Folk Music Instruments of J & K Gujjars-Bakrwals ; article by Dr. Javaid Rahi

Folk Music Instruments of J & K Gujjars-Bakrwals

by ; Dr. Javaid Rahi

The Gujjar tribes, mainly residing in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, play some musical instruments since times immemorial to create certain specific sounds of Music. Some instruments associated with them are part of their nomadic practises and some were adopted by them from other communities to add to their musical tradition.

There are a number of examples where Gujjar artists have made significant addition or alteration to the basic structure/formations of a borrowed music instrument to accommodate Gojri folk tunes to it.

While studying the musical practices popular among Gujjars, it has been found that they have their unique traditions. They hold distinct compositions and tunes which separate the Gojri music from Kashmiri, Dogri and Punjabi Music popular in Jammu and Kashmir and adjoining states. Among Gujjars this tradition of music and singing has been continuing for long and every new tribal artist through his performance adds to its ethos.

The main folk instruments used by Gujjars are mainly made from wood, animal skins, clay, metal or other material. Some of the musical instruments are as under:-

Alghojo : Alghojo is a type of flute made from a single hollow shaft of mainly wild-bamboo called ‘Nagal’ in Gojri with six or seven finger holes. A normal Alghoza is 7 to 11 inches long. For nomad Gujjars Alghoza is a sharpened divine instrument.

They make it locally in accordance with requirements.

Since this instrument is mainly associated with pastoral nomads and cowherds the Gujjars play traditional tunes on it. Popular folk-song and tunes are played on this instrument.

Jodhi /Do naal: Jodhi means two flutes (Aloghozas) which when played jointly are called Jodhi. The tune of the Jodhi instruments resembles with that of flute.

Playing of Jodhi is still popular in nomadic Gujjar and Bakerwal society. It is made of hilly bamboos by cuttings small reeds. Folk tunes are played on it.

The instrument is played with three fingers on each side.

The sound in Jodhi is generated by breathing into it quickly and the recapturing of the breath on each beat creates a bouncing, swing rapid rhythm.

It is also a popular choice among musicians for recording new albums. The signature tunes of Gojri programmes broadcast from All India Radio Jammu /Srinaga/Poonch are based on Jodhi tunes.

Banjli: Banjili is a flute which varies in size from less than 12″ to nearly 30″. Every nomad is fond of Banjli. They keep this in side-pockets of their upper wear.

They play the tune of folk songs like shopia, maahiya, jangbaz, besides the traditional tribal tunes on this instrument.

BISILI: Bisilli is a typical folk instrument used by nomads. It is triangular /trilateral in shape. The instrument has hollow belly with a hole at the centre and two holes on either side, besides a mouth pipe. The player blows his breath through the mouth pipe and plays in fingers on the side holes. It is made of clay and is hardened in fire. The instrument is used by the cattle or sheep tenders for singing the folk tunes.

This instrument when played sounds like whistling . It resembles with that of flute or algoza.

Leafs Instruments

Leafs of various trees are typically rolled into pipes for producing musical sounds by shepherd boys who generally use this device for flashing signals to their sheep and cattle.

They are also well versed in making different sounds by putting their fingers in mouth and folded tongue.

Chhung: Chung is an instrument made of Iron with one wire of copper. The instrument is five to seven inches long. This mouth organ once very popular among nomads is dying very fast. Just a few Chung player are left among Gujjars of Jammu and Kashmir.

This tribal Chung is like a 5 to 7 inch Trishul- a weapon of Hindus -with “three spears” and is different from the Persian Chung – an Iranian harp.

This instrument has round curve joining two straight lines. Between two straight lines there is thin wire mainly made of wire which is the main part of this instrument.

Shepherds play traditional tunes on it through mouth.

Yaktaro : A “one-string” instrument is also popular among Gujjars of Jammu and adjoining areas ntowards Punjab. Gujjar artists use this instrument to sing Sufiyana Gojri poetry.

Eik Tara’s main structure is made of wood with one string.

Dhool: Dhool is drum. It is large wooden cylindrical shaped with two heads mainly made of skin of animals. It is generally struck on one side with a lose “L’ type wooden stick called “Damno” bowed at the end, and with a large thin stick called “ Chinj” on the other side, though it is also played by the bare hands. It is the principal accompaniment for the “Sharnai (oboe).

Dhool players in Gujjars are called “Mirasi”. They are invited to play Dhools on Marriage, Khatnal, Leetari, Satranj Chekai, Laadi and on other celebrations.

For Dances they play the beats mainly called “Dhukro” for Gujjars.

Sharnai : Sharnai is derived from Persian word Surr (feast) Nay (pipe-reed).This is an instrument usually accompanied with “Dhool”. “Sharnai” is largely known as a wind instrument .

The Sharnai players are called ‘Merasi’ in Gojri. Usually the senior most person among a drum beating team plays the Sharnai.

Dhool and Sharnai is an important part of any ritual performed by the Gujjars.

Chimtoo: this is a kitchen tool (tong in English) mainly used to grip and lift objects. Gujjars used it as an instrument of music with certain modifications. Chimtoo is used as accompanying instrument to add the verity to Dhool or other rhythms.

It is used by artists while singing mystic poetry.

Ghadhoo/ Ghodholi: Ghara is earthen pot / pitcher which is also used as a Musical Instruments by Gujjar artists. In Gujjar marriages and other ceremonies, women folk use it as a musical instrument to draw the tunes.

In some tribal areas where Dhool is not allowed owing to religious binding, Ghara is used as Dhool for singing and Dancing.

Saargi (Tota) : The Tota Saargi is popular in Gojri Musical Tradition since long. This is slightly different to “Sarangi”- a string instrument used in Hindustani classical and other Folk music. In Gojri Saargi is very popular instrument and is played in singing of “Baet”, “Barramah’ and other Gojri folk songs.

The Saargi is made of Wood, animal skin (Madh) with 4 up wires and 11 down wires.The helping organ of Sargi is called “Gaj” in Gojri.

In every Tribal locality we find some popular Sarangi players. Ustad Mohammad Hussain Merasi, Ustad Ghulam Mohammad Danslaya, Ustad Jatoo Merasi, Ustad Noora Merasi and Bashir Mastana are some popular names who sing Gojri folk on Sargi.

The Gojri Music and Folk –Instruments of Gujjars are very rich in term of their inheritance. Other communities residing in Gujja populated area also share the same culture.

During the course of research it has been observed that a number of folk instruments which were in use in past are extinct rapidly.

There is an urgent need to preserve these old instruments with preservation of their noting in writing and audio-visual form with all notations for all generations to come. (The author is working as Chief Editor in J&K Academy of art, Culture and languages and can be mailed at :

Gojri folk instruments


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