The Tabla developed as a hybridized drum, influenced by al these varieties in particular, the mridangam and the puskara.
Musicians often placed the puskara’s smaller vertical drum (called ‘alinga’) on their lap and played more than one drum at a time. Given the design, technology, and musical structure for drums common in this period, we can piece together numerous features of the Tabla. The name ‘Tabla’, probably derived from the Arabic word for a drum (generic), called the ‘tabl’, and possibly to some extent the Turkish word ‘dawal’. Another popular notion is that Amir Khursuro invented the Tabla by splitting the Pakawaj into two drums. This is highly disputed.
Over the last two centuries, the Tabla begins to take the forefront of percussion instruments in north Indian Classical music. We can trace the family lineage of the gharanas from the 18th century onward. Over this time, the Tabla slowly changed, the dayan (right) decreasing in size while the bayan (left) increased. Just as the “note” is the basis of the melodic component of music, the bol is the foundation for Taal. Bol literally means speech or syllables.
Different schools of percussion may pronounce the same bol differently. Several bols structured in a specific manner and arranged in sub-divisions are called thekas.
Although thekas are usually standard, bols of thekas can vary slightly, depending on the musical school or individual style of the Tabla player.
The Tabla player strikes the theka repeatedly at a pace set by the melodic performer or dancer; thus providing the rhythmic foundation for the melodic improvisation.
The role of Tabla players is more significant during an instrumental recital since percussionists here are expected to complement the melodic and rhythmic performance of the instrumentalist rather than just playing plain theka as in vocal performances.
The interaction between the Tabla player and melodic performer can be exciting, as the percussionist imitates the rhythmic patters created by the melodic performer, and the two artist synchronize their approach to the samm after an improvised phrase, especially a tihai (a pattern repeated three times).
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