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Article: Involvement of Tabla in Different Genres of Indian Music

By Prithwiraj Bhattacharjee

India has been the proud birth place of a host of different genres of music. Just like the country exhibits diversity in language, dialect, script and dance forms, diverse types of music have also very much been a part and parcel of the mainstream Indian society. Each region in India seems to have its own distinctive genre of music, expressing its culture. The reason for this, in part, is that in olden times, communication infrastructure was poorly developed. As such, interaction between regions was poor. Hence each region practiced its own music and retained their own distinct flavors. For example, the folk music in “Maharashtra” is very different from that in “Gujarat” although they are neighboring states. Pure classical form of music has existed since the time of the “Vedas” and finds exclusive mention in the “Saamaveda”. This music was patronized by maintaining and honoring distinguished musicians in courts and palaces of kings. It also found a wide appeal among the masses. “Dhrupad”, “Dhamar” and “Khayal” retained the pure form of classical music and are widely practiced even today. Apart from cultural influences, different emotions also influenced the creation of different genres of music. Expressions of love that revolved around “Lord Krishna” and the “Gopis of Vrindavan” led to development of “Semi-Classical” genres like “Thumri”, “Tappa” and “Dadra”. Likewise, devotional sentiments found expression in the “Bhajan”,” Kirtan” and “Abhang” genres. Also, due to the influence of “Urdu” during the “Mughal” rule, the “Ghazal” flourished in India. As time progressed and the world came closer, “Pop” music made its way onto India’s musical canvas.

All these different genres of music had one thing in common. They all needed to use rhythm. Based on expression, definition and usability, every genre employed percussion differently. Different percussion instruments like the “Tabla”, “Mridangam”, “Pakhawaj” and regional instruments like the “Dholak”, “Naal”, “Dafli” catered to different types of music. Dhrupad and “Dhamar” employed the “Pakhawaj” while the “Khayal” embraced the Tabla. Different “Taals” and “Thekas” came into being while those that already existed were enhanced to fulfill different needs. The “Ektaal” which was used mostly with medium tempo compositions, was scaled down and stretched to a slower tempo in order for it to synchronize well with “Vilambit” (slow tempo) compositions and proved to be a huge hit! Similarly it was discovered that “Taals” like “Tilwada” and “Jhumra” which were initially created for “Madhya-Laya” (medium tempo) compositions, served the “Vilambit” tempo just as well. Semi classical genres like “Thumri” and “Dadra” used “Deepchandi”, “Chachar” and slow tempo “Dadra” and “Keherwa Taals”. “Tappa”, another semi-classical music form, employed “Taals” like “Addha” and “Punjabi”. A new “Theka”, which was essentially a variation of “Keherwa”, was found to beautifully suit the mood of the “Bhajans” and became popularly known as the “Bhajan Theka”. The “Ghazal” needed a very scintillating type of rhythm because of the nature of emotions expressed in this form of music and different “Thekas” were invented to cater to it. Thus different “Taals” and “Thekas” evolved and were developed very thoughtfully based upon the need of the type of music that they needed to serve.

Every genre of music that ever evolved, has had a purpose and reasoning behind its creation and adoption. Whether we speak of great masters responsible for enhancing pure classical music, simple rustics that created folk music or music lovers that worked on the lighter genres such as “Bhajan” and “Ghazal”, it is apparent that the creators put a lot of thought not only in the poetic content and music but also in their specific rhythmic needs. The approach adopted by them was all encompassing and wholesome, taking into consideration all aspects that go into defining a particular genre of music. The “Tabla” has ably served these various genres by adapting its approach suit their particular needs. Lately, it has found a respectable place in fusion music too. All for this is nothing but an endorsement of the tremendous potential demonstrated by the “Tabla” as a percussion instrument, to adapt and cater to different musical genres in this ever changing world.



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