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Tuhila makes comeback sounds
- Musician to give ancient tribal instrument new lease of life on world indigenous day event at Hotwar

The strums on the tuhila, a tribal stringed instrument, won’t get lost in the sands of time, promises a Ranchi-based contemporary musician.

When the only well-known tuhila player Kali Shankar Mahli died last month, it was feared that the instrument would also follow suit. But now, Tej Mundu, a Ranchi-based musician-composer who can play a number of instruments, has said he would play the tuhila at an event to observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, 2014, on Saturday at Ram Dayal Munda auditorium in Hotwar, Ranchi.

He also plans to cut an album on the tuhila with traditional and experimental folk songs.

“I learnt to play the tuhila some three years ago and practised it with Mahli himself,” Mundu said.

Asked how he got interested, he said: “Mahli would often lament about the fate of tuhila after his death. Even tribal ideologue and former Rajya Sabha MP Ram Dayal Munda also once asked if we could do something to continue its use. That’s why I started practising on the instrument.”

On a more philosophical note, he said: “So many things that had been a part of our tribal heritage have got lost. It shouldn’t happen with the tuhila.”

The tuhila, a two-and-a-half-feet long instrument, has a resonating chamber attached to a long neck. But instead of metal strings like in the sitar or the veena, the tuhila has only one strong cotton or silk cord tied parallel to the neck.

“It is ancient and finds mention in old Mundari songs,” Mundu said. “For instance, da tain do tuhila da tain do dinda kendra, in which a man asks his beloved to bring him a tuhila or a kendra, which is another violin-like stringed instrument.”

What is its charm? “It is mild and soothing as a vocal accompaniment,” Mundu said. “But it has certain limitations too. Only one octave, and with limited notes, can be played with tuhila.”

Is Mundu nervous about playing the instrument on Saturday?

“Well, I have never played it at any function before and will do so for the first time at Hotwar on Saturday,” Mundu said. “I am looking forward to this debut. The tuhila needs to be taken to a new generation of listeners. In this age of too much orchestration and too much sound, the lilt of the tuhila can be calming. It will bring back the gentle rhythm of the past,” he added.

Which indigenous instruments need immediate attention?