This site presents an incomplete list of folk and ethnic musical instruments. We'd like to remind that the definitions for the terms"folk" and "ethnic" aren't precise and invite you not to take them any more serious than we do ourselves. Like a "folk song", a "folk instrument" refers to "folclore", a traditional context where the music and the instruments used to play it were born among common people and their exact origin or inventors are often unclear. Being an English term the word "folk" tends to refer more strongly to folclore from Britain or the United States than to, say, traditional music from Africa or Mexico. In these cases, people tend to speak of "African Folk Music"or "Mexican Folk Music". In a similar way, the term "ethnic" is often used, in a number of ways, to embrace all folk music that is "non Western".
The thing is that the more we learn about other cultures and their traditions, the more vague these definitions seem to become. Many people wouldn't hesitate to classify the sitar and the tabla as "folk instruments". Yet, in India, they are used to perform Classical North Indian music and enjoy the status of classical instruments. The simple circumstance that we lack sufficient knowledge of the various types of Indian Classical Music leads us to call their instruments "folk", "ethnic", or "world". Infact, poeple often use the term "ethnic" as a last a kind of last resort, to help categorize musical traditions that are remote to our own origins and cultural expertise. The term "World Music", a more recent term, is - although more politically correct - also not free of ambiguities.
Thus, if you expect our list to include only folk instruments in the "strict sense", you have been warned. :) Along with typical folk instruments like the dulcimer and the bodhran, our list may also feature medieval instruments that are ancestral to modern Western Classical instruments, instruments that are recent inventions and have known creators, electric instruments that descend from folk instruments, and whatnot. As such, this website could have just as easily been termed "exotic musical instruments" or "rare musical instruments". The only musical instruments that will not be featured here, at least a while to come, are Western Classical Instruments, for the simple reason that most readers are familiar with them already. The principal purpose of this website is fun. We hope you enjoy browsing it as much as we did setting it up.