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Dotara (Bengali)

The dotara (“two-stringed”) instrument from Bengal is quite common in Bengali folk music, devotional music, and other East Indian musical styles. Despite its name, the dotara actually has four strings. Its shape reminds one of a primitive sarod or rabab, but smaller. It has a body made of wood with a hollow soundboard fastened with goat skin. The goat skin is pierced with small holes (known as the chad) for acoustic purposes. It is the same principle of having a hole in a guitar. Unlike many of the classical instruments, this instrument is a portable one and many dotaras will contain a strap, so one may stand and wear it at the same time. The strings are made of metal, however, a tribal analog found in Northern Bangladesh uses gut strings to make a sound similar to the rabab.

 

One may play this instrument like a rhythmic instrument, by tuning the strings to the tonic and the fifth (or fourth depending on the raga played/sung) and simply strumming them in a rhythmic fashion. The other way is to play melodies by fretting one string at a time, or fretting two strings at a time, to be produce ‘fifths’ or ‘fourths’ for each note, but won’t play the ‘fifth’ or ‘fourth’ note on the second string, but will pluck it if necessary to create a small harmony.

 

UPDATED: March 12, 2012