Religious (Musical Instruments)

In the past monastic orchestras usually consisted of about 20 different musical instruments, but during daily rituals the number of instruments was less. The most frequently used instruments can be divided into the following two categories:

Percussion: Khonkh (bell), kenkrg (drum with beater), tsan (small sound plates), denshg (consists of two brass plates, the knobs of which are connected by means of a small band), dudarma (wooden frame with copper brasses inside), and damaru (small drum).

Wind: Dung (white shell), bishkyur (trumpet), ganlin (horn made of human thigh bones and silver), yukr burya (long and heavy clarinet, resembling an elephant’s trunk), and burya (middle-sized clarinet).

Bembya Fedorov, A Legend About the Tsan

Bembya relays a legend about the tsan musical instrument as mentioned in Kim Shovunov’s book The Kalmyks as Part of the Cossacks: The Second Half of the 17-19 Century (1992). According to the legend, in the past the Kalmyks used to bring these musical instruments from Tibet. Upon their arrival in Tibet, Kalmyks were left in an empty room. After putting silver or gold coins on the table, the Kalmyks would leave the room. After some time, they would be invited back into the room to find tsan instruments laid on the table. It was considered that the instruments were a gift from Buddha. Sometimes instruments were cut into pieces. In this case the Kalmyks were supposed to leave more coins on the table in order to secure fully working instruments.