Types of Singing Bowls
Jambati bowls often have visible hammermarks. There are classical etching lines on Jambati bowls – below the rim on the outside and circular markings inside at the bottom. Some very old Jambati have no lines left, they have been worn off from use. Many older Jambati were made with a flattened rim, very old examples can have a broad flat rim with its own set of etched lines. These have become quite rare in recent years. Jambati bowls were often used for relatively clean purposes such as grain storage so bowls hundreds of years old can have a high level of preservation. The Jambati style, especially darker ones possibly indicating the presence of thunderbolt metal (iron), were preferred by Tibetans.
The vast majority of Jambati are in the 2nd and 3rd octave with an occasional small extra thick bowl ringing at the very low end of the middle octave.
Thado means straight. Thadobati singing bowls are defined by relatively vertical sides and a flat bottom. Some Thadobati singing bowls are rounder then others however the most common ones have a bottom diameter only slightly smaller than the diameter of the opening. Thadobati singing bowls are relatively deep, up to 5″, while a 9″ diameter is about the largest size you will see in this style.
Thadobati style may be the most ancient common singing bowl, with simple thick examples dating back well over 500 years. These thick old singing bowls will weigh more than a similar diameter Jambati singing bowl. The Thadobati style, especially those with a high copper content and a golden color were preferred by Nepalese.
Thadobati singing bowls usually have no discernible lip overhang and be quite thin from extensive abrasive cleaning over the centuries. Some Thadobati come with interesting punched and etched decorative markings. You could say there are different sub-styles of Thadobati bowls based on recurrent marking patterns but there is no commonly accepted nomenclature to describe these styles. You can see some fanciful names for these styles but this is modern marketing, not tradition.
Singing bowls in the Thadobati style range in tone over four octaves, the widest range of any style. It would be possible to put together a hundred bowl set, all with discernably different strike tones. Thick small Thadobati bowls can be very high well up into the 6th octave while thinner large bowls go down to the bottom of the 3rd. A few rare examples can ring in the upper ranges of the very low 2nd octave.
Remuna singing bowls are similar to Thadobati in shape and timbre. Since they have a similar soundscape they mix seamlessly with Thadobati in sets. The difference between a Remuna and a Thadobati is the Remuna have inward sloping walls to go with their flat bottom. Remuna bowls are very strong on artwork.
Remuna bowls tend to sport complex artwork. They often have deep etching with circles inside and out, even occasionally on the bottom of the bowl. It is not uncommon for Remuna bowls to have two textures outside, with a darker and rougher bottom half of the bowl. Inscriptions are more common on Remunas than any other type bowl. As with all antique singing bowls artwork may be worn away through long years of use.
Remunas tend to be thinner than Thadobati and you never see an extra thick one. The origin of the name Remuna is not clear, however there is a Remuna town and district on the northwest side of the bay of Bengal, south of Bhutan.
Manipuri are the original singing bowls. When singing bowls first were introduced Western travelers in the 1970s this was by far the most common type. At the time most singing bowls were coming from Tibet on the back of refugees. Due to their metallic content they were easily sold to buyers in India and Nepal. The name Manipuri, however, comes from a state in Northeastern India. This is possibly due to that state being a center of production for brass objects.
There are many sub-styles of Manipuri bowls. No doubt over the last ten centuries millions of these were made and it is easy to imagine different makers using slightly different techniques. Manipuri bowls can be quite old and worn. They were used so extensively that thick elaborately etched bowls eventually became thin smooth bowls with no markings. it is not unusual to see a worn bowl with less than half the thickness of a well preserved version of the same sub-style. Much more so than Thadobati bowls, Manipuri were made with many hammermarks and fine craftsmanship so that they were quite smooth and even when brand new. This is not always true but a roughly made Manipuri is unusual.
Manipuri singing bowls were made in quite a range of sizes from tiny 3 inch bowls to ones a foot across. Due to their range of sizes, and also thickness, Manipuri have a very wide range of primary tones, from the lower second octave to the top of the 5th. The very worn Manipuri bowls can have exquisite sound. The shape of Manipuri bowls gives them a timbre that blends well with Jambati.
Sometimes also known as Mudra, these rare singing bowls have thick walls, flat bottoms and are wider in the middle than at the bottom or lip. Their inward slope is that of the classic begging bowl though they are much larger. Decorative markings are standard though sometimes faint due to wear. Mani singing bowls generally are dated from the late 16th to the 19th century. These bowls were often given as wedding gifts, their great weight being a storehouse of value.
Despite their size Mani bowls tend to be very high in tone, they run counter to the general rule that larger heavier singing bowls are lower in tone. It is quite rare to find a Mani that is as low as the upper range of the middle octave, which is a pretty high sound. The vast majority ring in the 5th octave with some examples starting in the 6th. Manis tend to have smooth broad rims and are very easy to play with a ringing stick.