The Very Great Master of Tabla Pandit Chatur Lal

The Very Great Master of Indian Tabla Pandit Chatur Lal

Pandit Chatur Lal on the Tabla and Papa Jo Jones on the Drums

First Ever Fusion Concert of Westen Jazz and Indian Percussions in 1957 USA, with God of Drums Papa Jo Jones and Pt. Chatur Lal

First Ever Fusion Concert of Westen Jazz and Indian Percussions in 1957 USA, with God of Drums Papa Jo Jones and Pt. Chatur Lal

A Solo Photograph for the same fusion concert in 1957 New York
A Solo Photograph for the same fusion concert in 1957 New York

Pandit Chatur Lal was the first internationally acclaimed Indian percussionist. Pandit Chatur Lalji, Pandit Ravi Shankarji, and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahib were the first Indian musicians to introduce Indian classical music to the West in mid 50s, when they were invited to perform all over Europe and US for Modern of Museum Art, Rockefeller Centre and Omnibus through Lord Yehudi Menuhin, the great violinist.

Few Accolade to be highlighted:

  • First Indian percussionist introducing Tabla in the West.
  • First Indian percussionist to be nominated for Music Category in Oscars with Pandit Ravi Shankar in 1957 for Canadian Venture "A Chairy Tale" which also won a "Special Bafta Award". 
  • First Indian percussionist to introduce the concept of Taal Vadya Kacheri.
  • First Indian percussionist to be a part of first ever Jugalbandi / duet to happen in the World on Eastern and Western Drums between the two greatest drummers of the era "God of Drums Papa Jo Jones" and "Wizard of Tabla Pandit Chatur Lal". It's a collector's item and can be viewed in Library of Congress in Washington DC, USA and at "Taa-Dhaa" Museum of Pandit Chatur Lal in New Delhi, India.
  • First Indian percussionist to have Tabla Solo LP record "The Drums of India" released by "World Pacific Records", Hollywood, USA in 1957.
  • First Indian percussionist to lend his art to the German documentary – "Good Times, Wonderful Times" as well as French movies like "A Certain View" and "Rythmes d'aillenres".
  • First Indian percussionist on whom American Embassy announced Pandit Chaturlal Award for an outstanding contribution to the field of music and being beloved of America after his sudden demise in 1965. This initiative by the American Embassy is now being revived.
  • "Taa –Dhaa" happens to be the first museum to be curated on an Indian percussionist in his modest house in New Delhi which was inaugurated by Hon'ble Chief Minister of Delhi Mrs. Sheila Dikshit on 29th November, 2009.
  • First Indian percussionist to have "Pandit Chatur Lal Road" named after him on the occasion of his 85th Birth Anniversary,16th April, 2012 by Delhi State Government. 
  • First Indian Percussionist to be known as "Tabla Wizard"
  • First LP Record of Indian Classical Music ever produced was by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Pandit Chatur Lal on Tabla.

Born on 16th April, 1926 in Udaipur Rajasthan, while yet a boy, Chatur Lal started a vigorous period of long and continues practice, which is the only way to attain perfection. Night after night Chatur Lal's drum beating became a source of nuisance for the local policeman in the night duty. One day policeman lost his patience and knocked the door and burst upon him, "You should be in bed by this time. You have no business to keep the locality awake". A little frightened but undaunted, the little boy went on playing the Tabla every night, except when it was the time for the policeman to pass their house.

 In 1947, Chatur Lal came to Delhi and joined All India Radio. Since 1948 he started his musical journey on a bigger perspective. Most noteworthy and beautiful part was that he was not only loved in our country but also all over the world especially in USA, Europe, Australia & Mexico, when they were invited to perform for  MoMA (New York), Asia Music Society (London), Performing for Her Excellency Queen Elizabeth II. His music was so much treasured that the day he expired, there was mourn not only in India but also in Germany. American Embassy honoured him by starting "Pandit Chaturlal Award" after his death and the German Embassy, Max Mueller Bhavan and Goethe Institute started organizing concerts in his venerated memory. Mexicans till now are  keeping him alive by organising concerts dedicated to friendship of Pandit Chatur Lal and Famous Poet and Diplomat Mr. Octavio Paz.

Dr. Heimo Rau called him the incarnation of God of music who opened to the sixth dimension of experience and beyond time and space. 

Chatur Lal developed a style of his own, noted for a lighting rhythmic pattern and intimate understanding of the mood of the artiste he accompanied "his style".

Time of India on Oct 16, 1965 wrote: "He did not merely accompany, he did not dominate, he supplemented and deepened. In his solo's forever, he was untrammeled and in them he proved that the tabla has rhythmic personalities which only the most inspired playing can reveal". 

His recordings are itself a masterpiece and happens to be an unwinding treasure which beautifully showcase an outstanding example as how two artists are merged together as one soul. The recordings shows a mastery on his an ubiquitous instrument that became inextricably linked with his name and his unique signature, Tabla. The magic of his finger got so entwined with the musicality and rhythmic mastery that he evoked from the 'Thap' of the tabla that no worthwhile considered complete unless he was providing 'Sangat' for the billed singer or instrumentalist. 

The New York Times, April 27, 1958 mentions "So great was Chatur Lal’s art when he joins Ravi Shankar it is as if a symphony orchestra has joined him".

Lord Yehudi Menuhin described "Pandit Chatur Lal a natural showman" and once remarked "Pandit Chatur Lal was one of the few supreme pioneer musicians who won for India the great and growing following it now commands in the West. He stole the hearts of his audiences wherever he went with his art and enchanting personality".

The era of his musical journey came to a pause on 14th Oct, 1965 which had an outstanding impact and contribution in the field of Indian classical music, percussion tabla with the remarkable style of accompaniment. Thus, it would be an honour to say Tabla and Chatur Lal are synonyms to each other in other words "Tabla Spells as Pandit Chatur Lal". Pandit Chatur Lal himself observed "All My Life Served A Single Purpose, 'Sangat' both in art and life".

Pandit Chatur Lal Photo Album

Posing For A Photograph - (L-R) Pandit Chatur Lal Pandit Ravi Shankar Mr Gene Kelly (Hollywood Dancer Actor Singer and Film Producer) and Mr Nodu Mullick
  • Posing For A Photograph - (L-R) Pandit Chatur Lal Pandit Ravi Shankar Mr Gene Kelly (Hollywood Dancer Actor Singer and Film Producer) and Mr Nodu Mullick
  • First Ever Fusion Concert of Westen Jazz Indian Percussions in 1957 USA With God of Drums Papa Jo Jones & Pt Chatur Lal
  • A Solo Photograph for the same fusion concert in 1957 New York
  • Smt. and Sh. K R Narayan, Indian Ambassador to Australia then in 1961 with Pandit Chatur Lal In The GreenRoom Before The Concert
  • Pt Chatur Lal In Close Conversation With Lord Yehudi Menuhin in Europe
  • Lord Menuhin Visit At ChaturLal-s Residence In 1961 Lord Yehudi Menuhin Greeting Mrs Chatur Lal While Pt Chatur Lal and Dr. Narayan Menon Looks On
  • Queen Elizabeth II Visit to India (1961-1962) - Pandit Chatur Lal in close conversation with Her Majesty and Duke of Edinburgh at Rashtrapati Bhawan After His Perform


A Note by Dr. Peyman Nasehpour: Definitely this page says all about the greatness of Indian percussion music as well as its beauty! Today Indian classical music is so well-promoted and well-introduced in the world that no more explanation seems to be necessary. Only one point, I need to add and that is the wonderful role of "Shruti Chaturlal" - the esteemed granddaughter of "Pandit Chatur Lal" - to keep alive the beautiful musical tradition of his family for us. Based on my request, she kindly supplied the information and these wonderful historical pictures to be included in my official website for the lovers of Indian classical music. I am really honored to host such important information of Indian culture in my official website.