A few weeks ago, while I was looking for some real african rhythms in a record shop here in Cape Town, I came across into a vinyl called The Drums of India. Being very attracted by tabla player in general, I decided to give it a chance. With the benefit of hindsight I can say it was definitely a good choice.
There are only two musician involved in this record. Chatur Lal, who plays the tabla and Mr. Ramnarayan, who plays the Sarangi. They were both born in Udaipur in the late twenties of the last century and they are both some of the foremost player of their generation. The LP itself is very old, the date stated on the back cover is June 1960. The tracks are only three: 16 bits on side A, 7 bits and 13 bits on side B.
The drums occupy a very important place in Indian music, among their varieties being the tabla, the pakhawaj, the khol, the dhol and the pong. In the main, the mridang, pakhawaj and tabla are used for classical music.
The tabla is a pair of drums which could be likened in apparance to two cups., one of a large and one of a medium size. A one piece drum can only sound the particular note which is tuned. But, since the tabla consist of two drums, the tympanist can play a freat variety of notes, high and low. He can rise the pitch by using one hand to increase the tension of the drum skin or by merely striking near the rim. In playing tabla both hands have their own rhythmic independence. The time unit or beat is called mantra; tala is the rhythm structure.
The sarangi, which is used to accompany the tabla, is a traditional bowing instrument. It shapes it resembles the cello. It provides an effective background to melody.