The tumbi or toombi (Punjabi: ਤੂੰਬੀ, pronunciation: tūmbī), also called a tumba or toomba, is a traditional musical instrument from the Punjab region of the northern Indian subcontinent. The high pitched, single string plucking instrument is associated with folk music of Punjab and presently very popular in Western Bhangra music.[1]

one stringed instrument
Other namesToombi, thumbi
Classification String instruments
More articles
Kuldeep Manak, Bhangra

The tumbi was popularized in the modern era by the Punjabi folksinger Lal Chand Yamla Jatt (1914-1991). In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s most of the Punjabi singers used the tumbi, such as Kuldeep Manak, Mohammed Sadiq, Didar Sandhu, Amar Singh Chamkila and Kartar Ramla.

It's also been used by Punjabi Sufi singers with the likes of Kanwar Grewal and Saeen Zahoor.


The instrument is made of a wooden stick mounted with a gourd shell resonator. A single metallic string is passed on a resonator over a bridge and tied to the key at the end of the stick. The string is struck with the continuous flick and retraction of the first finger.

Use in Western music

  • Get Ur Freak On, a 2001 hit single by Missy Elliott produced by Timbaland, saw the introduction of the distinct tumbi sound into the popular mainstream music scene.
  • Mundian Ton Bach Ke Rahin (Beware of Boys) from Panjabi MC, a huge hit in the UK charts, is perhaps the most widely known example of the use of tumbi in popular Western music.
  • 20 Inch by Master P (featuring Jamaican reggae artist Cutty Ranks and rap artist Kobra Khan) included tumbi played by Toronto, Ontario, Canadian native Shawn Ramta (grandson of the famous Punjabi folk singer, Hazara Singh Ramta).
  • Baby Doll me Sone di has this instrument all throughout.


See also


  1. Anjali Gera Roy (2010). Bhangra Moves: From Ludhiana to London and Beyond. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-0-7546-5823-8. Retrieved 9 June 2013.

Further reading

Thuhi, Hardial. The Tumba-Algoza Ballad Tradition. Translated by Gibb Schreffler. Journal of Punjab Studies 18(1&2) (Spring-Fall 2011). pp. 169–202.

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