I was fascinated by the Tabla very early in my life… the hypnotic tones caught my attention when I heard it being played at a religious function, and I pestered my parents to get me a tutor to teach me to play the instrument. I was privileged to get an excellent teacher – Shridhar Padhye – a highly respected and skilled artist who also taught music in Mumbai University.
I was just 10 years old or probably younger, and my fingers were too weak to get any sound out of the instrument. But Padhye-sir would not allow me to compromise on technique, and refused to let me use anything but my fingers to play. He believed that the Tabla is not to be beaten like a drum… it is an instrument that needs to be played like a piano, for you can produce music – not just percussion from it.
I was so pleased to see Ustad Zakir Hussain’s interview where he re-iterates what my teacher told me many years back…
As far as I’m concerned, outside of a piano, it’s the most complete instrument.
– Ustad Zakir Hussain
He goes on to explain…
The tabla relates to the nine rasas in our bodies, with each frequency representing different shades of grey in our lives. When we are upset, there’s a certain frequency our minds vibrates at. This is an instrument that has all those frequencies installed in it… So, I think it is natural that the human mind can plug in to that.
It has been long since I played the Tabla, and I am looking forward to returning to it… did not realise how much I missed it. Thanks to Muthu Kumar for pointing out Zakir Hussain’s interview. Muthu is a superb musician and Tabla player I came to know during our IIT-Kanpur silver jubilee re-union concert.
See these videos – a 6 part film titled “The Speaking Hand” where Ustad Zakir Hussain makes the Tabla “speak”: