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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, Bengali: তবলা, Urdu: طبلہ, Arabic: طبل، طبلة, Persian: طبل) is a membranophone percussion instrument (similar to their Afro-Cuban/Latin-American drum-based relatives bongos), which is often used in Hindustani classical music. It is still used in the music behind folk and sufi poetry. It later became a part of Hindustani music industry. 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.
Tabla must have been in existence in India for many many years - at least during the reign of Alauddin Khilji (1296 to 1316). Pushkar was in existence long before even the Pakhawaj. It is quite likely that an instrument resembling the tabla was in existence much before the Mughal invasion. However it is definite that it became popular during the Mughal rule in the north and Yadava rule (1210 to 1247) in the south, at the time when Sangeet Ratnakara was written by Sharngadeva.
The tabla is sometimes thought to have been invented by the Indian Sufi poet and musician Amir Khusro in the 13th century, originating from the need to have a drum that could be played from the top in the sitting position to enable the more complex rhythm structures that were required for the new Indian Sufi vocal style of chanting and Zikr. Its invention would also have complemented the complex early Sitar melodies that Amir Khusro was composing. Amir Khusro supposedly created the tabla by splitting the mridangam or the pakhawaj in two. ("Toda, tab bhi bola – tabla" – "When broke, it still spoke" – is a fairly well known Hindi pun.) However none of his writings on music mention the drum, and there are Hindu temple carvings of double hand drums resembling tabla that date back to 500 BC.
The Tabla uses a "complex finger tip and hand percussive" technique played from the top unlike the Pakhawaj and mridangam which mainly use the full palm and are sideways in motion and are more limited in terms of sound complexity.
Rebecca Stewart has 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.
The earliest known iconography of the tabla dates back to 1799. The word Gharana means "family". In relation to music, Gharana refers to a family of musicians, a school of music or a musical lineage connected with the name of a particular person or place. The characteristic feature of a Gharana is its special style of presentation: the result of the special and extraordinary creativity and innovation of a highly talented musician. The other musicians of the Gharana may have their own individual features of presentation, but their training and conditioning in the distinguishing style of the Gharana is bound to leave indelible and recognisable stamps on the presentation of the performer.
In this sense, Gharana are discernible for quite a long time, although some may have been distinct. Again, there are some Gharana that are "hybrid", i.e., they show mixed styles taken from other Gharana. The emergence of the Gharana system in our music and its growing importance in the 18th and 19th centuries had its own impact upon the evolution of Raga.
A Gharana may take the name of (a) the name of a person, family or group or (b) a place or region. Examples of the first category are Seni Gharana, Imdadkhani Gharana, Kavval Gharana and so on. Example of the second category are Gwalior Gharana. Agra Gharana and so on. In this context, it should be noted that there is a saying that to be able to call a school / tradition a Gharana there must have been at least three generations of established teacher - disciple pedagogic relationships already gone before. Thus, for example, a musician cannot merely migrate from India and settle in, say, Fiji and start a school with a band of students (no matter how serious, motivated and dedicated they all be) and then call his school the Fiji Gharana. Unless the teacher has produced students (Generation A) of acceptably high calibre who have proven themselves in the presence of knowledgeable (qualified) listeners, and the Generation A students have produced similarly acceptable and proven students (Generation B) themselves, and further the Generation B students in their turn have produced similar and proven students (Generation C), there cannot be a Fiji Gharana in this example.
Each Gharana has its own special Silsila or style or logic of presentation, within the general framework of the regional Bani (or, for instrumental music, Baj) which applied to it. Thus, the rise of the Gharana system resulted in the segmentation of the different styles of Raga development. This sometimes led to different versions of the same Raga, specially when comparisons arose between the presentations of musicians of different Gharana presenting the same Raga. This has had a spin-off to the present day. For example, Gwalior Gharana musicians use Shuddha Ni in addition to Komal Ni in Raga Rageshvari but musicians of several other Gharana use only Komal Ni and not Shuddha Ni.
Another interesting phenomenon in this context is that before the rise of the Gharana system, different regions had different Raga. That is to say, musicians of western India would normally sing or play Raga that were different from those of, say, northern, central or eastern India. But after the rise of the various Gharana, this compartmentalisation became diluted, for several reasons:-
A musician of a particular Gharana may be invited to a court situated far away for performance or even service. In that case, it would be natural that he is influenced by the Raga in vogue in that place, just as the "native" or "local" musicians of that place would be influenced by the new (to them) Raga that the Gharana musician brought with him. Often, certain Raga and / or Bandish or compositions would be considered the "property" of a particular Gharana. That is, the Raga in question would be known only to the musicians of that Gharana and to none else. This would be especially true if the Raga was created in the Gharana. It was the custom to sometimes "gift" some of these Raga / Bandish as dowry to a son-in-law. In this way, Many Raga found their way into Gharana where the Raga had not been in existence before. If the recipient or new "owner" of the Raga was a musician of another Gharana, he would naturally be guided by his own background conditioning in presenting this received Raga; this would quite conceivably cause some variation in it that might remain or even become heightened with the passage of time.
Another common custom was for the princes and noblemen, and also for the new breed of rich men on the post-Moghul period (18th and 19th centuries) to hold Sabha or musical soirees where musicians of different Gharana would present their music. This would lead to an interchange of ideas where musicians would be influenced by the presentations of those of other Gharana. Thus the Gharana system served to "dilute" the previous "insularity" of Raga music. The result was that musicians of one Gharana began to present Raga of another Gharana in their own conditioned styles. For example, if a musician trained in the Gaurhar Bani style , where there was a good deal of Vilambit or slow tempo development with plenty of long drawn , took up a Raga like, say, Bahar, in which there was no Vilambit, he would by his own background pedagogic conditioning have a strong tendency to present Bahar in his own style, that is, he would incorporate plenty of Vilambit passages into the Raga and perhaps compose his own Vilambit Bandish in the Raga. Thus, the very character of the Raga would change over time. A good example of this phenomenon is the well known Vilambit composition "Nabi ke Durbar" in the Raga Basant, which was not a slow Raga to start with.
Another fallout of this dilution was the emergence of new Raga, often in old names. It was now possible for two Raga of divergent sentiments or characteristics to have the same name. Previously, a Raga may have had minor variants in such a way that the basic character or sentiment of the Raga remained intact. For example, Pandit Ahobal reports in his monumental work Sangit Parijata (16th century) that the Raga Bhairavi had two forms, one with R and the other with R. The manner of application of both R and R were, however, the same. Thus the basic nature of Bhairavi - the main sentiment that it conveyed - remained the same in either case, as all the other notes, their Kaku, their Sangati etc. were the same in either form. The "mood" of Bhairavi, therefore, remained constant. Indeed, as long as this was maintained, such minor variations in the presentation of a Raga were acceptable.
However, in the Gharana system, two Raga bearing the same name could have completely different features, and hence completely dissimilar moods. Thus for example, in the case of the Raga Shree, it is seen that a type of Shree called Poorvi Shree, similar to the modern Shree, was in vogue. This is reported in Hrdayanarayana's Hrdayakautuka (17th century). The original Shree, which had G, D and N, became more or less obsolete in north India although in south India, it continued to be (and still is) in existence. By and by, this new Raga Poorvi Shree was abbreviated to Shree and became the Shri of modern times. The original Shri is to be seen in north India in the Raga Bageshri (also called Bageshvari), in altered form. Such metamorphoses were the result of the action of the Gharana system. In like manner, some Gharana used D in Raga like Lalit and Poorvi whereas some other Gharana used D instead. The net result of all this was that the system of Raga became quite confusing, since it lost a good deal of the standardisation of earlier times.
The following chart gives the names of some Gharana in vocal and instrumental (melodic) music.
Below the chart there is a brief description of the musical charecteristics of five major Gharana of vocal (Khayal) music that are prevelant in present times - Gwalior, Agra, Jaipur-Atrauli, Patiala and Kirana. Each Gharana has its own special features. For better appreciation of Khayal, it is important for the listener to understand and keep in mind these features. In this context, it is also important to know that the Tabla accompanist must be fully aware of the special features of the Gharana of the artiste he is accompanying. If the accompanist has a less than proper understanding about these features, he will not be able to provide the correct form of accompaniment that is appropriate to the music of the Gharana. Many an otherwise good - even great - vocal performance has been ruined or all but ruined because the poor vocalist has had to struggle against the complacently ignorant accompaniment of the Tabla player. Indeed, Prof. Basavi Mukerji has herself had this unfortunate experience a few times, where even "renowned" Tabla players have provided completely inappropriate accompaniment. That her performance was still an enormously successful one was the result of the sheer robustness of her supreme and universally acknowledged artistry. back to top
Names of Gharana of Vocal and Instrumental (melodic) music: Vocal Music Gharana Instrumental (Melodic) Music Gharana Dhrupad Khayal Tappa Thumri Rabab Been Sitar Sarode Sarengi Esraj Seni Gwalior Tilmandi Atrauli Jaipur Agra Benaras Udaipur Betiah Vishnupur Delhi #1
(Qavval or Qavvalbachcha)
Gwalior Tilmandi Atrauli Jaipur
Agra Benaras Lucknow Kirana Punjab
Delhi #2 Sikanderabad Rangile Rampur Seheswan Bhendibazar Indore Mevati Lucknow Benaras Lucknow Benaras Punjab Seni Seni Kirana Gharpure Jaipur Seni Gwalior-
Imdadkhani Seni Rampur Kirana Delhi Punjab Gaya Vishnupur
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 dāyāñs 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, heavy 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.
Indian music is traditionally practice-oriented and until the 20th century did not employ written notations as the primary media of instruction, understanding, or transmission. The rules of Indian music and compositions themselves are taught from a guru to a shishya, in person. Thus oral notation, such as the Tabla stroke names, is very developed and exact. However, written notation is regarded as a matter of taste and is not standardized. Thus there is no universal system of written notation for the rest of the world to study Indian music.
Maula Bakhsh (born as Chole Khan in 1833) was an Indian musician, singer and poet. His grandfather was Hazrat Inayat Khan, founder of the Universal Sufism. Developed the "first system of notation for Indian music". He also founded the "first Academy of Music in India" in 1886, based in Baroda that encompassed both Eastern and Western musical cultural traditions.
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.
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)
- Thin: (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 kath: (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
- Tete: (on dayan) striking the center of the syahi with the middle finger
- Ti: (on dayan) striking the center of the syahi with the index finger (resonant)
Some tals, for example Dhamaar, Ek, Jhoomra and Chau tals, lend themselves better to slow and medium tempos. Others flourish at faster speeds, like Jhap or Rupak talas. Trital or Teental is one of the most popular, since it is as aesthetic at slower tempos as it is at faster speeds.
There are many tals in Hindustani music, some of the more popular ones are:
|Tintal (or Trital or Teental)||16||4+4+4+4||X 2 0 3|
|Jhoomra||14||3+4+3+4||X 2 0 3|
|Tilwada||16||4+4+4+4||X 2 0 3|
|Dhamar||14||5+2+3+4||X 2 0 3|
|Ektal and Chautal||12||2+2+2+2+2+2||X 0 2 0 3 4|
|Jhaptal||10||2+3+2+3||X 2 0 3|
|Rupak (Mughlai/Roopak)||7||3+2+2||X 2 3|
Rarer Hindustani tals
|Adachoutal||14||2+2+2+2+2+2+2||X 2 0 3 0 4 0|
|Brahmtal||28||2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2||X 0 2 3 0 4 5 6 0 7 8 9 10 0|
|Dipchandi||14||3+4+3+4||X 2 0 3|
|Shikar||17||6+6+2+3||X 0 3 4|
|Sultal||10||2+2+2+2+2||x 0 2 3 0|
|Ussole e Fakhta||5||1+1+1+1+1||x 3|
|Farodast||14||3+4+3+4||X 2 0 3|
|Pancham Savari||15||5+5+5||x 2 0 3 4 5 6|
|Gaj jhampa||10||5+5+5||x 2 0 3|
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 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.
- Doumbek – Arabian drum also known in Egypt as "tabla", "Egyptian tabla", or "Alexandrian tabla".
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- 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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