Chenchu music: “Kinnera” stringed music instrument – Telangana

A Chenchu tribesman playing ‘Kinnera’ presented by the Telangana Rachayithala Vedika and the University of Hyderabad © Swathi V. The Hindu >>

It was quite a homecoming for ‘Kinnera’ (aka ‘Kinneri’), a stringed music instrument, when it arrived into the Chenchu tribal heartland amid the forests of Mahabubnagar district of Telangana, after decades of wandering. | To read the full article, click here >>

The rare instrument with three resonators, which was popular in the tribe long ago, but disappeared later, was restored to them recently, thanks to the joint efforts by the ‘Telangana Rachayithala Vedika’ (Telangana Writers’ Forum) and the University of Hyderabad.

A team from the Forum and the university, guided by G. Manoja from Palamur University, travelled all the way to the Appapur hamlet in Nallamala forests on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People on August 9, to present their exquisite find to the tribe. To their surprise, they were greeted by smiles of recognition, as the instrument was still part of their lore if not lives.

“Though they lost the instrument 50 years ago, a few tribesmen still remember it. In fact, three old-timers could even play it,” says academic and writer Jayadhir Tirumal Rao, who headed the team.

The instrument uses bamboo for the neck, dried and hollowed gourds for resonators, human hair or animal nerves for strings, and pangolin scales for frets which are fixed using honey-wax. According to Mr. Rao, visiting faculty at the Centre for Dalit and Adivasi Studies at the UoH, Chenchus lost the instrument half a century ago when the gourd used for resonator became extinct in this region.

It was inherited by the ‘Dakkali’ nomadic community of the district which was a ‘Madiga’ sub-caste and lived a troubadour for existence. They, however, reduced the number of frets to seven, purportedly in honour of Chenchus.

Obtaining ‘Kinnera’ from Dakkali community was an arduous task for Mr. Rao who stumbled upon the instrument while researching about Panduga Sayanna, a Telangana fighter.

“Dakkali singers sang his praise using ‘Kinnera,’ which egged me on to explore its history. To obtain it, I had to follow the community’s trail for almost three years. Initially they were afraid, but later came round and parted with this rare gift,” Mr. Rao said. And it was from the hands of Dakkali Pochaiah that the tribe received this souvenir.

Source: Stringed music instrument restored after 50 years – The Hindu
Date Visited: Sun Dec 27 2015 11:38:24 GMT+0100 (CET)

India, The Chenchus: Jungle Folk of Deccan
[silent clip, duration 36:21]
The Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf Film Archive is housed at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London where Fürer-Haimendorf was Professor. The 16mm cine footage was digitised by Digital Himalaya Project staff If you have additional information about the location, date or content shown in this film, please write to, referring to the title of the clip in your message. [Original File Name: 10COMP tape #5 films 1&2 OFFSPRING 1]

Source: 22 – India, The Chenchus: Jungle Folk of Deccan, 1940s? B&W, silent
Date visited: 10 February 2020

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