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Article: Review of CD: TABLA Vol. 1

 
By Haresh Bakshi
 
  The Title of the CD: TABLA Vol. 1 [for PC/MAC]
The Companion audio CD: New Generation
Featuring the various roles of tabla, free for a limited time only, with the TABLA Vol. 1
Publisher: AimRec Enterprise, Inc.
Website: http://www.aimrec.com

Indian music in general, and the Tabla and the Sitar in particular, cast the spell on the West as early as in the early 60's. The tabla is a two-drum set used as a percussion instrument, for solo playing or for accompaniement. The Sitar and the Tabla are the most frequently heard Indian instruments in World music.

The CD: TABLA Vol. 1 is a fully interactive multimedia presentaation introducing the Tabla. Its presentation is so gripping that you enjoy learning the basics of the tabla, which usually calls for much patience and perseverance to learn. You can play your very first song on the keyboard on the very first day; you can learn to sing a simple song relatively easily; but you can hardly create a proper sound on the tabla in a short spell of learning. But once you know the basics, you get beautiful bol-s and immense joy out of tabla playing. That is where this interactive CD comes in handy.

The 500-MB of audio-visual material is divided into three main sections: Introduction, Instructions, and In concert. The introduction starts with the general history of the tabla -- a 14-screen text which you hear as the commentary also. It is a useful synopsis of the historical development of the tabla. The introduction continues into audio-visual supplements to the six main gharana-s, viz. Ajrada, Benaras, Delhi, Farukhabad, Lucknow and Punjab.

The second section, Instructions, is the heart of the CD. It comprises, firstly, explanations of the basic terms and common concepts associated with tabla playing. It covers about twenty screens along with which we hear commentary also. The second part of the Instructions is the bol-s -- the alphabets of the tabla sounds. The bol-s are the sounds that the player produces on the tabla, with either hand or with both the hands. These mnemonic devices total about 12-15 bol-s. Then we have the multi-syllabic combinations which number about a dozen. The audio-visual presentation of these tabla sounds is an excellent collection. This is followed by stills of the tabla pair, the right-hand bayan, and the left-hand bayan (or duggi), each with parts clearly marked and named.

Then we have theka-s of twelve taal-s demonstrated as played. However, it is more useful to first show the counts, using the hands, while counting the number of beats. This should be followed by the show the counts, using the hands, while, this time, speaking the theka bol-s. This should be followed, lastly, by just playing of the avartana twice. The theka playing should be very simple, without any fillers or flourishes. Also, at least in the case of the bhajani taal, the written bol-s do not follow the correctly-played bol-s. The section on the tuning of the dayan and bayan follows, shown as stills. However, the reference pitch is not mentioned at all. Further, for the sake of the correct teaching order, the coarse tuning should come first, followed by fine tuning -- not the other way round.

This is followed by video demonstration of performance components like rela, paran etc. Here again, the spoken part should preceed the performed part.

Lastly, there is the glossary search, where you enter the word and its definition is displayed. You can click on a button to reach the detailed commentary on the word you have elected to search. But the student does not know the technical words. So, what is he expected to enter for a search? Further, the spellings of the terms in Hindi and other Indian languages are not standardised for transliteration. Thus, you can enter "barabar" (how does the student already know this word?), but if you enter "baraabar", you do not get any result. If you enter "bant", it does not display any result, except that its nearest term available is "barabar" -- and this is quite misleading. However, the overall usefulness of the glossary is beyond any doubt, though the entire glossary needs to be listable.

The next section, In concert, is a collection of vocal and instrumental audio recordings. It also includes the video recordings of performance components like rela, paran etc.

The Instructions section can certainly be more 'personalized', more one-on-one basis, more detailed and slower-paced, the camera alternately zoomed onto the fingers of the player. There is an option for "1/2 speed", but it does not serve the purpose it may have been designed for.

The last part is a list of the artists and credits.

The companion CD "The new generation" further reinforces the role of the tabla in Indian music.

The CD: TABLA Vol. 1 is a very presentable work. It has made the task of learning to play the tabla interesting -- a very creditable achievement. This CD, the only of its kind, is highly recommended.

2004/01/31

 

 

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