Written over a period of years, this book presents an important part of the work of Pandit Ashis Sengupta, and is considered to be a landmark in musicology. Pandit Ashis Sengupta has dealt with the various aspects of Tabla playing and the chapters here that have been written with equal emphasis on theoretical sensitivity and historical insight, cover a large range of subjects. Moreover, this book contains some of the choicest quotes in Sanskrit couplets from the authentic and ancient Sanskrit books on dramaturgy and musicology for authenticating this work. The author has tried here to transmit some of the knowledge inherited by him from his legendary teachers to the student of Table and music lovers; and in doing so, he has liberally drawn upon his long experience as a teacher of Table.
The first chapter deals with the history of the membranophone instrument (Avanaddha Vadya)-Table. The discussion creatively uses the ideas of the legendary musicologists and famous rhetoricians. This leads to the question of classification of the musical instruments, and the place of Tabla in it. The subsequent chapters discussed vividly the description of the Table, the socialstatus of a Tabla player, different schools and techniques of Tabla playing and many other aspects of Tabla and Tabla playing with suitable examples and explanations. The last chapter is deals with the evolution of Theka-s and the common Theka-s of Taala-s in north Indian classical music.
Unlike many of the traditional book on Tabla, the present book would help the student of Tabla and music lovers to understand the basic principles of Layakari (Rhythmic pattern) and compositions Tihai-s in a better manner.
The other novel aspects of this book are separate sections on the terminologies of Tabla playing and the history of common Theka-s in north India music. It also provides ample guidance for the understanding and practice of rhythm building, correct employment of syllables or bol-s and all other allied areas of rhythm to equip the music lovers and the student of music with the ability to understand in an effective manner the aesthetic aspects of Tabla playing in solo performance as well as in accompaniment. Thus, ‘Facets of Table Playing’ is written with author’s desire to put together a few select pearls of knowledge imparted to him by his revered Guru-s that have been a source of inspiration and guidance for him; and which, he hopes, would prove to be a source of motivation for others as well.
Pandit Ashis Sengupta is a dynamic, versatile percussionist and belongs to the Banaras gharana. He received his initial training from his father Shri Ranjit kumar Sengupta and was later groomed by anku Maharaj and Pandit Mahapurush Mishra. His highly aesthetic perception of the Tabla has enabledhim to reach the most profound depth of this extra-ordinary instrument and express a range of emotions. Pandit Ashis Sengupta has innovated to the various rhythmic compositions, Stotra-s and varieties of Gat-s from the great Guru-s.
A most sought after artiste and a recipient of ‘Taalmani’ award, Pandit Ashis Sengupta is well versed in the art of playing variations of compositions. His accompaniments are marked by rare sense of aesthetics, grace and unexcelled sweetness. He is equally adept in the accompaniment of classical and semi-classical vocal music, instrumental music as well as kathak clanking. Both as soloist and an accompanist to widely varied music styles and performers, Pandit Ashis Sengupta is also an established western drummer. Apart from being a Table player, he is a unique composer of music of repute.
He has travelled extensively all over India and abroad for his performances and lecture-demonstration on Table playing under the aegis of numerous organizations. He has had the good fortune of accompanying well known maestros like Pandit Nivrutti bua Samaik, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansoor, Vidushi Girija Devi, Pandit V.G. Jog, Vidushi Sunanda Pattanayak, Vidushi Damayanti Joshi (Kthak Dancer), Pandit Debu Chaudhuri, Pandit Manilal Nag, Pandit L.K. Pandit Vishwa mohan Bhatta and Ustad Rashid Khan to name a few.
Music has made a profound impact on the society. The rate of advancement in music is high the musicologists continuously look for strategies to cope with these advancements. In the present era, out of all the Membranophone (avnaddha vadya), the Tabla is most popular and established instrument. Even then, there are plenty of controversies in the literature. These are due to the lack of proper documentation for the rhythms from the past time. There are numerous books for vocal music and melodic instruments, which are much more detailed and useful as compared to books on Tabla. In these books on vocal and melodic instrumental music, both the practical and the theoretical parts are treated thoroughly and authentically. These books are very much popular and helpful for all. But the same cannot be said about most of the books on Tabla. Renowned Tabla players often play before audiences some compositions that are superb in respect of beauty, complexity and novelty; but when they write books or articles, they do not make such compositions available to the readers. Most probably, this is due to the fact that most of the great stalwarts of Table do not want to share their knowledge with others. I must nevertheless convey my deep regards to those who have written books on table, because they are forerunners, and they have sincerely worked for the benefit of the music lovers. Even the sages of the Rig-Veda have paid homage to the earlier seers, forefathers and forerunners with the following verse:
It was in the year 2006 that I had a desire to write a good book on Table. This book has been written in the light of 40 years of learning, performing and teaching; and is due, in a large measure, to my beloved mother’s inspirations. I have developed certain interests while studying music that, I am sure, I share, I share with those who love, think about and listen to Indian music.
This interest pertains to the practical as well as the theoretical aspects of music; and these two can be seen to related in different ways. Efforts have been directed towards making the subject stimulating and exciting by references to the historical developments. One of the main features of this book is the addition of a lot of new materials based on the new developments in the study of music. Unlike many traditional books on Table, the book in the present form would help the music lovers to understand the basic principles of Layakari (Rhythmic pattern) and compositions of Tihai-s in a better manner. The other novel aspects of this book are separate sections on the terminologies of Tabla playing and the history of comm. on Theka-s in north Indian music. It also provides ample guidance and practice in rhythm building, correct employment of syllables or bol-s and all other allied areas of rhythm to equip a music lover with the ability to understand the ability to understand the aesthetic aspects of Tabla playing in solo performance as well as accompaniment in an effective manner. In spite of my best efforts, there may be quite a few shortcomings in this book; and I welcome constructive suggestion from the esteemed readers for removing them and enriching this book in future.
This book is my humble presentation towards the lovers of music, especially music. It is known to almost to all about the wonderful rhythm system of Carnatic music which has superb ideas and methods. It is also true that in the north Indian Classical music system, the same pattern and system had been followed in the style of Dhrupad, Dhamar etc.; but gradually, this aspect saw the changes after the advent of the Khayal style. The beauty, speed and other aspects were given more and importance rather than the evenness of rhythm. I have also played with Carnatic artistes (south Indian artistes), and realized that there needs to be some attempt at reviving this rhythmic precision which is at present lacking in Hindustani classical music to some extent.
Above all, I want to emphasize that no book can be a substitute for a teacher. No one can become a professional musician solely with the help of books. As this music is ‘Gurumukhi Vidya’ (i.e.a branch of learning that is ‘orally’ transmitted from the teacher to the student, both being in close contact), so this needs to be learnt under the tutelage of some competent ‘guru’. A student can get his/her success only through the blessings of his/her guru, which can be earned only through hard work, devotion, honesty and sincerity.
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