While listening to Ustad Zakir Hussain’s tabla in my CD player, I started musing, ‘What can be the reason; the tabla has received a place of an ideal accompaniment in Indian Music? Why all the expert tabla players have achieved an enormous fame with their innate simplicity?’
The tabla is the most famous percussion instrument (drumming instrument) in Indian Classical music. However, the ‘Pakhawaj’ also is an old and traditional instrument that accompanies Dhrupad singers. Almost all the forms of Indian classical music use the tabla for accompaniment.
This traditional percussion instrument is also used in other sub-continent countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The tabla is believed to be invented in India. Its taals have developed from the Vedic or Upanishad eras and so was in use before even the pakhawaj. It is also said that it was invented by the Indian poet – musician Amir Khusro in the 13th century. It might also be a blend of other existing percussion instruments pakhawaj, mridangam, dholak and nagaara.
Tabla playing is a mathematically designed practice. The right hand drum is ‘a tabla’ and the left hand drum is ‘a dagga or baya’. While playing the tabla, the player widely uses the fingers and palms in two ways, i.e. ‘band bol’ and ‘khula bol’, which is also called as ‘tali’ and ‘khali’. The Tabla uses finger tips and hand impact method on the top. On the other hand, the Pakhawaj and the Mridangam use the full palm on the sideways.
- Read Also:
- Ustad Faiyaz Khan: The tabla Maestro
- Overview of Tabla
- Parts of Tabla instruments
- Tips for Tabla players
It’s a pair of hand drums of different sizes and timbres. The tuning of the bayan (left hand drum or dagga) varies, but it may be a 5th or an octave below the dayan (right hand drum tabla). Each stroke by the player can be articulated by a related syllable.
The dayan is made of wood, with the diameter at the covering may be five to six inches. The bayan may be of iron, aluminium, copper, steel, or clay. However brass with a nickel or chrome plate is the most widespread material. Both these drums have the large black spots on their playing surfaces that are the mixture of gum, soot, and iron filings. They create a distinctive bell-like tone. Read this article to know How dose tabla produce sound?
The study of tabla is in the oral tradition, through a language called bols. It is originated in Sanskrit. Today, there are sixteen different sounds or bols. The learner needs to learn by heart all these compositions, preserved in notebooks with only the words and no musical notations.
A great practice and complete devotion, just like yoga, are indispensable factors to be a tabla player. In the olden days, it was a promise taken by a student that he would play as long as he is alert. He would shut himself into a place away from daylight. This delays his sense of time. The only basis to stop playing is either to use the restroom or eating/drinking simple food. He would excuse himself from all probable interruptions. This practice would be for forty consecutive days. All the expert tabla players today and all over history have been through this severe exercise. Thus, they have achieved a real admiration and holiness.