Subhankar Banerjee - The Tabla Series

Posted By MiOd On Thursday, February 13, 2014 Under
Subhankar Banerjee - The Tabla Series

Subhankar Banerjee- Tabla
Ramesh Misra - Sarangi

The Artist

Subhankar Bannerjee

At the age of five this musical wonder kid was placed under the tutelage of Shri Swapan Shiva, celebrated artiste and teacher of the Farukhabad Tabla Gharana. Since then he has been dedicating himself to the study of tabla, successfully absorbing material from maestros belonging to other Gharanas and traditions of tabla playing.
He received awards in his early age from celebrities like Satyajit Ray, Pandit Ravi Shankar and the President of India in 1987. Training in vocal music from his childhood made him a competent singer as well as a sensitive and sympathetic tabla accompanist. In addition to being a reputed soloist, Subhankar is one of the most popular accompanists for many of the prominent musical celebrities of India including Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Ravi Shankar and Pt. Shivkumar Sharma. Over the last twenty years he has maintained a highly demanding schedule, annually clocking up thousands of miles and reaching all corners of the globe. Amongst his most celebrated performances have been those at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations of Pakistan and the Nobel Peace Prize Awards in Oslo.

Tabla

The Tabla is the most popular and widely used drum of North India. Its colourful range of tonal qualities combined with its capacity to express remarkable rhythmic permutations make it a unique percussion instrument which in recent times has inspired and fascinated audiences worldwide.
The pair of drums consist of a high-pitched, precisely tuned dahina (also called dayan or tabla), and a low-pitched, less precisely tuned drum, the bayan. The dahina is responsible for many of the resonant ringing sounds (or bols). The bayan provides the bass and is recognizable for its swooping bass sound, which provides colourful embellishment. It is said that the heart and soul of the tabla is expressed through the Bayan.
Most frequently, the tabla is used to accompany classical instrumental, vocal and dance performances, but as all tabla players will remind you there also exists a strong tradition of tabla solo playing. The history of tabla is shrouded in mystery and mythology; however it is most commonly thought to have developed in the area of Delhi in the mid-eighteenth century. Initially, much of the inspiration for its repertoire was borrowed and adapted from other Indian drums including pakhawaj and dholak. However, over the period since then, tabla players have built up a huge repertoire of material specific to the dynamics of the tabla. This vast range of compositions has been made richer by the evolution of a number of distinct regional performance styles, known as gharanas, of which there are six recognized by the tabla community, namely, Delhi, Ajrara, Farukhabad, Lucknow, Benares and Punjab. These styles have played a major role in the development of tabla playing with regard to technique and repertoire.

The tabla player uses a vocabulary of semi-onomatopoeic syllables to represent the strokes on the instrument known as ‘bols’ (from the Hindi verb bolna, ‘to speak’), a system which has been used to communicate compositions orally through the ages. Bols making up popular phrases such as ‘dhati dhage tina gina’ and ‘dhati dhatere ketetake terekete’, are recited by the player before playing, in a practice known as Pardhant, a kind of Indian version of rap. While in training a student is typically taught to speak the bols of the composition before actually playing it on the drums.
The solo tabla repertoire consists of a great variety of compositional forms, many of which are featured on this recording. The forms can be divided into two broad categories. Firstly, compositions of the ’theme and variation’ type are Peshkar, Qaida and Rela where a rhythmic theme is expanded and permutated using a variety of improvisatory techniques. Usually featured in the first half of the solo, these themes are pre-composed, but designed in a way to allow maximum potential for improvisation, testing the performer’s creativity to the limit. The latter part of the recital most commonly consists of fixed compositions such as Tukra, Gat and Chakradar, many of which have been inherited from great masters from generation to generation and are therefore highly prized by tabla players.

The Music

The first solo is set to a sixteen beat rhythmic cycle called Teentaal, known in Indian music as ‘the mother of all taals’. This is the most popular framework for improvisation used by tabla players, because of its great scope for elaboration. Throughout the solo, the tempo of the sixteen beat cycle is regulated by the sonorous Sarangi, which plays a repeated lilting melody line known as lehara (or nagma). The word "lehara" is a derivative of the word ‘lahar’, meaning current of a river or a stream. Sarangi is the traditional instrument used for this purpose serving to create the appropriate mood within the soloist. The lehara also helps in highlighting the most emphatic beat in the cycle known as ‘sam’ (literally "equal" or "together"), which occupies the first beat of a taal. Sarangi maestro Pt. Ramesh Misra represents the 21st generation in a family of musicians. He is a recipient of the most prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award in India. He learnt Sarangi from his father and later from two uncles, late Pt. Hanuman Prasad Misra and late Pt. Gopal Misra in Benares. Ramesh's high aesthetic and artistic sensibilities along with his inner soft nature brought him recognition both at home and abroad as an eminent soloist as well as an adept accompanist.


Teentaal (16 beats)

1. Peshkar (10.56)
The traditional starting point for a tabla solo recital is Peshkar, an introductory improvisatory form beginning in a slow tempo, concentrating initially on a few select tabla syllables such as na/ta, ge, dha, dhin and tin. The Peshkar gradually expands and unfolds introducing the listener to a wider range of phrases and sounds, playing a similar role in tabla solo to that of ‘alap’ in Indian vocal music, where the soloist acclimatizes to the music and the environment in which he or she is performing. Subhankar’s solo begins with a Peshkar interspersed with spontaneous tehais (phrases played three times designed to conclude on the first beat of the cycle) in the middle and end of almost every cycle. The Peshkar also allows the soloist to improvise in multiple speeds (jatis) with particular emphasis on triplets (tisra jati) in this case. The solo gradually progresses in speed and intensity into the faster Peshkar Qayida composition made famous by Ustad Habibuddin Khan, the doyen of the Ajrara gharana of tabla, building up into a crescendo before ending with a tehai.

2. Qayida (4.24)
Composed by Subhankar’s ‘grand guru’ Ustad Keramatullah Khan, this is a very uncommon combination centred on the popular tabla syllable “tete”. Qaida is an extended composition type unique to the tabla repertoire which introduces a main theme and then proceeds to develop variations (paltas) while also continuing to restate the main theme (rhythm and variation). In this case the qayida has been elaborated on in detail and ends with a tehai to conclude the sequence.

3. Qayida (3.45)
A tisra jati (division of three) composition of Ustad Keramatullah Khan, rarely played, emphasizing the phrases ‘dhati ghe ge tak’, ‘dheneghene’ and ‘dhene terekete’.

4. Qayida (3.17)
Composed by Ustad Keramatullah Khan, featuring a unique and unusual combination of phrases like ‘ghena kata ghene’ and ‘dhine dhina ghene’.

5. Laggi-Lari (4.45)
An effective and lucid sounding rhythmic groove. Laggi often displace rhythm to other parts of the beat, creating variations in accents and stresses. Lari (lit.‘beads’) is a fluent, flowing style of playing related to Rela. This style of composition and the presentation is very traditional.


Ada Chautaal (14 beats)

6. Peshkar (6.24)
Here, the Peshkar is again interspersed with exciting, improvised tehai phrases at the end of the first and the second half of some of the cycles as it progresses.

7. Qayida (3.35)
Based around the non-resonant tabla syllable ‘tete’. Influenced by a traditional composition from the Delhi tradition of playing. First played in slow speed then articulated at double speed with improvisation.

8. Qayida (4.59)
Farukhabad gharana Qayida in tisra jati (triplets) featuring the combination of syllables ‘kredhe tete’ and ‘dhere dhere’ with improvisation.

9. Qayida (3.03)
A traditional style Qayida composed by Ustad Keramatullah Khan featuring the phrase ‘dhine dhina ghene’ with improvisation.

10. Rela (4.59)
The word Rela is said to have derived in India from ‘rail gadi’, which means train, but technically it means a drum roll like effect produced by continuous repetition of one sound syllable, in this case ‘dheneghene’.

11. Tukra (2.08)
These compositions are recited before playing in a tradition known as Pardhant.
The first tukra, Subhankar’s own composition, starts with the phrase ‘kredhin na’, and is followed by a second tukra of Ustad Keramatullah Khan beginning with the phrase ‘dhet terekete dhet’. Tukra (lit. ‘piece’) is a short composition played in faster tempo usually featuring a variety of tabla syllables and always ending with a tehai. The final tukra in the sequence is a unique composition by Ustad Keramatullah Khan.

12. Rela (2.58)
Rela featuring the phrase ‘dhere dhere’, concluding with a composition of Ustad Amir Hussain Khan.

Drut Teentaal (16 beats)

13. Paran (1.30)
Paran is a composition form traditionally played on Pakhawaj, the ancient barrel-shaped percussion instrument employing open handed and forceful strokes. The first is from the Farukhabad tradition followed by a Paran from the Lucknow gharana. Reciting the compositions is one of the main features of a tabla solo performance since it expresses the inner emotion of the tabla language.

14. Rela (2.48)
Two relas are played featuring the resonant phrase ‘dheneghene’. The first one is a composition of Ustad Ahmed Jan Thirakawa with ‘takgheran’ and ‘dheneghene’, whereas second one, a composition of Ustad Amir Hussain Khan, uses phrases ‘ghege terekete dheneghene’ with ‘dhara ghene’.

15. Chakradar/Anaghat/Rela/Tukra (7.24)
Chakradar (lit. wheel, circle) involves a threefold repetition of a composition which itself contains a tehai. This Chakradar composed by Subhankar Banerjee has two definite characteristics. Firstly the Chakradar is called ‘bedam’ because the second and third patterns start immediately after the earlier one almost breathlessly. Secondly it is called ‘Farmaishi’ because the first dha of the first tehai of the Chakradar will be on the first Sam, with the second dha on the second Sam, and the third dha precisely on the third and final Sam.
The next Bedam Chakradar composed by Subhankar ends with ‘dha na na na na na na’ and ‘ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe ghe’. The following Anaghat is composed in such a way so that it starts and ends with a stroke ‘Kran’, before the Sam (first beat) and ends ¼ beat before the Sam. This is followed by a Rela featuring ‘dhere dhere’. ‘dhigedhina terekete dhina’, a popular composition associated with the Benares gharana but played by players from all styles.This is followed by three tukras composed by Subhankar. Tukra combines a wide range of colourful tabla syllables with skilful varieties of dynamics in a short space of time. This sequence is completed with a rarely heard rela composed by Ustad Wazid Hussain Khan.

16. Laggi (4.31)
A composition type associated with light classical accompaniment of romantic vocal forms such as thumri, typically played with a lilting movement in fast speed. Laggi, while structurally simple, requires a lot of practice to play well and creates a lively and exciting finale to a tabla solo

Notes: John Ball

John Ball is a freelance musician, music teacher and writer specializing in Indian Music.

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