ResourcesIndian music has been a continuously developing cultural art form for thousands of years. Yet, with such a vast history, there is little early historical documentation which explains the specific details which have brought the music to its present form.
Indian Classical Instruments are classified as North Indian, South Indian, and folk. They comprise of drone instruments, plucked stringed instruments, bowed stringed instruments, wind instruments, and melodic percussion.
The pakhawaj is one of North Indiaís earliest classical percussion instruments as is the damaru, which phonetically resembles the word "drum" and may provide an additional clue to the early beginnings of percussion instruments. Interestingly, the Arabic word for drum pair is tabal, offering more possible theories to the historical evolution of the tabla.
The history and origins of the tabla is as interesting and as complex as the instrument itself.
The use of syllables on the tabla (and pakhawaj) for sounds is vital for learning and performing. Although, hard evidence about the evolution of these syllables is still a mystery.
Among the many aspects of tabla performance, the understanding and interpretation of theka is most important. In essence, theka is a fixed set of bols for a tal (also known as tala, taal) which cannot be changed. Theka is the primary accompanying rhythm in all tals which provides the foundation for melodic soloists to develop their improvisations.
Tintal is one of the most popular tals for the performance of classical Indian music. It is often referred to as the "king" of all other cycles. Comprised of 16 beats that are divided into 4 vibhags of 4 beats each, tintal is fairly easy for listeners to relate to as one naturally feels 4 bar phrases within 4/4 time. Although tintal can be loosely compared to a 4 bar phrase of western music important distinctions must be made. Within classical Indian music there are no specific bar lines. Instead we find rhythmic cycles which begin and end at the first beat of the cycle called sam (+).
A lehara is a melody that lasts one cycle of the tala. When playing the lehara, an important consideration is determining which key center would be the basis for both melody and rhythm. A lehara is usually played on the sarangi, violin, or harmonium. As a tabla student is it important to understand the melodic aspects of Indian music as well as the rhythmic.
The Indian melodic system is quite unique as it is not limited by a tempered 12-note chromatic octave as in western music. Indian music utilizes the same 12 note chromatic octave with one difference. The 12 notes of the chromatic octave are not tempered to represent specific notes, thereby limiting the Indian musician to just those 12 notes. Within the range of this 12 note octave, the Indian musician incorporates micro-tones which span the entire range of the chromatic octave.
Gharana literally means "house" or "from the house of" and is an important aspect of learning to play Indian classical music on both melodic and rhythmic instruments alike. When discussing the performing aesthetics of tabla the term gharana refers to the study of a particular style, or school of play which evolved in specific areas of north India.
How to become a musician? As with the practice of any musical tradition, the concept of discipline within oneís practice is crucial for the development of the musician, not only on their instrument, but within the music with which to be performed.
Specifically, the more experience a tabla player has, the more astute his/her awareness becomes about how their tabla roles change within different instrumental situations. A skilled tabla player has learned that their approach towards accompanying a vocalist would differ from their approach towards accompanying a sitarist or bansuri player. In other words, the tabla player does not interpret the music and rhythmic cycle the same way for different melodist.
It is the responsibility of any artist to establish a strict and daily practice regime necessary for producing clarity of the bols (syllables on tabla), and the phrases which comprise any given composition or improvisation. Without this consistent and highly focused form of riaz, which means practice, the development of the studentís hands, mind and presentation will never flourish.
A chilla is anything done forty days without stopping - five minute practices done every day at the same time is a chilla. A chilla is the ultimate challenge for the artist; forty days (and nights) of practicing within a completely isolated environment.
Most every concert of Indian classical music include a moment of homage and respect paid to the guru. The concept of guru-disciple relationships has been in existence for thousands of years.
As with any musical style within this vast world, significant changes are expected and do take place which shape and change the tradition over time and Indian music is no exception to this rule. Western musics such as jazz and commercial pop have had a great impact on the current trends and attitudes of the Indian listening public and there for has changed Indian music of today.