The Tabla – Creating Heartbeat Sensations In Indian Music

The tabla originated in the Indian subcontinent and is popularly used for classical especially Hindustani classical music, folk, and popular music.  This membranophone percussion instrument consists of 2 hand drums and therefore the word tabla is said to have originated from the Persian word tabl meaning drum.  The 2 drums are slightly different in shape and size, they are single headed and barrel shaped, and they produce different timbres.  The right tabla or dayan or dahina tabla is played using the fingers and palm of the right hand and the bayan or bahina tabla is played using also the wrist along with the fingers and palm of the left hand.  The left tabla, also called Duggi, is bigger and in the shape of a kettledrum.  These drums are made of hollowed out brass, wood, or clay.  They are placed side by side on a Chutta or a toroidal bundle.

Creating Music With The Fingers And Palms

The dayan or right tabla also called Chattu is laced with thongs and hoops and has wooden dowels on the sides.  The dowels and hoops help to increase the tension of the membrane.  The dayan is tuned to the Sa raga which is the ground note in Indian music.  The bayan is constructed and tuned in such a way as to produce a sound that is a fifth to an octave below the dayan drum.  Playing the tabla is complex and the musician has to use his fingers and palms to create different sounds and rhythms.  The use of the heel pressure of the hand on the tabla changes the pitch and tone colour of the 2 drums during a performance.

Tabla- An Essential Part Of Religious Music

The tabla is essential during kirtan and bhajan singing and is an integral part of the bhakti devotional traditions of Sikhs and Hindus.  It is also quite popular among Sufi musicians and is an important qawali instrument.  The heartbeat sensation that it produces is responsible for its popularity in pop music too.  In Hindustani music, the tabla is played using the khula bol and band bol techniques whereas in classical music the tali and khali methods are used.  The Indo-Pak region has 6 gharanas of tabla namely the Benares gharana, Lucknow gharana, Punjab gharana, Delhi gharana, Farukhabad gharana, and the Ajrara gharana.  The craftsmen make tablas according to these gharanas.  The playing styles and the composition of music also changes from gharana to gharana.

Tabla Makes You Part Of The Indian Classical Tradition

Some of the well-known tabla maestros include Ameer Husain Khan, Alla Rakha Khan, and Zakir Hussain amongst others.  Learning the tabla helps students to be a part of the great Indian classical music tradition.  Like all musical instruments, playing the tabla improves the student’s ability to concentrate.  It also helps in the development of the motor and auditory cortexes of the brain.  Playing the tabla requires stamina and improves the physical fitness of students.  The concentration that is required when playing the rhythms helps to improve their listening and focusing skills.


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