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The Tabla

Bhai Naseera, Bhawani Lalji, Mian Kadir Bax, Ustad Allarakha, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Ustad Fazal Qureshi

Here’s an interesting history with respect to the Tabla. It is believed that amongst percussion instruments, the Tabla is the only one with a lineage or different Gharanas. It is indeed amazing that an instrument comprising 2 small drums can have so many variations or styles, creating such a vast repertoire, each typical of the respective Gharana’s characteristic or identifying factor.

Did you know that the Tabla is believed to have its origins in the Pakhawaj?

In a tête-à-tête with the popular Tabla player Ustad Fazal Qureshi, I gathered some interesting trivia vis-à-vis the Tabla. As a proof that the Tabla originated from the Pakhawaj, he mentioned an instrument called the ‘Dha-ma’ which is made up of the ‘Tabla’ and ‘Baayan’ (also known as Dagga). But here, the ’Baayan’ has a coating of ‘atta’ or dough similar to the Pakhawaj. The ‘Dha-ma’ exists only in Punjab, with a few practitioners pursuing it even today. This then according to him, is the missing link between the Pakhawaj and the Tabla.

Artistes from different regions developed their own style, thereby giving rise to various ‘Gharanas’ – Punjab, Banaras, Farukhabad, etc. History has it that the Punjab and Banaras ‘Gharanas’ are originally for the Pakhawaj, while Delhi, Ajrada, Lucknow, Farukhabad became seats of Tabla Gharanas.

Ustad Alla Rakha Khansaheb’s Guru - Mian Kadir Bax although a Pakhawaj player originally, adopted the Tabla as part of his playing. Amidst the music connoisseurs then, it was a common joke to arrive at his concerts an hour late, because it was believed that, that was when he came into his own or in common parlance, ‘unke haath tabhi garam hote the’.

As time went by, both, the Punjab and Banaras Gharanas also adopted the Tabla as part of their playing. But the Banaras Gharana artistes still play the Tabla in the Pakhawaj style, and use the Pakhawaj term ‘Uthaan’ for ‘Peshkaar’. But in Punjab, Abbaji revolutionised the Tabla playing style by mixing both, the Pakhawaj style with the Tabla style, thereby presenting ‘Peshkaar’, ‘Kaayda’, in the Tabla style, and adding to it compositions, ‘Chalan’, ‘Uthaan’, which are taken from the Pakhawaj style. Thus, giving it a unique flavour of its own.

Ustad Fazal Qureshi, son and disciple of Ustad Alla Rakha Khansaheb, brings with him not only the rich tradition he has inherited, but also the enigmatic aura, characteristic of his father and Guru. Growing up in a family where ‘Tabla Bols’ formed the language of communication, Fazal ji has imbibed the very best. Having put in years of ‘Sadhana’, Fazal ji has created a variety of patterns for ‘Riyaaz’, making it all available for students of Tabla. He even has many recordings to his credit. As a performer, and a Guru at myGurukul, he is actively involved in guiding students, encouraging them to find their own level, create their own patterns, and develop a unique style of their own.

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