Hi everyone! For this Song of the Week I fell down a rabbit hole about the incredible Indian drum, the Tabla. Before we follow the rabbit together, let me give you some background on the Indian song, “Sravana” featured on The Dolphin Collection.
The song is based on a traditional melody from Southern India. “Śrāvaṇa” or “Shraavana” or “श्रावण” in Sanskrit is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar. It is very important because it signifies the coming of the monsoons and is considered one of the holiest months of the year filled with holidays. So if you were ever wondering what the heck Sravana meant... there you go!!
(Quick pause to shout out to our amazing Music Class center in Mumbai, Musical Bonding! Rob and I got to visit the center in 2012, and I still remember being floored specifically by how enthusiastic all of the parents and grandparents were in class! Literally every single person was singing and dancing, and it was AMAZING.)
OKAY - so onto the Tabla. The Tabla is the drum you hear on the “Sravana” recording. Tabla is actually not one, but two drums of slightly different sizes played together to produce different sounds. And by different sounds I mean A LOT of different sounds. Take a second to check out what a pro looks and sounds like on Tabla:
Ok so, the first thing that stands out (besides how fast his hands are moving) are the sounds he chants before starting to play. What’s that about? Well, there are so many sounds that the Tablas can produce that musicians created an entire alphabet or “bols” of syllables to describe the different hand strokes for the drum. Syllables like “Ta”, “Gha” and “Na” describe different ways that you strike the drums to create distinct sounds. Take a look:
So, for Tabla musicians, it’s common practice to chant or sing the rhythmic patterns you want to play before you actually play them on the drum. If any of our Music Class Keyboard students are reading this, you’ll recognize that this is the exact same way we teach our kids to play piano by ear. First you sing the pattern you want to play, and then you try to play it. This technique teaches children to hear musically and be able to correct themselves if they play a note they weren’t intending to. There are a surprising number of people out there who learned how to technically play an instrument, but never how to really hear the melody in their head. If you found yourself in band class or in a piano lesson plunking out what you were reading on the page but not really being able to tell if it sounded correct or not, this could be you!
This is also what we are building with Music Class “bum bums”, the tonal and rhythm patterns we practice with our young students. Practicing hearing pitches and rhythms and being able to accurately sing them back is an essential step for anyone who wants to play an instrument one day. Particularly rhythm patterns if you want to play the Tabla!
Let’s end with one last amazing video of an 11-year old girl knocking her rhythm patterns and Tabla playing out of the park! Talk about aspirational. Yay for rabbit holes and incredible Indian musicians!