Tabla is an instrument used in several traditional musical settings in North India and Pakistan.
The origins of the instrument are somewhat of a mystery. Some people consider Amir Khusrau (pictured)
as the creator. He was of Persian descent and lived in the 13th century. However, there are no known
compositions for the instrument until those of Siddar Khan (18th century), the founder of the Delhi Gharana (school), the oldest
of the six gharanas. The other five gharanas are Farukhabad, Benares,
Lucknow, Punjab, and Ajrara. Each school has a different approach to the instrument and hence there
different styles of compositions.
Padhant is a system of spoken “words” created for each sound or bol that the tabla makes. These different “words”
are then used to form patterns that when heard a player can then play on the drums.
Padhant has been used to orally transmit compositions through the ages. While in
training a student is typically taught the padhant of a composition before actually
playing it on the drums. The student is then able to have the pattern in the mind
before having it in the body.
About the Drums
Tabla consists of a pair of drums, a dayan and a bayan (pictured). The dayan is the smaller of
the two and is tuned to pitch typically C or C#. This drum produces the high pitched
tone sounds and also the closed percussive sounds. The bayan is the larger barrel like
drum. It produces the low bass tones that can be modulated in pitch. The black circles
on both drums are called the shahya; literally king of the drum. These act as resonators
and literally bring life into the drums which without them would sound sharp and flat. The hammer
seen in the picture is used for tuning the drum. This is done by hitting the pegs on the dayan up or
down and also hitting the rim of the drum for fine tuning
Uses of Tabla
There are four main categories of music from the North Indian region. They are: Classical, Semi-classical, Light music, and Folk.
In all of these forms the primary function of the tabla is accompaniment. However, during the past century the tabla
has grown in popularity as a solo instrument in the classical setting.
With its mysterious origins and unique sound, tabla is now being used in many non-traditional settings.
The vastness of its potential has yet to be realized.