Indian Tabla

Tabla the Most Famous Indian Drum

by Peyman Nasehpour

The highest form of musical culture considered in India is singing. A person who has a beautiful voice and musical understanding is very influential. However, a vocal piece is never complete if it is not accompanied by instruments for "tal" (time) and "sur" (intonation). In this sense, a percussionist plays an imperative role in Indian vocal music. On the other hand, Indian instrumentalists and dancers are accompanied by percussionists to keep the rhythm cycles (especially the difficult ones) for them. In an instrumental music concert, the main instrumentalist (for example, the sitarist) plays a fixed rhythmic melody and lets the drummer (for example, the tabla player) improvise in some small solo pieces and add some more excitement and entertaining flavor to the concert. Last but not least, in India, percussion solo or group performances have become quite popular in recent decades because of their beauty and attraction. I have enjoyed many tabla solo performances that I have listened to. Indian percussion ensembles are also quite interesting. Note that a percussion ensemble may include a tabla, a mridangam (an Indian barrel-shaped drum), a kanjira (an Indian frame drum), a ghatam (an Indian clay pot), and/or even a murchang (an Indian Jew's harp). 

In India, there are many percussion instruments and among them, perhaps, the tabla is the most famous one. For this reason and because of my own interest in the tabla, I have devoted some pages of my website to this interesting hand drum.

Tabla rhythm cycles

In one of my notes on the tabla, I introduce the tabla with a historical approach, and then I give a brief description of some Indian rhythm cycles (talas) such as dadra (6 beats), rupak (7 beats), ektal (12 beats), and tintal (16 beats). See Tabla and Talas.

Indian musicians believe that the most significant tala in the North Indian music system is the tintal. In my note on the tintal, I introduce the main rhythm cycle, some kaidas, and their variations, and also some tihais performed on the tabla. I also have two more pages, one for the ektal and the other for the dadra. The tihai is a tricky concept in Indian music. For more, see my mathematical explanation of the tihai.

Famous Tabla Players

On a page for tabla masters, I list some famous tabla players from India and Pakistan. I have devoted two pages of my website to two tabla masters. One is the late Pandit Prabhakar Patwardhan who sent his autobiography to me a long time ago. The other is the Revered Tabla Master Mahapurush Mishra who is one of my favorite tabla masters. 


[C]: David R. Courtney, Fundamentals of Tabla, Vol. I, Sur Sangeet Services, Houston, 1998.

[DA]: Alian Danielou, The Raga-s of Northern Indian Music, Barrie & Rockliff (Barrie Books Ltd.), London, 1968.

[DU]: Aloke Dutta, Tabla (Lessons and Practice), 2nd Edition, Texas, 1995.

[S]: Shahinda, Indian Music, Preface by Gilbert Webb, William Marchant & Co., London, 1914.

Indian Tabla Masters

Revered Tabla Master Pandit Mahapurush Mishra

Revered Tabla Master Pandit Mahapurush Mishra