Ever on the lookout for strange and unusual instruments I was excited to discover the bulbul tarang , or (misleadingly named) Indian banjo, a strange cross between an Appalachian dulcimer and a typewriter.
According to sources on the interweb, the name means waves of nightingales. The instrument was invented in Japan in 1912 by Goro Morita but on reaching the Subcontinent has become thoroughly Indianified. It consists of melody and drone strings, strummed with a plectrum by the right hand, and a set of piano or typewriter keys, played with the left, that stop the strings. No toy, some players have become virtuosic as this clip demonstrates.
They come in all shapes and sizes, acoustic and electric, and I want one!
I find the process by which instruments and their music migrate from place to place, changing as they go, endlessly fascinating.
Here's another instrument in the process of change. When the British Empire collapsed, the British Army left both highland bagpipes and marching bands behind them in India, Nepal, Pakistan and North Africa. Here's a marching band from the Punjab that sounds anything but Scottish. I wish I could be around in a hundred years to see how the tradition has evolved.