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solo and accompaniment



A solo may be presented in a variety of different ways in accordance to one's gharana and playing style. While most solos are in teentaal, tabla players can present a plethora of different taals such as roopak, jhaptaal, deepchandi, matta taal, pancham sawari, etc. To help provide a laya for the tabla player, a lehra from an instrument such as sarangi, harmonium, sitar, etc is utilized. While performing, the tabla must be tuned properly to a given swar matching the lehra. A laya generally increases from vilambit compositions (peshkaar) to madhya (kayda) and eventully drut (relas, tukdas, chakradaars). Padhant can be done for fixed compositions such as tukdas and chakradaars in order to vocally express the bandish. The laya should remain steady from the tabla player, who should prompt the lehra to adjust the laya when it changes. The tabla player should remain personable throughout with sensible facial expressions and body language. Presentation of peshkaar shows maturity and creativity, while kayda shows the expansion process. The rela conveniently shows tayyari and dexterity of the hand, and can oftentimes be entertaining for the audience. A tabla player should be able to present in various different layas and perform layakari, which indicates his mastery over the instrument. Ending compositions such as tukdas, mukhdas, parans, gats, and chakradaars effectively conclude a performance. Having a huge collection of different types of compositions is important for conducting a solo for any designated amount of time. 

There are various desirable qualities in a tabla player that exemplify themselves during a good solo performance. A tabla player should always remain humble and respectful to the guru and audience. Gurus and great tabla players are often praised during the beginning of a performance. There should be minimal abnormalities in expressions while playing tabla. A tabla player should always end the performance in the intended time frame. Apart from knowledge and riyaaz, a good tabla player also memorizes several fixed compositions of various tabla veterans so that he can recite the padhant in a clear and understandable manner. The tabla playing itself should be all rounded and playing extremely loudly doesn't necessarily warrant a pleasant experience. The tabla player himself should wear appropriate clothing and should maintain a joyful gesture. Tabla players end their stage performance with a namaskar as a way of thanking the audience.



Tabla has been a prominent and often desired instrument for several artists. Playing styles have developed to suit various vocal styles, dance, and instruments. We can signify its evolution through an important mark which changed the playing style completely: the creation of the Lucknow Gharana. The Delhi baaj was significantly altered to better accompany kathak dancers and singers. Like this, alterations of smaller and bigger notches have been made in order to better mold tabla into a desirable position within all forms of Indian Classical Music. The lower octave note of the baya, the higher octave note of the tabla, and the lower octave note of the tabla obtained from a lower pitched tabla have successfully enabled it to appropriately accompany khayal, semi-classical, light music, instrumental music, dance, etc. 

There are several guidelines for tabla players to follow while accompanying.

  • Main artist gets to choose to raag, taal, and laya

  • Tabla player must make tabla playing effective 

  • The tabla must be precisely tuned and adjusted as required

  • The laya must be undisturbed so the main performer can stabilize and perform their main composition with minimal obstacles, and then changed when the main performer signals to do so

  • Compositions played during accompaniment should not be bland nor excessive

    • What to play, where to play, and how much to play differs from style to style and artist to artist​

    • The tabla composition should not disturb the main composition's line of thought

  • The tabla player should consider the time and mood of the raag​​

  • The tabla player's designs should fit with the thought process and variations made by the main artist

  • Accompaniment shouldn't be like a collage

Qualities of a good accompanist.

  • Great imagination, observational skills, and intelligence

  • Frequent listener of music for background knowledge

  • Sets aside ego and very supportive to main artist

Players like Ut. Alla Rakha and Ut. Habibuddin Khan were extremely famous and influential accompanists. Ut. Alla Rakha is known for bridging the gap between Carnatic and Hindustani Music, and his accompaniment wit Pt. Ravi Shankar earned him global fame. Ut. Habibuddin Khan was also a very well known and talented accompanist, and was a common choice for many famous artists.

In order for a tabla player to be a successful accompanist, he/she must have the knowledge and understanding of musical styles in Indian Classical Music. In short, the accompaniment of the tabla player should give the artist a stage upon which to build and express creativity. 

Vocal Accompaniment

It is wise to keep an emphasis on the taali and khaali of the taal. The singer is dependent on the player's theka, so it must be easy to understand the taal through the theka. While singing in madhya laya, it may be appropriate to play a small tihai before the completion of the awartan, depending on the vocal style and context. While singing in drut laya, playing pieces with faster heavier bols may be suitable. 

Bada Khayal

Bada Khayal is in vilambit laya. There is a bigger (bada) gap between two maatras, and therefore between two sums. The theka should be able to be played for a very long duration of time without disturbing the laya. In extremely slow compositions, such as those in extremely slow ektaal, the tabla player should be able to keep an extremely precise laya. This is usually done by splitting a maatra into divisions of 4. If the singer gets lost in the theka due to various expressions of his/her raag, the clarity of the tabla player's theka, as well as an effective emphasis on certain bols, should bring the singer back to position. Once the asthayi begins, one can take a small mukhda before the sum and then begin the theka. The tabla players should be well informed of the syllables in the sum as oftentimes, the singer sings the same composition by assuming the sum at various places. In the first two maatras, the tabla player should confirm that the laya is correct, and make any necessary changes accordingly. In this khayal, the tabla player is supposed to play only a content-filled, weighty theka. In vilambit khayal, the tabla player may fill up the gap between the maatras of the theka with fitting bols because the resonance of the first bol doesn't always extend to the next in slow speed. However, overplaying bols and heavy consonants disturbs the theka. In vocal music, gharanas are based on swar pre-dominance, laya pre-dominance, or swar/laya pre-dominance. Based on the needs of the composition, characteristics of the taal, and the preferences of the artist, the tabla player should decide whether to stick to a simpler theka or one with maximum number of syllables. 

Chhota Khayal

Chhota Khayal is in drut laya. It is mainly in teentaal, ektaal, and sometimes ada-chautaal. The laya is higher, and the tabla player sometimes has the permission to present 2 or 3 awartans with the permission of the main artist. The composition that the tabla player plays should once again fit the environment and dialogue going on between the main artist. Such "pieces" are concluded with a tihai, and then the theka is resumed. If layakari is done in khayal, it might be suitable to play corresponding bols.

Geet, thumri, tappa, etc are all part of sugam sangeet or light music. The tabla player has more individuality in such lighter forms. For thumri, deepchandi, addha, keherwa, and teentaal can be used, starting with a simple theka. Two portions included in thumri are the asthayi and the antara. After these, the singer doubles the laya. With the onset of dugun, deepchandi transforms into keherwa. The fickle natured keherwa proved compatible for better measurement of taal and for assisting with dissolving the various rasas produced by thumri. Laggis are essenial component when the laya is increased. Ut. Nizamuddin Khan was a great musician and thumri accompanist. In bhajan, dhumali, qawwali, dadra are used. Bhajani theka is a popular theka used for this form. Laggi is normally played following the first stanza, ended with a small tihai or tod. In taraana, the drut laya prompts the tabla player to play prominent tihais and tukdas while accompanying. In this form, the player may have a higher scope to demonstrate riyaaz.


Instrumental Accompaniment

Accompanying instruments such as sitar, sarod, sarangi, harmonium, and flute is quite different from accompanying vocal artists. Unlike vocal accompaniment, tabla players have more scope to play compositions apart from just the theka. The tabla accompanist can present gats and other non-expansionary pieces to enhance the performance. It is important for the tabla player to still keep his pieces relatively small as to not disturb the main artist's performance, as it is not a tabla solo. Sometimes, tabla players will incorporate uthaan, gat, kayda, and even relas as suited within the performance. When the instrumentalist plays in drut laya, the tabla player can present a small and attractive tihai before starting the theka in drut laya. 

Instruments are played in the gayaki ang and alternatively in the tant ang. Gayaki ang compositions mirror the vocal style of khayal, while the compositions presented in the tant ang are called gat. The gat presented in the vilambit laya is called masidkhani gat, while the one in drut laya is called razakhani gat. Accompaniment to khayal presented by instruments such as the violin and the flute is similar to vocal accompaniment, yet the tabla player has more scope to play pieces in accompaniment of gayaki ang instruments as compared to khayal itself. Within the masidkhani gat, the vilambit laya is not as slow as vilambit khayal. The masidkhani gat is primarily played in teentaal, jhaptaal, roopak, ektaal, ada-chautaal, as well as some rare taals such as matta and rudra. The presentation of a raga via an instrument goes from alaap, jod, masidkhani gat, razakhani gat, and finally jhala. When the gat commences, the tabla player can play a few awartans. It is wise to play the peshkaar here and arrive at the sum with a tihai, after which a weighty and emphasized theka should be continued. The main artist is expected to perform several aspects of layakari and chhand, and when signaled, the tabla player should stick to the topic and respond with a tabla composition with the same layakari. A perfection in kaydas, relas, etc is crucial for accompanying instruments because the tabla player requires immense taiyyari and precision. The tabla player should have knowledge and taalim in various unconventional layas as modern instrumentalists often explore them. Even more advanced layakari includes 7 in 5 maatras, 10 in 7 maatras, 14 in 10 maatras, 8 in 9 maatras, etc. The jhala played in instrumental music tests the physical stamina of the tabla player. This form is primarily played in teentaal and sometimes in ektaal. Here, the tabla player's practice of "na dhin dhin na" and anu-drut teentaal or ektaal comes in handy. The quality of naad should remain unhampered until the last awartan and ending tihai. 

Dance Accompaniment

A crucial component of Indian Classical Music is the kathak dance. Its literature resembles the literature of tabla, and accompaniment to dance is not as easy and spontaneous as accompaniment to vocal music or instrumental music. For dance accompaniment, it can prove beneficial to practice with the dancer beforehand. Every dancer has set gats, todas, and chakradaars which vary from gharana to gharana. A successful tabla soloist has the potential to be a great dance accompanist. The dance baaj is mainly the khula baaj with gat-tode and chakradaars. The tukdas, chakradaars, etc therefore need to be memorized and practiced before hand. In dance, there is a creation of various rasas such as the shringar rasa, the karuna rasa, the shanta rasa, and the gambhir rasa. The tabla player must provide accompaniment that is conducive to different rasas. It will provide beneficial to watch different maestros and dancers being accompanied by tabla accompanists. 

Pt. kishan maharaj

The Correlation Between Solo and Accompaniment

There is a significant relation between solo playing and accompaniment. A tabla player who is very good solo player has the ability to be a good accompanist as well, taking the roles of a main performer and a supporter at different times. A person who only studies local thekas such as bhikmaang and jaggu thekas may not be able to accompany instruments or dance very well. A person who has done extensive riyaaz and has studied tabla in depth is more flexible and all-rounded, and may even be able to accompany movie songs as well. It is important than an accompanist feels devoted and interested about all instruments and vocal styles in order to conduct an appropriate and enjoyable performance. Although he may not be an expert in instruments or singing, he should have listened to all styles well. An accompanists' creativity, observation, and maturity should be spiked in order to have quality on stage. In ideal accompaniment, he should complement the main artist and should contributed towards the success of the overall performance. By forgetting previous solo-playing skills and reputation, a tabla accompanist should remain humble. There should be an awareness of the softness and hardness (naad) of bols played during various songs and instrumental pieces. Appropriate tabla pieces an expressions should complement the story that the instrumentalist, singer, or dancer is continuously writing.

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