Different Cultures and Their Native Instruments

By Tina Zhao:

In different cultures and in different parts of the world, there is seemingly a fascinating array of native instruments for each. In Chinese culture, one such native instrument is the Gu Zheng. Gu Zheng is played by alternate left and right hand pizzicato. In Korean culture, another native instrument is called the Gayageum. This is similar to the Gu Zheng, but the difference is the strings. The Gu Zheng has strings made of steel, when the Gayageum is made of silk.

Additionally, there is a lot of history to be discovered behind how the native instrument was made and the reason for why it was made. For example, the Dan Tre (translated as bamboo musical instrument), was made by a refugee who was imprisoned in a labour camp. Minh Tam Nyugen made the Dan Tre out of recycled materials around the camp. There are only two of these instruments in the world, making it very unique and special to Vietnamese people and their culture. Another example of a native instrument is the Mayuri, or esraj. This is an instrument that represents Indian culture, as the peacock is a symbol of India. It is also said the Mayuri is associated with the Hindu goddess of music, Saraswati. One instrument that is an ancestor to other instruments is called the Santeur. It is one of the oldest instruments, as it has a Persian origin. The name of this instrument used to be named 100 strings, but it only has 92 strings. This instrument travelled along many trade routes, and many different cultures adapted this instrument to their now native instruments. The Santeur is the father of the harp, the harpsichord, and more.

These instruments are treasured in their native cultures. As a kid, I’ve always wanted to play the Gu Zheng because of how closely related it was to China -- my parent’s birthplace. I wanted to be more connected with my Chinese culture and heritage. However, some unknown native instruments may be extinct soon due to the lack of awareness for these instruments. I encourage us all to do more research and attempt to learn whichever native instruments we can, to keep the legacy alive.

10 Unusual Musical Instruments From Around the World - Google Arts & Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved September 02, 2020, from

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