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Tabla instrument

Overview of Tabla (Thabla): Collective information about ‘what this Indian drum instrument is’?

On that day I was thinking about all Indian drums and percussion instruments, which I could remember. Considering each one in them, I pondered, ‘I consider the Tabla as the best in them. I, believe, most of the music lovers wouldn’t have any issue’. So, I decided to write an article ‘Overview of Tabla’

Tabla instrument

Tabla Information since Vedic Times

Tabla playing women Baja cave
Women playing Tabla, 200 BC Bhaja Caves,
Maharashtra, India.

Since the Ramayana era, India has been enjoying drums and percussion instruments. In that era also they had leather on their tops. Maharashtra has 200 BC Bhaja Caves that has a carving of a woman playing the Tabla instrument. Carving of Indian Tabla can be seen in Eklingaji temple in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Hosaleshwara temple in  Karnatak. In the rulings of Yadavas (1210 to 1247) in South India, a matching instrument was popular. For more information, readers are advised to go through ‘Tabla: History of the Most Famous Indian Percussion Instrument’ in our blog.

Debates over Tabla history

Without any strong proof, many believe that this drumming instrument was invented in the 13th century by Indian Sufi poet and musician Amir Khusro. The other myth is that the instrument has its foundation by breaking the Pakhwaj into two halves. Unfortunately, due to untrustworthy documentation, the Tabla history has always been surrounded by disagreements. But analytically, we can assume that it was a result of Pakhawaj, Mridangam, Dholak and Nagara.

What is Tabla

Tabla is the most famous rhythm instrument in Indian Subcontinent, including India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It has two drums, the Bayan or Dagga (big bass drum) and the Dayan, which are collectively called as Tabla.Know more about Various Parts of Tabla here. They are nearly played as one. The Tabla is played with the right hand and the Dagga (or Bayan) by the left hand. In Tabla music, the Bayan is responsible for the bass part, which is played by the first and the middle finger of the left hand in turns or at the same time. But the thumb is put on the edge of the skin. Dayans are played with parallel high or low tuned instruments.

Indian Tabla instrument

While playing the Tabla instrument, at the bottom of both the drums there are rings that are called as Bira.

Sides of this Indian drum have the tuning wedges (used for tuning the Tabla) that are carried by leather belts (Wadi). If they are beaten upwards or downwards with the help of the tuning hammer, the sound gets lower or higher respectively. You can read more about tuning in the detailed post I published previously How to tune your Tabla?

Base of this Tabla drums are closed and the top is covered with generally a goat skin. Its seasoning is done by some special substances. Commonly, covering of the Tabla drums pair are two same-thickness sheets of hardened goat skins. The rim of the skin is attached with a subsequent skin called as Kani. Its centre has ‘GAB’(syahi), which is nothing but a black area. It is the one that makes the Tabla Music extraordinary. However, application of the GAB (syahi) is a skilled job, as it demands the exact combination, stability and potency of rice flour + iron filings paste.

Leather on the surface has the outmost layer as ‘chati’, whereon also the player produces sound. The area that is followed is ‘maidan’. The ink-smeared area and ‘maidan’ are used by the player to generate sound.

The playing method involves a separate use of fingers. The blend of the two Tabla drums produces such a full rhythm that hardly any other rhythm instrument can match with it.

Manufacturing of Tabla

Tabla making and manufacturingDayans are carved out of different varieties of wood. Yet, in them, Shisam, Neem, Mahagony and Babla Wood the most familiar types. With the quality of the best wood, skin and Gab quality also plays an important role in a quality Tabla instrument manufacturing. Following are some of the most vital factors, which turn out into a quality Tabla drums:-

  • The wood chosen should be completely dry.
  • The density of the wood also plays a key role. So, the thick wood from a tree trunk is the good wood.
  • The wooden drum must have the diameter at the covering between 5 to 6 inches.
  • TheBayan can be of iron, aluminium, copper, steel, or clay. But, brass+nickel or brass+chrome is the customary stuff.

You can refer below Books for more Tabla information:

Science Involved in Tabla Drums

The most unique aspect in Tabla sound science is the GAB or ink (syahi) application. If we don’t use this GAB on leather surface, it will help to create over-tones that lessen the quality of the Tabla instrument sound. This ink is made as a mixture of iron particles, gum, dough (of rice flour) and catechu etc. When the player beats a piece of lengthened leather, the sound waves spread and team up again. Thus, there are always complications in sound strength, which also makes the sound loud. But, by beating on the ink, the sound gets melody. Thus the science of ink use in Tabla music means its unique sound and beginning of various sounds and modulations.

Thus, the instrument of Tabla drums has a strong foundation of scientific. For more details, read Science in Tablain our blog

Artists who made Tabla popular

In Indian classical music there have 6 different styles for playing tabla it also known as Gharana. You can read a detailed article on Tabla Gharanas Here.

Following are some of the ‘gifted’ IndianTabla Plyaers, who have established themselves globally.

  • Pandit Anokhelal Mishra

Born in 1914, he was famous for the greatest Teen Taal (16 beats) with one finger and many syllables. He accompanied many celebrated players.

  • Ahmed Jan Thirakwa

Born in the year 1892, he was famous for varied playing techniques and great performances. A receiver of Padma Bhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi, he died in 1976.

  • Pandit Anindo Chatterjee

This performer is one of the finest musicians, who is awarded the president’s award and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. He has also demonstrated his skill for the U.S president, Barack Obama at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

  • Zakir Hussain

Born in 1951, this prominent musician has numerous awards and is one of the legends of musical blends. He received Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, with Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Related Articles : Ustad Zakir Hussain: The Magician of the Tabla

                                Ustad Faiyaz Khan: The tabla Maestro

However, it is next to impossible to enlist all those great Tabla players, who with their able Tabla techniques have takeb the popularity of Indian classical music on the global level. In the future, you’ll surely be gifted by a separate article on the same, wherein we’ll discuss every Tabla genius. I’m sure; you’ll surely like this article. Your responses on this will always be greeted through the comments. Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends.

About Kuldeep Thopate

Hello Classicals, Welcome on Swarmanttra! Basically I am from engineering background but hardcore classical lover. Due to madness about classical music I try to be connect with same in various mediums, like attending concerts,endlessly reading about it,learning Mridunga,collecting records and many more other things. During these activities I gather many information about Indian music. Through "Swarmanttra" I will trying to share it with all of you. Hope you will like all this stuffs.

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