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The South Indian text Silappatikaram, likely composed in the early centuries of 1st millennium CE, describes thirty types of drums along with many stringed and other instruments, but none of those drums are named tabla.

A percussion musical instrument with two or three small drums, held with strings, called Pushkara (also spelled Pushkala) were in existence in pre-5th century Indian subcontinent along with other drums such as the Mridang, but these are not called tabla then.

The origins of tabla repertoire and technique may be found in all three, and in physical structure there are also similar elements: the smaller pakhawaj head for the dayan, the naqqara kettledrum for the bayan, and the flexible use of the bass of the dholak.

The smaller drum, played with the dominant hand, is sometimes called dayan (literally "right"), dāhina, siddha or chattū, but is correctly called the "tabla." It is made from a conical piece of mostly teak and rosewood hollowed out to approximately half of its total depth.

The baya tabla is a bit bigger and deep kettledrum shaped, about 20 centimetres (~8 in) in diameter and 25 centimetres (~10 in) in height.

Each is made of hollowed out wood or clay or brass, the daya drum laced with hoops, thongs and wooden dowels on its sides.

Various Hindu and Jain temples, such as the Eklingaji in Jaipur, Rajasthan show stone carvings of a person playing tabla-like small pair of drums.

This version states that this musical instrument acquired a new Arabic name during the Islamic rule, but it is an evolution of the ancient Indian puskara drums.The baya construction and tuning is about a fifth to an octave below that of the daya drum.The musician uses his hand's heel pressure to change the pitch and tone colour of each drum during a performance.There are Hindu temple carvings of double hand drums resembling the tabla that date back to 500 BCE.The tabla uses a "complex finger tip and hand percussive" technique played from the top unlike the Pakhawaj and mridangam which mainly use the full palm, and are sideways in motion and are more limited in terms of sound complexity.

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