Table of Contents
1.0 Introduction 1
2.0 History of the Instrument 2
3.0 Instrument Overview and Nomenclature 3
4.0 How it is Played 5
5.0 Styles and Traditions 17
6.0 Social Aspects and the Future of the Instrument 18
7.0 Glossary 20
8.0 Bibliography 22
This essay seeks to address a variety of aspects pertaining to the North Indian percussion instrument the Tabla with a primary focus on the nomenclature, notation, and styles used by Hindustani musicians throughout history. As the foundations of North Indian Classical music are highly complex, it is crucial to understand the basic systems and principles that are held, before making coming to conclusions regarding music styles and cultures. Once these aspects have been addressed we can then consider the position the instrument plays culturally in its own context as well as the impacts it has and position it plays in the greater environment. The vocabulary used will be important throughout the essay; words in italics are included in the glossary on page 11 for the convenience of the reader.
2.0 History of the Instrument
The origins of the tabla as an instrument have never been assuredly agreed upon. In mythology, it has been said that the drums were a creation of the Lord Shiva based on cave drawings which date back to 200 BCE. Another alternative could be that the instrument stemmed from Persian influences, developing from the tabal, a drum set originating in Persia which functions similarly to the tabla. Others believe tales that the sounds of the Indian phakawaj were not diverse enough for musicians of the time, so the drum was split into two distinct instruments to create a wider variety of sounds. There are multiple other theories as to the instrument’s origin, but what is agreed upon is that the first player to develop the tabla as it is currently seen was Sidhar Khan of Delhi. Khan was the one who originally began using techniques, or bols, used on the pahkawaj for use on the tabla. He was the first to teach and popularize the instrument in a drastic way across various parts of Northern India. Throughout history, the tabla has been used to accompany all kinds of pieces in Hindustani music, ranging from vocal and instrumental performance to dance. Primarily, the instrument is performed as accompaniment for other stringed instruments but has also at times made a name for itself as a solo player.
3.0 Instrument Overview and Nomenclature
The tabla set is composed of two drums known as the dayan and the bayan. These literally mean ‘right’ and ‘left’ respectively, but in practice the dayan is played with whichever hand is dominant for the performer.
Both of the drums are covered in a head of goat or cow skin called puri. Paste-patches called shyahi are used on the skins in an effort to suppress natural overtones occurring in the instrument. Additional...