Mizo music

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A Lady Playing the Tanpura, ca. 1735.jpg
A lady playing the Tanpura, c. 1735 (Rajasthan)


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Mizoram is a region in India. Its folk music consists of vocals (singing) accompanied by traditional drums, gong and other native percussion instruments. There is also a long history of flute-playing which is now defunct.[citation needed] The drums are made from a hollow tree trunk with membrane made from cow hide and the gongs, made of brass, are very similar to those found in Myanmar.


It is difficult to trace the origin, and to arrange the chronological sequences of the heritage of Mizo Music. However, some couplets were developed during the settlement of Thantlang in Burma, estimated between 1300-1400 AD. As recorded by B. Lalthangliana, the folk songs developed during this period were dar hla (songs on gong); Bawh hla (War chants), Hlado (Chants of hunting); Nauawih hla (Cradle songs) A greater development of songs can be seen from the settlement of Lentlang in Burma, estimated between late 15th to 17th Century AD.[1]

The Mizo occupied the present Mizoram from the late 17th century. The pre-colonial period, that is from the 18th to 19th century A.D. was another important era in the history of Mizo folk literature. Prior to the annexation by the British Government, the Mizo occupied the present Mizoram for two centuries. In comparison with the folk songs of Thantlang and Lentlang settlement, the songs of this period are more developed in its number, form and contents. The languages are more polished and the flows also better. Most of the songs of this period are named after the composers.

In precolonial times, the Mizo's used the drum, gong and mouth organ made of gourd and mambo as musical instruments. With adoption of Christian identity, other musical instruments other than the drum lost their appeal. The first Musical instrument to enter Mizoram was the mouth organ brought in by Mrs Fraser in 1907. Mr Vankhama, a well known composer was influential in popularizing the guitar in Mizoram.[2]


The Mizos have a traditional way of classification of their folk songs. A study of their folksongs on the basis of their own system of classification shows that the Mizos have about one hundred different types of folksongs.[3] But it can broadly be classified into ten as follows:

Bawh Hla[edit]

This is the chant or cry raised by the warriors when returning from successful raid. The warriors chant Bawh Hla to show their superiority over the enemy, and in order to let his people know that a successful raid has taken place. No other members of the warriors except the killer of the enemy can chant Bawh Hla.


This is the chant or cry raised by the hunters when a successful hunting has taken place. Chanting Hlado was done on the spot, or on the way home, or just before entering the village, or on the celebration. Anyone who witnessed his success could chant Hlado at any time and place.

Thiam hla and dawi hla (Invocation & incantation)[edit]

These two verse forms are chanted by the Priests and the witch while performing ceremonies.

Dar Hla[edit]

These are named after musical instruments. These songs are not sung by human voice, it is meant for musical instruments. Dar hla means ‘song for gong’. There are several songs named after the instruments; but Dar hla is the most popular and greatest in number. So it is commonly known as Dar hla. It has three musical notes.nome

Puipun Hla[edit]

These are songs named after merry and festive occasions. These songs are the most popular among the folksongs. People sung together with dancing at the time of merry and festive occasions.

Lengzem Zai[edit]

These are love songs. It has no distinctive form but it was named after the theme. This is presently (c. 1950-2012) the most popular type of folk music in Mizo community.

Songs named after tribes[edit]

Some verse forms are named after the particular tribe such as Sailo zai, saivate zai etc.

Songs named after villages[edit]

A few songs are named after the village such as Lumtui zai, Dar lung zai etc.

Songs named after modulation of the voice[edit]

A few song are named after modulation of the voice or sound such as Kawrnu zai, Zai nem, Vai zawi zai, Puma zai etc. For example, Kawrnu is a kind of Cicada whose voice is gentle and low. So the tune of new song resembling to the tune of Kawrnu is called Kawrnu zai.

Songs named after individuals[edit]

A great number of Mizo folksongs are named after individual. Most of them are named after the original composer of the music as well as the verse tunes. But some of the songs are named after a beautiful women or the hero of the tribe. The first six have their own common name while the last four have no such common name.

Musical Instruments[edit]

From time immemorial, the Mizo have been using different musical instruments. Even though we cannot date the origin, the "Mizo of Kabaw Valley during late 10th to 13th century AD had developed their music as nearly as they have done today".[4] The traditional Mizo musical instruments are very simple and crude in comparison to other Indian musical instruments and very out-dated to Modern Musical instruments. They can broadly be divided into three: Beating or Striking instruments; Wind instruments and String instruments.

Striking Instruments[edit]

Most of the Mizo musical instruments used at the time of festivals and dances are striking instruments such as different types of Khuang and Dar, Bengbung, Seki, Talhkhuang.


Khuang (drum) is a Mizo indigenous instrument which occupies a very significant place in Mizo social and religious life. Khuang is a must on all occasions. It is made of hollow tree, wrapped on both sides with animal skin. The Mizo gives different names according to its size and length. The big sized one is call Khuangpui (Big drum), the middle one is called Khuanglai; and the small sized, Khuangte (little drum). If it is longish, they called it Kawlkhuang. As far as the history of Mizo is concerned it is commonly concluded that the Mizo ancestors started using drum as far back as when they sang and composed song. Lianhmingthanga believes that the Mizo had received drum from Chinese civilisation through cultural diffusion. The process of that cultural diffusion might have passed through the Burmese with whom the Mizo had a close cultural contact which took place from the middle of the 9th century AD until the end of Pagan period at the close of the 13th century AD.[5] Khuang is the only Mizo traditional musical instrument that is popularly used in the 20th and 21st century. In the olden days, Khuang has no role in the religious functions; but today the use of drum is a must in every church service.

Dar (Gong)[edit]

Another popular musical instruments are various sizes of brass-gongs viz-Darkhuang, Darbu and Darmang.


Darkhuang is the biggest type. Darkhuang is very costly and is one of their most valuable possessions. In the olden times, it was sometimes used as a means of exchange; and sometimes the parent of a bride demanded Darkhuang for the price of their daughter. But this song (dor hla) is played with Darhu. Darkhuang is played on all occasions. Darkhuang is also used to announce demised of a person.


Darbu is a set of three different sizes of brass-gongs, producing three musical notes. Darbu is usually played by three experts. Some experts played individually by tying the two gongs, one on each sides of his body with rope and hung one gong by his left hand, produce three distinct, rhythmic notes by simultaneous beating. Darbu is meaningfully used on certain occasions like Khuallam and other traditional group dances.


Darmang is the smallest type of gong. It has no effect without other gongs or instruments, but it is used in the traditional dances to keep timing. All these gongs appear to be Burmese in origin, and therefore, it is tempting to conclude that Mizo got them from the Burmese while they were living in the Kabaw Valley during 9th to 13th century AD.[6]


Benghung is another Mizo indigenous instrument which has some similarity with xylophone. It is a musical instrument consisting of a series of flat wooden bars, producing three musical notes. Bengbung is usually played by girls in their leisure.


The process of making Talhkhuang is almost the same with that of Bengbung but Talhkhuang is much bigger than that of Bengbung. It is made of three wooden pieces which are curved out, the depth of the curves being made vary so that the sound produced when beaten are different in notes. It is played with a wooden hammer. The Mizo would never take Talhkhuang to their houses or anywhere wise except to Lungdawh, the great platform at the entrance of the village. It has played when a chief or the village erected memorial stones.


Seki is the domesticated mithun’s horn. The two hollow horns are beaten to lead or to keep timing for the other musical band like Darbu, etc. It was commonly used at the time of group dances are performed.

Wind Instruments[edit]

The Mizo have six varieties of wind instruments such as Rawchhem, Tumphit, Mautawtawrawl, Phenglawng, Buhchangkuang, Hnahtum.[7]


It is a kind of Scottish "Bagpiper" or Chinese "Snag". Nine small Bamboo pipes or hollow reeds, Having different sizes and lengths are inserted to the dried gourd. One of the pipes serves as a mouth piece. Small portions of the pipes are struck out so that it can produce sound when the instrument is blown. The Musician blows into the mouth piece, and by controlling the holes with his fingers, he can produced various musical notes.


Tumphit is made of three small Bamboos having different sizes and length. The types are tied and plated in a row with caves or strings. The upper ends are cut open at different length so that each tube has different notes. The players put the open tube against his lower lip and then blows down. This musical instrument was used during ritual ceremonies and particularly on the occasion of a ceremony called Rallulam and chawng festival, the use of this music was a must.


This is a Bamboo trumpet. Different sizes of bamboo tubes are cut off. The smaller tube is inserted to the bigger tube and so on. Many bamboo tubes are joined one after another till the last tube happens to be the size of a forefinger from where the trumpet is to be blown. A dry empty gourd, the bottom part is cut off and joined with bigger end of the bamboo tubes. The whole length can be more than five feet.


It is the Mizo flute made of bamboo. Originally, Phenglawng had only three holes producing three different sounds. Flute is popular among the other Indians.


This is another flute made of reed or a paddy stalk. This simple instrument was usually played by girls.


The Mizo boys can skillfully turn leaves of many trees into simple but indigenous musical instruments. They can produce interesting sound by blowing deftly folded leaves. This is called Hnahtum.

Stringed Instruments[edit]

The Mizo have only three kinds of stringed instruments, namely Ṭingṭang, Lemlawi and Tuiumdar:


This is Mizo guitar. Mizo ṭingṭang is a kind of fiddle or violin having only one string. A piece of bamboo shaft is fixed in the gourd to carry the string made of Thangtung, the fibre of the Malay Sago palm. The hollow gourd is cut open and covered with a dry bladder of animal.


Lemlawi is the family of jaw harp but the shape and size are different. It is made of small pieces of bamboo. From the piece of bamboo, the craftsman took out a small portion with knife for its string. The sound it produces is controlled by the mouth.

Tuium dar[edit]

This simple musical instrument is also made of bamboo having three strings producing three different notes. From the outer covering of the bamboo, three pieces of cane like strings are curved out. The strings are then raised up by inserting two pieces of bamboo. It is played like a guitar.


The earliest popular Mizo artists include Lallianmawia Pachuau, CFL Hmingthanga, Lalṭanpuia Tochhawng, C. Lalrinmawia, K. Lalchamliana, H. Lalṭhakima, and Liandailova Chhangte. Popular female artists include Daduhi, Liandingpuii, Catherine Khiangte, Zoramchhani, Spi and Mami Varte in the current generation, and Vanhlupuii, Vanlalruati and C. Luri as more senior artists. Popular male artists include Vanlalsailova, Michael M Sailo, Joseph Zaihmingthanga, and F. Zothlamuana (Atea) Cellevain Mama Chawngthu. [8]


  1. ^ B. Thangliana, Mizo Literature, 1993, p.76
  2. ^ Pachuau, Joy. The Camera as Witness. Cambridge. p. 37. ISBN 9781107073395.
  3. ^ Lalruanga, A study on Mizo Folk Literature, impublished tunes.
  4. ^ B.Lalthangliana, History of Mizo in Burma, p.71
  5. ^ Lianhmingthanga, Material culture of the Mizo, 1998, p.30
  6. ^ B. Lalthangliana, History of Mizo in Burma, p.10
  7. ^ K. Zawla, Mizo Pipute leh an Thlahte Chanchin, p.82
  8. ^ Kathryn McKenzie, Chhinlung Magazine, Vol. II, 1986, p.19.


  • Thangliana, B., Mizo Literature.
  • Lalruanga, A study on Mizo Folk Literature.
  • Zawla, K., Mizo Pipute leh an Thlahte Chanchin.
  • Lalthangliana, B., History of Mizo in Burma.
  • Lianhmingthanga, Material culture of the Mizo, 1998.
  • Thanmawia, B., Mizo and Music, Mizoram News Magazine, Autumn Issue, 1985, p. 12
  • McKenzie, Kathryn, Chhinlung Magazine.

External links[edit]

  • [1] History of Mizoram Music