Musical instruments are extensions of people themselves and translate the surreal into the understood. This list takes a look at the strange beliefs of people all over the Earth and into their fascinating traditions of connecting the mysteries in our minds to the world heard through our ears. The tanbur is a category of stringed, wooden instruments with long necks and resonating bodies, musical rhythmic development of children by several names, including the tambur, tanboor, tar, and lyre.
The forefather to modern guitars, it originated in Mesopotamia and southern and central Asia several thousand years ago. While many cultures adopted similar styles of this instrument for various purposes, one of the earliest recorded uses of the tanbur was one of healing, calming, and creation of inner equilibrium. The Zaar ritual often involved a ceremony of wild, droning music that slowly entranced the possessed into a frenzy, cleansing the spirit with music and song. The conch horn is a wind instrument constructed out of seashells or large sea snails and has been used by various cultures ranging from the Caribbean to Mesoamerica, India, and Tibet, as well as New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. These shells were simply blown into, and the inner shape created a loud trumpet-like sound. In India, according to Hindu tradition, the horn remains a sacred symbol of the god Vishnu, representing female fertility, prosperity, and life. Here, shells can even be considered sacred, depending on their color and which direction the shell curls.
Shells that curve clockwise are considered to be very sacred, as their curves mirror the circular motion of the Sun, Moon, stars, and heavens. In Mesoamerican and Caribbean tribes, the instrument was central to hunting, war, and prayer rituals. The ancient city of Teotihuacan in present-day Mexico had strong symbolic ties to the conch shell. It was widely depicted in artwork and used in ceremonies that celebrated water and male fertility. Alternatively, in various Pacific island cultures such as Fiji, the conch horn was used to announce the arrival of guests into a village or in funeral ceremonies, where its sound would accompany the body of a deceased chief to the end of his life’s path into burial.
The ocarina is a small handheld wind instrument believed to have originated near 10,000 B. Traditionally constructed from bone or clay, it is also made of many substances such as stone, wood, plastic, or metal. 12 holes that are covered by fingers to produce various sounds. Historically, they were used in rituals of Mesoamerican cultures, where they produced beautiful, surreal tones that could speak to the gods, charm birds and animals, and even send humans into a mysterious, trance-like state.
More recently, the ocarina was popularized in the video game The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, where the item granted the player the ability to control the weather, teleport between locations, open doors, and even travel through time. The mbira is a handheld instrument created by the Shona people of present-day Zimbabwe over 1,000 years ago. It consists of a series of metal tines, or plucked metal bars, mounted on a wooden sound board and exists in many sizes and configurations. Traditionally, this instrument has held a key position in the spirituality of the Shona, who maintain strong connections to the spirits of their ancestors. The mouth harp, also known as a Jew’s harp or jaw harp, is a plucked instrument consisting of a frame that holds a vibrating reed, made of metal, reed, or bamboo. Held between the teeth, the reed is played with the fingers, and its vibrations are modified by changing the shape of the mouth. The jaw harp has been used for centuries in shamanistic rituals and incantations by Mongolian and Siberian tribal peoples, said to induce trances and heal sickness.