Sydney Recording Studios: the History of the Tabla I

Sydney Recording Studios: Like most other Indian musical instruments, there are many interesting myths and legends about the origin of the tabla. Many authors cite the 13th century Sufi poet/musician Amir Khusrau as the inventor of this instrument.

Sydney Recording Studios: Tabla: Origin of the Instrument

But there is no clear evidence, in the form of writings or paintings, to confirm the above claim without doubt. Another person credited with inventing the tabla is Sidar Khan Dhari, a court musician in the Delhi durbar in the 18th century.
Most likely no single person was totally responsible for creating the tabla and diverse influences led to the development of its physical structure and musical repertoire.

Sydney Recording Studios: Tabla: A fusion of Influences

What is certain is that the tabla fuses Arabic, Turkish and Persian influences with indigenous Indian drums. In fact, the name tabla originates from ‘tabl’ the Arabic term for ‘drum’. The dholak and pakhawaj seem to be early forms of the tabla.
In the Indian durbars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Muslim tabla performers accompanied instrumentalists, vocalists and dancers.
These artists also developed their personal sophisticated solo repertoires in private musical gatherings. This aspect along with the teacher-student tradition paved the way for the creation of the tabla gharana lineages.

Sydney Recording Studios: Tabla: Structure

There are two tabla drums used to create music. The smaller drum is termed dayan and is made of wood. It is played with the right hand. The larger deeper-pitched drum is made of metal and is known as bayan. Both drums have goat or cow skin covering. They have a black middle spot made of iron fillings, soot and gum which produces a characteristic bell-like sound when drummed.
It is rightly said that no North Indian classical music composition can be called complete without the tabla in it. Its distinct and unique sound makes it an integral part of Indian music.
Tabla is the most widely used percussion instrument in North Indian music and is classified under the membranophone family of instruments. It has two main gharana styles namely Dilli Baj and Purbi Baj. Both are different in their techniques and methods of music composition, and each gharana boasts of its own unique identity.