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Study Tabla in Varanasi, India

Study Tabla in Varanasi India

Posted in: Art, Asia, Inspiration, Music, Photos, Travel | 2 Comments | Posted on by Offer


Passion and pride in your profession. This  is what stands out all trough our meetings with different people  in Varanasi, the oldest city in India,  Passion for discovering all the secrets and immense amount of knowledge gathered for generations in Varanasi and transered  from the olders to the youngers ; the pride in knowing who you are and where you go by understanding your past.
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
We had since long wanted to learn about the Tabla,  traditional set of 2 drums which originated in India,  and via the helpful owner of Alka hotel, located deep in heart of Varanasi old city, we get in contact with Prabhash Maharaj , a very experienced and outstanding musician and human being, that we are very proud we had the chance to meet, study and become friends with, who happened to  be visiting his family in Varanasi.  Normally  he is living and professionally active in the US.
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
Prabhash  listens to our story about being a traveling family looking for learning experiences and encounters with inspiring people as part of educating our children, and he enthusiastically agree to start the next day with lessons in the home of his family.
Passion and pride turns also out to be the vibrating tone during all our inspiring meetings with the Maharaj family,  who are one of the oldest families of musicians in Varanasi. A lineage of 15 generations of musicians,  both from the mothers side and fathers side; for centuries  being exceptional performers and composers of classical  indian music with tabla, sarod and sitar. Knowledge transferred from grandfather or grandmother to grandchild, from uncles  or fathers to sons and daughters, in this special family who all have been giving concerts and playing with top musicians all over the world.
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
The  next day towards the evening we flag down a tuk-tuk (motor-rickshaw) to take us to the old part of Varanasi where they live,  an area known to be the centre of spiritual devotion already for thousands of years.
The tuk-tuk driver is nice and help us to search for their home which is located in a rather dark back-alley away from the street, dark  like everywhere else since street lights are about non-existing in this antique  city.
Finally we are knocking on the gate and Prabhash opens the door with a big smile, leading us into the first room which is sparely furnished with two small sofas, a chair, a mattress and a turned-on television, and with an impressive huge motorbike standing parked along the wall.  This turns out to be their living room in this big house,  and it just shows how modesty often is an integrated part of your culture when what you do comes from the heart and not from wanting money, even when you are well off.

Study Tabla in Varanasi India

Prabhash‘ father Vikash Maharaj  who  is a well known maestro sarud player, arrives with an even bigger smile, a hospitable man with a strong charisma, an impressive amount of knowledge and endless amount of stories.
With Prabhash and Vikash  inspiring presence, rapped with his mother generous hospitality we find ourselves for the next few hours in exciting conversations about music, passion, tradition, history and life in general.
And about the Tabla. Little by little some more background knowledge is being revealed, and we get to know that the tabla and other drums have been used in the temples  as part of prayers  for  thousands of years, and that each hit on the drum actually means a word. Tabla is an instrument of fingers. Different finger-combinations striking specific positions where sequenses of words become verses of poetry appraising God. We soon understand  that Tabla  is far from being just a rythmic instrument but a literal language.
Playing the Tabla is also a complex system of ragas, which can be described as a flexible system of notes, closely  connected to emotions and  9 different moods, like happiness, weeping, anger, surprise and more,  which has to be expressed in the music to fulfill raga.
And the beats, the counts;  6 beat, 16 or 32 beats, so many options of different  counts and cycles of  rhythm and speed,  this is the world of music in its most complicated sense.
Extremly beautiful and challenging in the same time.
Prabhash writes down for us the basic verses and shows us which hit is which word, and we get to try, each and one of us, to talk with the tabla. Stumbling, stuttering and laughing, trying to remember the right order. Puh! This is much more complicated than what we expected!
Dha dha- te te – dha dha -tu na
TaTa – te te – dha dha – dha dhi na
And homework 6 verses with variations over basic words , verses we are expected to learn by heart till the next day  and know how to play on the Tabla without looking.  Wow! This is serious brain-exercise!
Full of spirit and enthusiasm we decide to buy Tabla drums instead of renting; any  instrument is always a beautiful thing to have. A good tabla costs about 100$, a very reasonable price for a handcrafted instrument made by one of the professional tabla-makers in Varanasi. Again we meet a person with knowledge from generations,  extremely skilled and proud of what he is doing.

buying Tabla in Varanasi India

Every day,  one by one in, back in our room for  a few hours, eager to do our homework properly and challenged by the difficulty of remember both the positions and the  verses by heart. Stiff fingers slowly hitting the drum, with not even the slightest resemblance to the extreme speed  of Prabhash who is playing so quick you cannot even see his fingers.
Lin quickly learns the order and combinations,  no surprise, the  rest of us are joining the feeling-stupid-club. With hope to still learn, just need some more time…..
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
Study Tabla in Varanasi India
The next days until the end of our stay in Varanasi we were eagerly looking forward for our lessons and conversations with Prabhash and his beautiful family. And the deeper we dive into the world of the Tabla, the more we grasp that playing this instrument  is so much more complex, mind-sharpening and fascinating than we ever imagined.
We might not become extremely good Tabla players but we surely will store this exceptional people we met and became friends with  deeply in our heart.
Thank You!


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