun is fitted at the front of sita. This instrument is allowed to play after the completion of the harvest till the ploughing.
Percussion instruments: Most of the percussion instruments of Tangkhuls are membrane type drum. They use different size and shape of drum/ ‘phung’. Drum is considered as leading instruments, since it is dull and dry when songs are sung or dance without beating a drum in any festivals. It is generally made of hollow cylindrical, generally of wood where a hide membrane is tightly stretched over one or both the heads.