The Tabla

There are many myths which surround the initial development of the tabla drum, and yet, factual information is limited, if not non-existent. Many claim the tabla evolved during the time of Amir Khusrau, while others firmly, and with good reason, believe that the tabla evolved only within last two hundred years.

One of the most popular and albeit fantastic theories about the evolution of the tabla tells a tale of two drummers who were involved in a heated pakhawaj drum battle in the court. It is said that the winner, in triumph, threw the loser's pakhawaj to the ground, thus splitting it in two and inspiring the two upright drums of today’s tabla. At least this theory supports the deep connection with the tabla and pakhawaj in lecture and technique.

The styles of tabla fall into six major schools, or gharanas. Several schools - Benares, Lucknow and Punjab - are heavily influenced by the pakhawaj, with many pakhawaj compositions adapted to the tabla. However, the Delhi Gharana is the oldest school of tabla, thus diminishing the acceptance of the myth of the tabla being a literal child of the pakhawaj. Indian Influence (Tabla Perspectives) has more information on gharanas.

Listen to a tabla mp3 sound sample.

Click here for a glossary of tabla terminology.