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|Classification||Indian percussion instrument, goatskin heads with syahi|
|Bolt tuned or rope tuned with dowels and hammer|
|Pakhavaj, Mridangam, Khol|
The tabla (or tabl, tabla) (Hindi: तबला, Urdu: طبلہ, Arabic: طبل، طبلة, Persian: طبل) is a membranophone percussion instrument (similar to bongos), used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres. The term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabl, which simply means "drum." The tabla is used in some other Asian musical traditions outside of India, such as in the Indonesian dangdut genre.
Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds, reflected in the mnemonic syllables (bol). The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound's decay.
The invention of the tabla is commonly attributed to the 13th century Indian musician Amir Khusrau. He supposedly split the mridangam or the pakhawaj in two. ('toda, tab bhi bola - tabla': 'When broke, it still spoke' - a fairly well known Hindi pun). However none of his writings on music mention the drum.
This explanation is unlikely, however, because there are Hindu temple carvings of double hand drums resembling tabla that date back to 500 BC.
Rebecca Stewart suggested that the tabla was most likely a product of experiments with existing drums such as pakhawaj, mridang, dholak and naqqara. The origins of tabla repertoire and technique may be found in all three and in physical structure there are also similar elements: the smaller pakhawaj head for the dayan, the naqqara kettledrum for the bayan, and the flexible use of the bass of the dholak.
Nomenclature and construction 
The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is sometimes called dayan (literally "right"), dāhina, siddha or chattū, but is correctly called the "tabla." It is made from a conical piece of mostly teak and rosewood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth. The drum is tuned to a specific note, usually either the tonic, dominant or subdominant of the soloist's key and thus complements the melody. The tuning range is limited although different dāyāñ-s are produced in different sizes, each with a different range. Cylindrical wood blocks, known as ghatta, are inserted between the strap and the shell allowing tension to be adjusted by their vertical positioning. Fine tuning is achieved while striking vertically on the braided portion of the head using a small hammer.
The larger drum, played with the other hand, is called bāyāñ (literally "left") or sometimes dagga, duggī or dhāmā. The bāyāñ has a much deeper bass tone, much like its distant cousin, the kettle drum. The bāyāñ may be made of any of a number of materials. Brass is the most common, copper is more expensive, but generally held to be the best, while aluminum and steel are often found in inexpensive models. Sometimes wood is used, especially in old bāyāñs from the Punjab. Clay is also used, although not favored for durability; these are generally found in the North-East region of Bengal.
The name of the head areas are:
- chat, chanti, keenar, kinar, ki
- sur, maidan, lao, luv
- center: syahi, siaahi, gob
Both drum shells are covered with a head (puri) constructed from goat or cow skin. An outer ring of skin (keenar) is overlaid on the main skin and serves to suppress some of the natural overtones. These two skins are bound together with a complex woven braid that gives the assembly enough strength to be tensioned on the shell. The head is affixed to the drum shell with a single cow or camel hide strap laced between the braid of the head assembly and another ring (made from the same strap material) placed on the bottom of the drum.
The head of each drum has a central area of "tuning paste" called the syahi (lit. "ink"; a.k.a. shāī or gāb). This is constructed using multiple layers of a paste made from starch (rice or wheat) mixed with a black powder of various origins. The precise construction and shaping of this area is responsible for modification of the drum's natural overtones, resulting in the clarity of pitch (see inharmonicity) and variety of tonal possibilities unique to this instrument which has a bell-like sound. The skill required for the proper construction of this area is highly refined and is the main differentiating factor in the quality of a particular instrument.
For stability while playing, each drum is positioned on a toroidal bundle called chutta or guddi, consisting of plant fiber or another malleable material wrapped in cloth.
Musical notation 
Hindustani classical music has two standard notation systems, one designed by V. N. Bhatkhande and the other by V. D. Paluskar. These notation systems are used for Indian instruments including the tabla.
Basic strokes 
Some basic strokes with dayan on right side and bayan on left side are:
- Ta: (on dayan) striking sharply with the index finger against the rim
- Ghe or ga: (on bayan) holding wrist down and arching the fingers over the syahi, the middle and ring-fingers then strike the maidan (resonant)
- Tin: (on dayan) placing the last two fingers of the right hand lightly against the syahi and striking on the border between the syahi and the maidan (resonant)
- Dha: combination of Ta and Ghe
- Dhin: combination of Tin and Ghe
- Ka or kit: (on bayan) striking with the flat palm and fingers (non resonant)
- Na or ta: (on dayan) striking the edge of the syahi with the last two fingers of the right hand
- Tit: (on dayan) striking the center of the shahi with the middle finger
- Ti: (on dayan) striking the center of the shahi with the index finger (resonant)
Gharānā traditions 
The term gharānā is used to specify a lineage of teaching and repertoire in Indian classical music. Most performers and scholars recognize two styles of tabla gharana: Dilli Baj and Purbi Baj. Dilli (or Delhi) baj comes from the style that developed in Delhi, and Purbi (meaning eastern) baj developed in the area east of Delhi. Delhi Baj is also known as Chati baj (Chati is a part of Tabla from where special tone can be produced).
Some traditions indeed have sub-lineages and sub-styles that may meet the criteria to warrant a separate gharānā name, but such socio-musical identities have not taken hold in the public discourse of Hindustani art music, such as the Qasur lineage of tabla players of the Punjab region.
Each gharānā is traditionally set apart from the others by unique aspects of the compositional and playing styles of its exponents. For instance, some gharānās have different tabla positioning and bol techniques. In the days of court patronage the preservation of these distinctions was important in order to maintain the prestige of the sponsoring court. Gharānā secrets were closely guarded and often only passed along family lines. Being born into or marrying into a lineage holding family was often the only way to gain access to this knowledge.
Today many of these gharānā distinctions have been blurred as information has been more freely shared and newer generations of players have learned and combined aspects from multiple gharānās to form their own styles. There is much debate as to whether the concept of gharānā even still applies to modern players. Some think the era of gharānā has effectively come to an end as the unique aspects of each gharānā have been mostly lost through the mixing of styles and the socio-economic difficulties of maintaining lineage purity through rigorous training.
Jori and Dhama traditions 
Next to the contemporary common style of tabla, there exist older styles in which the bayan (called dhama or dhamma) is often made out of wood. Instead of having a thin dry syahi, this style of tabla uses a wet wheat dough on the bass drum's skin, applied shortly before playing. These types of Jori tabla are used by qawwali ensembles (notably Dildar Hussain), as well as in the Sikh tabla gharanas, Punjabi dhrupad, gurbani kirtan, and Afghan traditional music. A reminder that this style of tabla was used all over India not long ago is that many modern brass tuning hammers still have a dough removal spatula on the reverse end.
- Ustad or Pandit - a master of the tabla technique and gharana, or school.
- Gharana - any of the six schools (Punjab, Delhi, Benares, Ajrara, Lucknow, Farukhabad) of tabla.
- Syahi - the black spots on the tabla, also called gab. Composed of a dried paste derived from iron filings and applied in several separate layers to the head of the drum.
- Keenar - the outer ring of skin on the head of each of the two tabla drums. In Hindi, known as the chat.
- Sur - The area between the gaab and the keenar. In Hindi, known as the maidan.
- Bol - both mnemonic syllables and a series of notes produced when stroked. E.g. Na, tin, Dha, Dhin, Ge, Ke, etc.
- Theka - a standard series of bols that form the rhythmic basis of tabla accompaniment for a given tala.
- Rela - a sort of rapid drum-roll.
- Chutta or beeda - the cushions used when placing the tabla.
- Baj, Baaj, or Baaz - a style of playing, different from the gharānā. Two main styles developed, Purbi Baj and Dilli Baj. Dilli, or Delhi, baj is the *style of bols and playing that originated in the city of Delhi. Purbi (meaning "eastern") developed in the area east of delhi. Both have different ways to play bols.
- Bāyāñ or Duggi- The metal drum providing the bass notes in tabla.
- Dayan or Tabla - The wooden drum providing the treble notes in tabla.
- Lay (or Laya) - tempo.
- Tala (or Tāl) - rhythm cycle; meter. Example: Dadra Tala, Ada Chautal, Teental, and the most common, Keherwa.
- Sam - the first beat of a tāl.
- Vibhag - Taal division.
- Tāli - clap.
- Khali - off or no claps.
- Gatta - Wooden dowels used to control the tension.
See also 
- Doumbek - Arabian drum also known in Egypt as "tabla", "Egyptian tabla", or "Alexandrian tabla".
- Richard Emmert; Yuki Minegishi (1980). Musical voices of Asia: report of (Asian Traditional Performing Arts 1978). Heibonsha. p. 266. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Can Dangdut Travel Outside Region?, by Alexandra Nuvich and Debe Campbell. In: Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (18 April 1998). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 75–. ISSN 00062510. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Nasehpour, Peyman (2002). "Encyclopedia of Persian Percussion Instruments". Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- Stewart R. The Tabla in Perspective Unpublished thesis, UCLA, 1974
Further reading 
- The Major Traditions of North Indian Tabla Drumming: A Survey Presentation Based on Performances by India's Leading Artists, by Robert S. Gottlieb. Pub. Musikverlag E. Katzbichler, 1977. ISBN 387397300.
- The tabla of Lucknow: a cultural analysis of a musical tradition, by James Kippen. Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-521-33528-0.
- Solo Tabla Drumming of North India: Text & commentary, by Robert S. Gottlieb, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1993. ISBN 81-208-1093-7.
- Fundamentals of Tabla, (Volume 1) by David R. Courtney. Pub. Sur Sangeet Services, 1995. ISBN 0-9634447-6-X.
- Advanced Theory of Tabla, (Volume 2) by David R. Courtney. Pub. Sur Sangeet Services, 2000. ISBN 0-9634447-9-4.
- Manufacture and Repair of Tabla, (Volume 3) by David R. Courtney. Pub. Sur Sangeet Services, 2001. ISBN 1-893644-02-2.
- Focus on the Kaidas of Tabla, (Volume 4) by David R. Courtney. Pub. Sur Sangeet Services, 2002. ISBN 1-893644-03-0.
- Theory and practice of tabla, by Sadanand Naimpalli. Popular Prakashan, 2005. ISBN 81-7991-149-7.
- Art of Tabla, by Siddharth Mehta. Surya, 2013. ISBN 0-1788690-5-X.
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