The pungi is a wind instrument originating from India. The instrument can go by many names in different parts of India, including “the snake charmer’s wife”, as it has a long history with charming these animals. Circular breathing is required to blow into an air reservoir that channels into two distinct reed pipes. Pungi is known for its characteristic high tone and continuous low hum.
History of the Pungi
The origins of the pungi are ancient and largely undocumented but the term can now refer to multiple reed wind instruments from India. The pungi has folklore connections to various Indian royalty but began as an accompaniment for folk music and oral history. There is also little information on the early instrument ancestors of a pungi but most were thought to be originally fashioned from a gourd-like fruit with bamboo or wooden pipes. Hinduism in India has always held serpents to be sacred which sparked a tradition of snake charming with the long drone sound of a pungi. This continuous sound created a trance-like noise for the cobras and the practice became incredibly popular in the early 20th century for tourists and other Westerners fascinated with Indian culture. India officially banned snake charming in the late 20th century under a Wildlife Protection act which has seen the tradition dwindle dramatically. The pungi is still used as a signature instrument of India.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£30 - £150

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How to Play

A wind instrument that is played by blowing air through a reed and manipulating the pitch with finger holes. It is commonly used by snake charmers in India.

In Popular Music

The rock band Led Zeppelin reportedly used a pungi to create the other-worldly sounds in 'No Quarter'. Ex-Police frontman Sting also used the pungi on his indian music influenced song 'Desert Rose' (1999)

Famous Players

Rikhi Ram, Kanai Dutta

Close Relations

Been, Shenai
Video Credit: Manohar LALAS
Understanding the Pungi










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