10 magical musical instruments

10 magical musical instruments
10 magical musical instruments

Musical instruments have long been considered a way to convey something inexpressible and supernatural to a person. This far from complete list takes a quick look at the beliefs of people around the world and at some of the mysterious rites performed through music.

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Tanbur or tambour, tambora

10 magical musical instruments - Tanbur or tambour, tambora
10 magical musical instruments – Tanbur or tambour, tambora

Tanbur is a type of stringed wooden instrument with a long neck and a pear-shaped resonator body, known as tambir, tar, and setar. This ancestor of modern guitars appeared in Mesopotamia and South and Central Asia several thousand years ago.

The varieties of tanbur can be found in different cultures. This tool has been used for a variety of purposes, one of which was tranquility, healing and inner balance. It is known that tanbur existed in the ancient cult of Zar, widespread in North Africa and the Middle East. The ritual is based on the duality of good and evil and the possession of the human soul by the spirits of darkness.

Zar rituals are often associated with the forces of nature. The buzzing, stringy sounds slowly plunge the possessed into a frenzy, purifying the spirit with such music and song. As a rule, the main instrument here is the tanbur, accompanied by a tambourine and rhythmic drums.


10 magical musical instruments - Conch
10 magical musical instruments – Conch

Konkh is a type of wind instrument made from large shells. It is present in a variety of cultures from the Caribbean to Mesoamerica, India, Tibet, as well as New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. The principle of playing the konkha is to blow air into a specially cut hole in the sink, which creates an unusual trumpet sound.

In the Hindu tradition, konkh is considered a sacred attribute of the god Vishnu, symbolizing fertility, prosperity and life. However, not all shells are recognized as sacred, but only those whose revolutions are located in a clockwise direction, since it is believed that the direction of their rotation reflects the circular motion of the Sun, Moon and stars across the sky.

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In Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, conch is used in hunting, military and prayer rituals. It was especially common in Teotihuacan, now a dead city near Mexico City. Konkh was depicted in drawings and used in rituals as a symbol of the flow of water and the male seed. The shape of this instrument reminded people of water abundance, saturation of all living things and the creation of a new human life. Since the konkh was considered a sign of masculinity and sexuality, very often warriors and noble people were buried with similar shells in headdresses or loincloths.

In addition, in various cultures of the Pacific Islands (for example, in Fiji), the conch was used to notify the arrival of guests in the settlement or at burial ceremonies, when a long trumpet sound accompanied the body of the departed to his place of rest.


10 magical musical instruments - Ocarina
10 magical musical instruments – Ocarina

This small wind instrument is believed to have originated around 10,000 BC. Traditionally it was made of bone or clay, there are also samples of stone, wood, plastic and even metal. The ocarina consists of a hollow chamber and holes, which are pinched with fingers during play. The number of such holes ranges from 4 to 12. The ocarina is usually egg-shaped, but there are also those made in the form of animals, people, gods or monsters, mainly in Central and South America.

Historically, the ocarina has been used in the rituals of Mesoamerican cultures. The unusual, almost surreal sound of this instrument was used at the moment of addressing the gods, to depict the world of animals and birds, and even to induce a trance.


10 magical musical instruments - Kalimba
10 magical musical instruments – Kalimba

Kalimba is a small instrument created by the Shona people (now Zimbabwe) about 1000 years ago. It consists of several metal plates mounted on a wooden resonator. There are many options for the size and arrangement of kalimba.

Kalimba was widely used in Shona’s magical rituals for close communication with the other world. It was a kind of “telephone connection with souls”: the kalimba allowed the priests to speak with the spirits of the tribe and ask them for advice; it was always accompanied by songs, prayers and even poetry. The most important ritual where the kalimba sounded was the rite of Bira, when the spirits were summoned to unite with the people, to maintain wisdom and traditions. Shona also used music to control rains and droughts, heal the sick, and scare away evil spirits with it.

Jew’s harp

10 magical musical instruments - Jew's harp
10 magical musical instruments – Jew’s harp

The jew’s harp, also known as the Jewish harp or kubyz, is a plucked instrument composed of a frame with a vibrating tongue. Jew’s harps were made of metal, reed or bamboo. The instrument is held by the musician’s teeth, the sound is produced by pinching the tongue. Changing the articulation of the mouth and breathing allows you to vary the timbre of the instrument. The history of the origin of the jew’s harp can be traced back to the fourth century A.D., but its modern appearance, widespread in many European and Asian cultures, was formed presumably around the 13th century.

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For many centuries, the jew’s harp participated in shamanic rituals and spells of the Mongol and Siberian tribes as a means of introducing into a trance and healing the sick. In Malaysia and Indonesia, it has been used to spiritually calm, treat melancholy and sadness, and connect with the natural world by mimicking the sounds of birds, insects, frogs, and rainforest plants.


10 magical musical instruments - Gong
10 magical musical instruments – Gong

The gong is a metal percussion instrument created in China around 3500 BC. and adopted by various cultures throughout Southeast Asia and Africa. It is a large suspended disc, usually made of bronze or brass, which is struck with a hammer to produce the harsh or low booming sound that gave the instrument its name.

Traditionally, the gong was used during the holidays, during prayers and sacred rites, its loud characteristic sound was also ideal for announcing. For example, in the coastal province of Zhejiang, gongs on the docks welcomed guests and also served as a guide for ships during heavy fog or poor visibility. In ancient Buddhism, gong-playing was associated with rituals of healing, prayer and meditation. Throughout the history of China, the gong was considered such a sacred instrument that just touching it could bestow a person with happiness, good luck and good health.


10 magical musical instruments - Didgeridoo
10 magical musical instruments – Didgeridoo

The aborigines of northern Australia invented this strange wind instrument over 1,500 years ago. Various tribes give it their own names and play it to this day. The didgeridoo is a long wooden pipe that resembles a horn, with a wax mouthpiece at one end. Air flows through the tube cavity, creating a low harmonic hum. The most experienced musicians, using a special breathing technique, can hold this sound for more than 45 minutes.

Called the embodiment of the voice of the Earth itself, the didgeridoo has been accompanying the song and dance rites of the aborigines for many centuries, symbolizing their connection with nature and the invisible spiritual world. In the traditions of various peoples, the didgeridoo, imitating the sounds of nature and animals with its humming melody, creates the unity and interpenetration of people and the Earth.


10 magical musical instruments - Violin
10 magical musical instruments – Violin

The mythology of the violin, a wooden stringed instrument, is reflected even in the Old Testament of the Bible. Ancient religious knowledge claims that the voices of angels represent a connection with God, while the voice of the devil sounds through man-made instruments, and primarily through the violin. This myth has been sufficiently developed in Western culture in recent centuries in connection with the Protestant and Catholic Reformation.

The image of the devil as an “evil violinist” has developed and gained recognition over time. The legends about Nikollo Paganini and his pact with the devil contributed a lot to this. There is also an opinion that the sounds of a violin can lead a person into a trance, similar to intoxication, and anything that interferes with the purity and clarity of consciousness cannot be a gift from God.


10 magical musical instruments - Drums
10 magical musical instruments – Drums

Among the oldest and most diverse musical instruments, drums are present in almost all ancient human cultures. These simple objects, made of wood, metal or leather, played with sticks or just hands, have been used for tens of thousands of years in various prayer rituals and dances, in wars, and to convey messages.

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More than 8,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, drums were used to create sacred sounds during meetings, tribal rites or battles. In addition, in various parts of Africa, there were so-called “talking drums”, which could transmit conditioned signals over long distances between settlements. Those who played such drums imitated the human voice with their playing, creating speech sounds, words and even whole phrases. A similar technique of playing was present in praise rituals, where the drums expressed the speech of various deities, and in such a way that the entire tribe could easily recognize them.

Death whistle

10 magical musical instruments - Death whistle
10 magical musical instruments – Death whistle

This intimidating musical instrument appeared in the culture of the ancient Aztecs, where it was used when it was necessary to scare someone or something. Such whistles were made, as a rule, from clay, bone, stone or jade. The indispensable shape of the skull was supposed to lead the listener to fear and awe. The voice of this whistle, incredibly terrifying, is like the sound of a strong and fast gust of wind.

The death whistle was widely used in rituals dedicated to the god of the wind Eekatl and the ruler of the underworld Miktlantekuhtli. Aztec priests also used these whistles during sacrifices: it was believed that their voice helps to direct the victim’s soul to the afterlife and to appease the gods. In addition, death whistles could be used in healing rites or in battles to intimidate and demoralize the enemy.

Music, like the art of dance, has always been considered something sacred, spiritual, opening doors to other worlds. And many musical instruments have not lost their sacred meaning to this day, you just have to close your eyes for a few minutes, leave all worries and plunge into the magical sounds of nature and eternity.

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