Monday, October 20, 2008

Afghan Tabla

There are a lot of tabla players in the world today, because tabla has become a dominant instrument. Tabla is one of the most versatile instruments in the world, which can be used to accompany many different kinds of music, including and not limited to folk, Pop, Ghazal, Classical, Western fusion, and music in almost all spheres.

Tabla is a 200 - 500 year old instrument depending on whom you believe. Some say that the legendary poet and ascetic Amir Khusrau invented this instrument and yet others hold a different viewpoint. It is really irrelevant to even sit and contemplate who actually made the instrument. However it is clear that this instrument has evolved to what we see it today. Maybe it will keep evolving ???? who knows???

Perhaps the greatest contributor to Tabla is the legendary Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa of the Farrukhabad gharana, which is one of the 6 important gharanas in existence today. His composing powers and utter mastery of the instrument catapulted him into the limelight and he was immediately proclaimed the "father" of tabla. Before him tabla players were perhaps looked down upon because it was not really considered a verifiable artform. In fact the great Ustad Abdul Karim Khan's tabla player was his driver, Shammsuddin Khan. It was in fact Ahmedjan Thirakwa, Pandit Samta Prasad, Kishan Maharaj and Allah Rakha who brought Tabla players in the spotlight. Pandit Ravi Shankar was one of the main artists to actually give Tabla players center stage and made sure people understood the vastness in tabla. He would frequently give his accompanists long solos in between his renditions. This excited the crowds and thus Tabla players took on a whole new meaning. Tabla players were made to eat in the kitchen at one time and were treated as low class individuals. Later, of course tabla players like Zakir Hussain, Anindo Chatterjee and Swapan Chaudhuri further improved on their predecessors work.

Aashim Chisti more popularly known as 'Ustad Aashin' was one of the few tabla players in Afghanistan that actually learned the instrument, under Miyan Kader Buksh of the Punjab gharana who is also the teacher of Allah Rakha. Punjab was one of the last gharanas to develop and did so from the pakhawaj, in fact Miyan Kadir Buksh and his brother Miyan Fakir Buksh were well accomplished pakhawaj players. They really never played the tabla in concert. However, they transposed Pakhawaj boles and style to the tabla. It is apparent in their playing because they are aggrsive in their style and tonal bol productions. In fact...their style is more suited for Dhrupad and Kathak than anything else.

Tor, is the student of 'Ustad Aashim', and perhaps one of his best student. His style of accompaniment reminds one of the traditional afghan style of tabla. Very few tabla players can do this...His tabla playing is a perfect of example of the style of British India and before. A style which can be found in the playing of Nizzamuddin Khan, Manik Rao Popatkar, Abid Hussain Khan and other great Ustads. Kharabat, a town in Afghanistan is mainly known for this kind of tabla. Other tabla players of the present generations have evolved from this style while they, on the large have stayed in that mold. Their particular style can be easily recognized because in such compositions as in Thumri, Folk, Ghazal, during the naghma they increase the laya and execute their bols and lagghis, then they go back to their original tempo. This used to be done in India during the time of Begum Akhtar and was the trend. Indian tabla players continued to evolve and thus abandoned that way of accompaniment. Not to say that Afghan tabla players couldnt keep up, but the fact is that most did have the leadership that tabla players had in other regions. New Afghan tabla players however, embraced this and thus had more opportunities to evolve their music and are doing so.. That said and done, I think personally, there is much importance of tabla players like Tor who have kept their tradition alive and well. SOME people can listen to them and say they play an OLD STYLE berating him but they are indeed uninformed people who have no clue what they are talking about.

So in closing I would like to say that Tabla in the AFGHAN style needs to be perpetuated and continued. Certain Afghans believe that the style of Kharabat is something that was PURE AFGHANI, but the truth is that it is a old style which was played in 1930-1960 approximately and while the other people continued to evolve, our Afghans table players did not.

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