Ek­tara

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lit­er­ally "one-string", also called ik­tar, ek­tar, yak­taro, gopic­hand, gopichant, gopi­jiantra, tun tuna) is a one-string in­stru­ment most of­ten used in tra­di­tional mu­sic from Bangladesh, Egypt, In­dia, and Pak­istan.

In ori­gin the ek­tara was a reg­u­lar string in­stru­ment of wan­der­ing bards and min­strels from In­dia and is plucked with one fin­ger. The ek­tara is a drone lute con­sist­ing of a gourd res­onator cov­ered with skin, through which a bam­boo neck is in­serted.

The ek­tārā player holds the in­stru­ment up­right, grip­ping the neck just above the res­onator and pluck­ing the play­ing string or strings with the in­dex fin­ger of the same hand. If danc­ing, the player sup­ports the gourd res­onator with the other hand, in which clus­ters of small bells are car­ried, which sound while beat­ing this hand against the gourd. Press­ing the two halves of the neck to­gether loosens the string, thus low­er­ing its pitch. The mod­u­la­tion of the tone with each slight flex­ing of the neck gives the ek­tara its dis­tinc­tive sound. There are no mark­ings or mea­sure­ments to in­di­cate what pres­sure will pro­duce what note, so the pres­sure is ad­justed by ear. The var­i­ous sizes of ek­tara are so­prano, tenor, and bass. The bass ek­tara, some­times called a dotara of­ten has two strings.

The ek­tara is a com­mon in­stru­ment in Baul mu­sic from

Ben­gal. Some con­tro­versy has arisen in re­cent years over the adop­tion and al­leged cor­rup­tion of Baul mu­sic by pop­u­lar bands and films in Ben­gal. It has be­come com­mon to mix tra­di­tional in­stru­ments like the ek­tara with more mod­ern sounds in an at­tempt to ap­peal to a wide au­di­ence, which tra­di­tional mu­si­cians feel is "de­stroy­ing the true beauty" of Baul mu­sic.

These in­stru­ments are com­monly used in kir­tan chant­ing, which is a Hindu de­vo­tional prac­tice of singing the di­vine names and mantras in an ec­static call and re­sponse for­mat. The Ek­tara is used by Sad­hus, or wan­der­ing holy men and for Sufi chant­ing, as well as by the Bauls of Ben­gal.

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