Sonic Saturday

Listen: Alla Rakha, Zakir Hussein and others display the versatility of the Punjab gharana

This is the last in our series on lineages related to the percussion instrument.

We conclude our series on gharanas or lineages related to tabla solo with the Punjab gharana, which has maintained an identity distinct from the Delhi, Lucknow, Ajrada, Farrukhabad and Banaras gharanas.

The founder of this gharana was Lala Bhavani Das, a pakhawaj player. The influence of the pakhawaj on this gharana can be seen in the use of the dukkad or wooden baayaan or bass drum, which uses aata or wheat flour instead of syaahi. The Punjabi tabla pair is called the jodi, though tabla players of this school have since switched to metal baayaans, with the fixed syaahi or black circular portion on the skin-top.

More recently, practitioners of this style have moved away from the predominant pakhawaj influence to incorporate the vocabulary of other styles of tabla playing. Practitioners of the Punjab gharana have an affinity for cross-rhythms and uncommon taals.

The first track features a pakhawaj solo by Talib Hussein from Pakistan. He belonged to the Punjab pakhawaj-tabla tradition. He plays a solo in Chautaal, a cycle of 12 matras or time-units, followed by the 16-matra Teentaal.


We move to a jodi recital by Sukhwinder Singh Namdhari, who has also studied under the maestro Kishan Maharaj of the Banaras gharana. His performance gives the listener an idea of the transition made by practitioners of the Punjab gharana from the pakhawaj to the tabla. The drama in his delivery of bols or syllables is palpable in this recording. He plays a solo in the 14-matra Dhamaar.


Karim Baksh Perna, a well-known exponent and composer of the Punjab gharana, plays a tabla solo in Teentaal.


The next track features Qadir Baksh, one of the best-known maestros of the Punjab gharana. He trained several disciples, many of whom are in Pakistan. He plays solo repertoire in the 12-matra Ektaal.


One of the foremost tabla players of Pakistan, Shaukat Hussein was a disciple of Qadir Baksh after his initial training under tabla player Hiralal. Shaukat Hussein plays a solo in the 15-matra Pancham Sawari.


The final track in this episode on Punjab gharana features the world-renowned tabla maestro Alla Rakha. A pathbreaking performer, composer and teacher, he is seen here in a duet with the inimitable Zakir Hussein, his son and disciple. They play compositions in the 12-matra Ektaal.

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