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The Tabla

The tabla, one drum of wood and one of metal, appears deceptively simple, but to play it classically requires some 20 to 30 years of training and constant practice. There are six compositional styles, each named after the city where that style flourished. The right drum is usually carved of rosewood and its higher pitch carries most of the intricately patterned finger strokes. The left drum is made of metal and provides the bass tones, bringing out the depth and mood. Usually, the right hand plays one pattern of strokes, the left another and while drumming two or three separate rhythms and intersecting patterns (which are themselves made up of variable rhythms and patterns), the tabla player may be calculating the mathematically precise pattern of yet another rhythm. He may also be memorizing the pattern recited by a dancer, vocalist or instrumentalist who he is accompanying. In addition he will tune the tabla with a small hammer from time to time. All the while he will be intently listening to time cycles which might change without warning, posing musical questions during the "trades" where he indulges in witty repartee.
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