Previous editions of this column have referred to the pakhawaj, a barrel-shaped horizontal twin-faced drum that is used to accompany dhrupad-dhamaar performances and certain kinds of instrumental music and dance. We have also discussed the taals that are primarily played on this instrument.
Although the instrument predates the tabla and the earliest known pakhawaj players date back to the sixteenth century, various circumstances have led to the decline in the popularity of this instrument. However, several gharanas or styles of pakhawaj solo playing have existed since centuries. Some of these gharanas are known by the place of origin of the founder of a particular style, but others are named after the founder. With today’s episode, we begin a new series devoted to pakhawaj solo.
Tabla player and scholar Aban E. Mistry’s Pakhawaj & Tabla: History, Schools and Traditions lists at least 11 styles: Jaawli, Mathura, Punjab, Kudau Singh gharana, Nana Saheb Panse gharana, Naathdwara, Bengal, Gurav parampara of Maharashtra, Mangalvedhekar gharana, Gwalior, Raigarh, Gujarat, Jaipur and Jodhpur. However, not all of these still exist and over the generations musicians have trained in more than one style.
Based on audio-video material that is available in the public domain, we will try to visit some of these styles. This is only representative of what the pakhawaj solo playing tradition has to offer.
We begin with an interview of renowned pakhawaj player Ayodhya Prasad, who belonged to the Kudau Singh gharana. He is interviewed by Hafeez Ahmed Khan, an exponent of the Rampur-Sahaswan vocal gharana. Ayodhya Prasad describes the mythology related to the origin of the instrument and talks about his immediate musical ancestry. He also recites and reproduces compositions from the pakhawaj solo repertoire.
The next recording features Raja Chhatrapati Singh, also from the Kudau Singh gharana. He plays a solo in Chautaal, a rhythmic cycle of 12 matras or time-units.