National Music Museum Logo   National Music Museum  
Home  Collections
Virtual Tour
Calendar Gift Shop FAQ Site Index Maker Index


Cymbals (Rol Mo), Tibet, 19th Century

Click on instrument images below to see larger images

Pair of rol mo, Tibet, 19th century

NMM 2328.  Cymbals (rol mo), Tibet, 19th century. Two bronze cymbals with large central knobs. Thin leather handles strung through hole in center of knob. Diameter:  295 mm. Board of Trustees, 1977.

Exterior and Interior Views

Exterior of knobbed cymbal Interior of knobbed cymbal

Rol mo are used in Tibetan music to provide the structural outline and rhythmic articulation in ritual chant, as well as to provide rhythmic impetus in the instrumental ensemble. However, Tibetan cymbal playing is not only viewed as useful for rhythmic and time-keeping purposes, but is a sensitive ritual in itself. The number of cymbal beats in a chant forms a complex mathematical structure with great symbolic value. Every beat, for example, consists of three parts:  the initial stroke, the accelerating pulse(s), and the concluding hum.

The rol mo are traditionally played in a roughly horizontal (diagonal) position, utilizing short vertical strokes. However, other playing positions can also be found in different monasteries that follow different traditions.

Image of a Procession Including Cymbals, From an Undated Postcard

Procession with Rol Mo

Literature:  Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, The Shrine to Music Museum Catalog of the Collections, Vol. II, André P. Larson, editor (Vermillion: The Shrine to Music Museum, 1982), p. 29.

Thomas E. Cross, Instruments of Burma, India, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet, M.M. Thesis, University of South Dakota, May 1983, p. 73, plate XXVII.

Go to Checklist of Musical Instruments From Tibet and Nepal

A catalog of instruments from Tibet is available from the Gift Shop

National Music Museum
The University of South Dakota
414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD   57069

©National Music Museum, 2007-2010
Most recent update:   October 9, 2010

The University of South Dakota
Return to Top of Page