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Tabla 2

12427-1213846-thumbnail.jpgAs planned, we arrived back this morning to pick up the tabla. As anticipated, they were not ready when we arrived. No problem. Took off the shoes, sat down on the ground and enjoyed watching these craftsmen at work. As an added bonus, one of Anand's assistants went for coffee, coming back with steaming glasses of it sweet and light.

The tabla building process is far more involved and time-consuming than I thought. For starters, the creation of the siyahi - the black pad in the center - takes an unexpectedly long time: about two days per drum. The selection, cutting, stretching and stringing of the skin also requires time and care. Between building up the siyahi and the rest of manufacture, one craftsman can make only about one set per week.

Within the hour, however, mine were completed, the completion announced by a strong ringing note from the small drum and a confident nod and smile from Anand. As if further proof were required, I asked him to play the finished goods just to make sure. Play he did. First, a 16 beat rhythm, which he said I would need to learn early on, and then a syncopated seven beat rhythm which was noticeably Indian in character. After the quick jam, he handed the drums over to me for my first "lesson". I won't bore you with the details; let's just say I have a lot of work ahead of me to make the drums sing!

There's nothing quite like sitting with the maker of a fine product you really want. In today's internet world, I could easily have ordered a tabla with a credit card at the click of a mouse. The experience of watching mine being made and shaking the hand that made it afterward, however, is priceless. I'm sincerely thankful for such a special opportunity.

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