For a Hindustani classical vocalist, life without a tanpura is unimaginable. Having said that, I must clarify that the tanpura, conventionally a four-stringed, hand-crafted acoustic instrument used to provide a drone, now exists in several avatars.

Four- or five- or six-stringed, flat, sleek, without the toomba (the rounded hollow bottom), electronic, digital, in MP3 or WAV formats on made-for-riyaaz CDs—the tanpura in all or many of its avatars forms an absolutely essential part of a classical musician’s gear. While tanpuras are made in several parts of the country, Miraj in Maharashtra and Kolkata are two places from where most musicians like to acquire tanpuras. These are usually hand-crafted instruments made by families of highly skilled instrument makers who have honed their craft over many generations.

Shrunk: But it works really well.