Many are aware of the partnership between Ravi Shankar and Punjab gharana maestro Alla Rakha spanning several decades. But there was another major tabla exponent who also collaborated with both Shankar and Khan in their sojourns overseas in the 1950s and 1960s.
This was the well-known performer Chatur Lal, who was originally from Udaipur but went on to become a staff artist at the Delhi station of the All India Radio in 1947.
Unfortunately, he died young. But there are audio and video recordings of his performances that demonstrate his rhythmic virtuosity.
In the 16th episode of our series on public spaces named after Hindustani musicians, we listen to his music as we take a walk along the Pandit Chatur Lal Road in Delhi’s South Extension neighbourhood.
We begin with a short tabla solo in a rhythmic cycle of ten-and-a-half matras.
The second track has a solo recital in the sixteen-matra Teentaal. He is accompanied by his brother Ram Narayan, the renowned sarangi maestro.
The next tracks have tabla accompaniment provided by the celebrated Chatur Lal.
On the first of these tracks, sitar maestro Ravi Shankar plays two compositions in the ten-matra Jhaptaal and Teentaal, respectively, in the evening raag Puriya Dhanashree.
This is followed by two gats, or instrumental compositions, set to Teentaal in the raag Khamaj. According to the information accompanying the track, this recording was made in 1957.
The next track is a short video clip of Chatur Lal’s younger brother and sarangi maestro Ram Narayan playing a composition in drut, or fast Teentaal, in the raag Kirwani.
The thumri in the raag Khamaj on the next track is presented by the inimitable vocalist Siddheshwari Devi. She is accompanied on the tabla by Chatur Lal. The well-known sarangi player Sabri Khan provides melodic accompaniment.
We end with two gats in the raag Sindh Bhairavi played by sarod maestro Ali Akbar Khan. The introduction to the track is provided by the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.