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Tabla is one of the fundamental musical instruments that is linked with genre of music. It is a pair of leather-topped drums that is practiced in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, though it is not practiced worldwide. But when it comes to the fusion form of music, tabla also gets combined with the various musical forms of music of the world. The instrument has also attracted the attention of many scholars, musicians and music lovers across the globe for its sophistication and charm. As the instrument tabla falls under the classical genre, it is incomplete without tabla in any sort of Indian music. Playing tabla accompanies many of the vocal concerts and also Bharatanatya. Vidwan.R.S.Anantharamaiah born on 30th September 1938 was a famous personality known for his achievements in the field of music. He was awarded many prestigious awards like “Laya Vaadya Bhooshana”, “Lalitha Kala Bhooshana” and “Karnataka Kalashri”.
Tabla is manufactured in shops that are exclusively meant for manufacturing these particular instruments. In such shops the contribution of a number of experienced technicians who are well versed in the job is immense. The more experienced tabla makers provide the better instrument. Most of all the eminent tabla exponents prefer to use the personalized tabla developed by the most experienced tabla makers from the tabla shops. One of such tabla shops is “Shantha Tabla Works”.
Vidwan. R. S. Anantharamaiah being born and brought up in a traditional family, he was very much interested in playing percussion instruments. He has also played Mridanga, Khanjira and Dholki for many concerts. Later his interest turned towards the making of the instruments like Tabla and Mridanga. He learned the making of these instruments for many years under the guidance of Vidwan.Venkatappa that led him to open “Shantha Tabla Works” in future days. Vidwan .R .S .Anantharamaiah founder proprietor of Shantha tabla works established the store in 1962. He was recognized as the best mridanga and tabla maker of his generation. His instruments were purchased by many of the famous artists. From then till now the Shantha tabla works is run successfully at Bengaluru. Currently Mr.Srinivasa Anantharamaiah son of Vidwan.R.S.Anantharamaiah is looking after the shop and keeping busy himself by making tabla and mridanga. He also has students from Japan and other foreign countries to learn morsing/mourching, playing tabla, mridanga, ghatam, kanjeera and dholak from him. The instruments built at Shantha tabla works are issued ‘fumigation certificate’ referred as ‘pest control certificate’ by legal fumigator and then they are exported to foreign countries like Australia and etc.
Tabla is most popularly known as the traditional Indian music instrument. It is considered as the queen of percussion instruments. It is an accompaniment of instrumental music, dance and vocal. A pair of two drums in which Bayan and Dayan are called as Tabla. This pair of two drums is usually played together in combination to produce an incredible rhythmic composition with its fullness of detailed expressions. These drums are usually closed at the bottom and are covered with the skin of goat at the top. But these skins used for the drums are likely to be torn off depending on how often the instruments are used hence the skins has to be changed from time to time.
Tabla is an instrument of fingers, which could be played effortlessly once the person masters in learning the process of his hands positioning and the movements of the fingers by grasping the lessons of this art. To play the instrument in most comfortable way one’s waist position must be straight and each of his hands must be placed on dayan and bayan in such a way that there shouldn’t be any stiffness. The playing technique of these two drums simultaneously requires differentiated fingering in connection with the complex composition of the skin membranes. Thus the comfortable positioning and excellent fingering offers the enjoyment of playing tabla and right sound. But now a days with the evolution of traditional instruments, Tabla has been modified in the aspects of size, weight, color and height also to fit the requirement of the soloist. Hence it is simplified for ease of playing the instrument and to produce conceivable music. But Tabla made with the original goatskin and steel/iron/wood are assured for long-life.
The Accessories of Tabla
The main two accessories of Tabla are two drums. They are named as dayan and bayan. Dayan drum is placed and played towards the right-side and bayan is the big sized drum that is played on the left-side.
Dayan is the small sized drum compared in the duo. It is usually played in the dominant hand. Dayan is basically made up of hollow wooden structure that produces deep and intense vibrating sound. This drum is customary and the tuning wedges are held in sides of the drum by leather straps or nylon straps that are meant for tuning the instrument. Depending on the wedges that are beaten upwards or downwards by the tuning hammer, the sound acquires lower or higher pitch. The fine-tuning is set by beating on the woven ring (drumhead) by tuning hammer. The tuning of dayan depends on the diameter of the skin. The smaller the skin of the diameter is, higher the sound and bigger the skin is, lower the sound when tuned. Speciality of dayan is, whether the pitch is lower or higher it is played together with the corresponding high or low melody instruments. The size of the dayan that are commonly prepared is 6 ¾ inches.
Bayan is a spherical shaped drum. They are usually either made of steel or bronze/copper. Bayan made of bronze is used for Carnatic music whereas steel body of the bayan is used in Hindustani music. It resembles a shape of kettledrum. It is larger in size and low-pitched drum which produces a sharp crisp sound. Bayan is played by index finger or the middle finger of the left hand and when in need both the fingers are used simultaneously to play bayan. While playing by two fingers, the ball of the thumb finger rests slightly on the edge of the skin to modulate the pitch by slightly pressing the skin. The size of the bayan that is usually prepared is 7 ¾ inches.
Along with these drums there are few more typical accessories that comes by, they include some spindle shaped cylindrical wooden pieces that are inserted within the lining leather straps that run vertically from the top skin screen till the base. Various kinds of tabla sets such as ordinary velvet cloth, tabla pillow covers, cloth rings called as ‘Bira’ used for placing the drums upon while playing tabla for ample amount of stability are available to beautify the instrument tabla.
History of Tabla
Though the Vedic literature that dates back to thousands of year’s mentions about the instrument, still the statistics however says that the instrument tabla is originated from ancient Egypt. Also several authors since 13thcentaury stated that Sufi poet/musician Amir Khusro was the artificer of this instrument. It is also claimed that Sidar Khan Dhari, a court musician in Delhi room during eighteenth century invented the accessories of Tabla. But there is proper evidence that claims about the origin of tabla. The only certainty is that tabla fuses Arabic, Persian and Turkish influences with the indigenous Indian drums.
The artists in their private musical gatherings developed the personal sophisticated solo repertoires that paved way for the creation of the tabla gharana lineages. In North Indian music, tabla is widely used instrument and is classifies under the membranophone family of instruments. The two main gharana styles appreciated in North Indian music are Dilli Baj and Purbi Baj. Being totally different in their techniques and music composition these two gharanas have received a great identity in their own style. There are further more six other gharanas or the traditional schools of tabla that are noted by the great musicians are Delhi, Lucknow, Ajrara, Farukhabad, Benaras and Punjab gharanas. These six gharanas are also unique for their specific bol techniques and tabla positioning.
During the days of royal patronage gharana traditions were important to uphold and was their secrecy was maintained. But today in the contemporary world, tabla players combine various aspects of gharanas to create their own free style. Thus some professionals say that the tradition of gharana has virtually broken as the training methods and the changing lifestyles have made it almost impossible to maintain the lineage purity. However the tradition of performing a tabla solo is cherished in a unique phenomenon at the art of drumming and continues to grow as the journey goes on with the time.
Tuning of Tabla
Calibration of tabla cannot be considered as a simple job. It requires immense attention to listen the notes made on tabla. Every tabla is formed for an exact musical key that is C,D,G etc. Once the tabla is standardized, tanpura is used to make a drone sound with the correct pitch. This way it will be easier to match the drum pitch as one tunes round the fringe of the tabla. There are numerous masters of Tabla. Some of the notable names are Kisan Maharaj, Allarakha and others.