Kanjira (Ganjira), is a frame drum belonging to the tambourine family of drums. It consists of a circular frame made from the wood of the Jack fruit tree. It is between 7 and 9 inches in diameter with 2-4 inch depth. One side of the frame is covered with the skin of Udumpu (Monitor lizard) while the other is left open.
The monitor lizard is now an endangered species and thus making the Kanjira with its skin is strictly forbidden. Thin layer of goat skin is used as a suitable alternative but it is no way capable of producing the same sounds as that of the lizard skin. The lizard skin is more elastic in nature and pitch modulations sound better on it.
The frame has a single slit in which contains two small metal discs that jingle when the instrument is played.
The Kanjira is relatively difficult to play since the notes, that are usually played with both hands, are played with just one. The drum is held with one hand and the palm and fingers of the other hand is used to play the intricate beats. The fingertips of the hand that holds the drum is used to apply pressure near the outer rim to create varying pitched sound.
Unlike the Miruthangam the Kanjira is not tuned to any particular pitch. At its normal state the pitch is very high due to the tightness of the skin.
To get a good bass sound the tension of the drumhead is reduced by applying small drops of water which causes the skin to relax. Water may need to be applied at constant intervals depending on the temperature and moisture conditions of the hall.