World Music Day: 10 Musical Instruments Bollywood Loves

A still from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)

Harmonium-playing street performer as love guru, heartbroken hero singing the blues away on piano, and invaluable life lessons wrapped in a melancholic violin number – on World Music Day we look at how various musical instruments have contributed to Bollywood's musically-inclined narrative.


Sangam (1964)

This intricate instrument has been the mood setter of many monumental moments in Hindi cinema. Naseeb's (1981) star-studded and nostalgic John Jani Janardhan, Sangam's (1964) dramatic Har dil jo pyaar karega, and Amar Akbar Anthony's (1977) terrific title song are some of the frontrunners in this category.

Other memorable songs:

Khushiyaan hi khushiyaan - Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye (1977)

Aaj kal tere mere - Brahmachari (1968)


Deewana (1992)

Two words. Rishi Kapoor. The actor's colourful sweater clad, dafli-playing persona was a staple in his films from the '80s and early '90s. Even though Raj Kapoor was the one of more eminent patrons of this percussion instrument, it is his middle son who would become the perennial dafli waale.

Other memorable songs:

Payaliya - Deewana (1992)

Bol Radha bol - Bol Radha Bol (1992)


Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013)

Thanks to folk music's deep-seated influence in Bollywood, words like dhol, manjira, nagada, dholak etc. are a significant part of the HFM lexicon. It's almost impossible to conceive a song about fun and festivity without the accompaniment of dhol or nagada, especially if it happens to be a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film.

Memorable songs:

Dhol bajne lagaa - Virasat (1997)

Dhol baaje - Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013)


Hero (1983)

The sweet sounding flute has always been a trusted companion of lovers in Bollywood. A romantic duet, a stirring solo seeking one's beloved or as a haunting standalone tune – when love is in the air, can this wonderful melody maker be far behind?

Memorable songs:

Aa jaa tujhko pukaare - Geet (1970)

Geet gaata chal - Geet Gaata Chal (1975)


Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011)

A romantic beachside fare, a pulsating rock concert, an upbeat club setting – there's a guitar song for every occasion. The exuberant Baar baar dekho, romantic Chura liya, optimistic Papa kehte hain, and resounding Sadda haq establish that for every generation of Hindi film music fans, there's a guitar song strumming up a storm.

Other memorable songs:

Koi roko na - Priyatama (1977)

Paani da rang - Vicky Donor (2012)


Sholay (1975)

Instrumental in many compositions about hope, youthful love, and tragic memories, the modest mouth organ was immortalized on the Indian screen with Jai's melancholic tune in Sholay (1975).

Memorable songs:

Mere sapnon ki rani - Aradhana (1969)

Rahi manwa dukh ki chinta - Dosti (1964)


Zanjeer (1973)

Shy sweethearts, an unsure pair, or sulking lovers – the sharp-witted street singers of Bollywood are well-equipped to deal with the varying moods of couples. Armed with a good 'ol harmonium and a song on the lips, these blithe balladeers have played matchmaker and peacemaker with equal aplomb.

Memorable songs:

Deewane hain - Zanjeer (1973)

O leke pehla pehla pyaar - CID (1956)


Maya (1961)

Despite being featured in a host of delightful and romantic songs, the piano is often associated with heartache in Bollywood. It ain't a heartbreak until a forlorn lover has attacked the piano keys with all his might to conjure up a musical masterpiece dripping with misery and passive aggressiveness. Accusing the ladylove of disloyalty, or a solemn wish about her good fortune, or a pessimistic track about the futility of life – take your pick.

Memorable songs:

Dil ke jharokhe mein - Brahmachari (1968)

Jeeta tha jiske liye - Dilwale (1994)


Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959)

Synonymous with shaadis and bidaai. The clear and evocative sounds of shehnai project the anguish of the bride leaving her parental home and her anticipation towards embracing a new life. In Rajendra Kumar-starrer Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959), the instrument goes beyond the prop status and assumes an identity of its own in the story about an aspiring shehnai player and his doomed love life.

Other memorable songs:

Babul ki duayein - Neel Kamal (1968)

Dulhe ka sehra - Dhadkan (2000)


Sur (2002)

Ek pyaar ka naghma hai, Sansar hai ek nadiya – the deepest and most philosophical take on life and existence often come wrapped in a wistful violin number. But it isn't all longing and despair for this fantastic string instrument which received a major upgrade with Mohabbatein's (2000) Raj Aryan. Arguably Bollywood's most famous violinist, Aryan harnessed the power of music and romanticism to revolutionize a no-fun Gurukul and tame its dour principal.

Other memorable songs:

Aa bhi jaa - Sur (2002)

Dard-e-dil - Karz (1980)