is a percussion instrument
used in South Indian Carnatic music
. It resembles a tambourine
, but like all Carnatic percussion instruments, the method of playing is quite developed (you can't pick up a kanjira and just play). The shell
of the kanjira is approximately 2" deep and 7" in diameter
. Stretched tightly over one end of this shell is a very thin piece of lizard
skin. Attached to a hole cut into the shell is one solitary pair of brass jingle
The kanjira, in its normal state, is tuned to a fairly high pitch because of the tightly stretched skin; however, before a performance, the player will spread water thinly over the inside of the skin to loosen it, thereby producing a much more bass sound. The kanjira is held in the left hand and struck with the right. As with most Indian drums, the right hand is split into two striking units: the index finger and the other three fingers. There are two basic sounds on the kanjira: a ringing, open, bass sound and a flat, closed, slapping sound. The index finger is used to produce the bass sound by striking the drum and then immediately moving away from the head. The other fingers are used to produce the slapping sound by striking the head and then resting on the surface to mute the resonance. When making the bass sound, the fingers of the left hand can be used to bend the skin to change the pitch.
Among contemporary Carnatic musicians, the kanjira appears to be declining in popularity in favor of the morsing and the ghatam. The kanjira is never the main percussion instrument in Carnatic music; it is always secondary to the mridangam. However, it is often used as the only percussion in folk music.