The art of Zenzula

Updated: 26 January, 2020 09:13 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

Thanks to an enterprising 23-year-old, the Zenzula, made out of used sardine cans, is creating waves.

Lalith Choyal
Lalith Choyal

If you walk the street next to Jehangir Art Gallery, along with the caricaturists and Indian viagra sellers, you will find Lalith Choyal. This 23-year-old, a BMM student at a suburban college, is spreading the word about a barely known musical instrument. In fact, he has quit engineering for it. It's the Zenzula, a tiny instrument, some that fit into the palm of your hand, and is also described as a "thumb piano".

"A friend, Jayvardhan Singh Bisht, met Andrew Masters in France, who is the brain behind the Zenzula. That was around five years ago and now we are all now part of Roots Productions, which has the patent for manufacturing and selling the Zenzula," says the Indore man, as he plucks the spokes on the instrument, which are made at a workshop in Vashi. Made of used sardine cans, exported from Singapore, and steel spokes, the instrument has a sound that's close to a xylophone. The Zenzula comes in two other versions—the Kalimba (with a flat base) and the Cigar Box (with a cigar box as base). "The Zenzulas we make in India are even exported to France."


For Choyal, and everyone else at Roots, the aim is to let everyone and anyone access a musical instrument, that's easy to learn. "If I give a grown man a guitar, he won't find it easy to learn. But with a Zenzula, you can make your own tunes," says Choyal, who mastered the instrument when Masters came to India to stay with him for three months in 2016. Choyal has also realised that he is a people's person and a potentially good salesman. After all, the Andheri-resident spends his evenings trying to convince passersby to buy the Zenzula, priced Rs 2,500 onwards. Ever since December 1 last year, he has been selling the Zenzulas at Kala Ghoda, and has sold 40 pieces.

"Life takes you by surprise. I wanted to be an engineer, but here I am. I wasn't even into music before this. That's why we want people to get introduced to the Zenzula, because you never know," says Choyal, even as people stop to watch him play the instrument. In fact, when he was in Goa recently, a Spanish lady walked up to his stall at a flea market in Arambol, and reminded him that she had bought the Zenzula from him. "She said that she always ends up bonding with people over it."

For now, along with producing other eco-friendly instruments, the aim is to spread awareness about the Zenzula. Choyal gets philosophical, "It's about planting a seed in the heart of your inner child. It's an unimposing instrument that has a gentle sound that can touch your soul."

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First Published: 26 January, 2020 05:03 IST

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