Dec 12, 2013

North Indian Music and Dance: Tabla and Kathak.

I had the opportunity to sit in a Tabla and Kathak performance with vocals this past week organized by Toronto Tabla Ensemble. It featured and was attended by Tabla and Kathak students. 

The traditional Tabla is a membranophone "drum". There are usually two drums, of different sizes. The musician uses the fingers and palms, with the used to apply pressure to the drum to change the pitch as the fingers produce the "tap" or "bol" that you hear (source):

Kathak is a form of Indian classical dance which include temple and ritual dances. Interesting fact: "Kathak" is similar to "Katha" in Sanskrit, which means "story". These dancers literally tell stories with their hands as, facial expressions, gaze and poses.

The Kathak dancer adjusting her Kathak bells before the performance.

There was a tabla player, vocalist and kathak dancer - which apparently is not a collaboration that is commonly done. 

The dance consisted of many components, this is what I can remember being mentioned in the performance: 
  • Salaami: part of the dance that involves a salutation, or welcoming to the audience 
  • Kavitt: a poem recited in a rhythmic style; I've never seen dancers vocalize while dancing so this was really unique to see!
  • Gat: reenacting scenes from everyday life, such as carrying water or fruit, putting on makeup, strolling down the street. 
  • Lari: intricate footwork composition

The Tabla player paused midway to vocalize into the microphone during the performance.

I had never been exposed to this type of culture, dance or music. This was a really unique opportunity and really opened my eyes to the way that music and dance are interconnected, the humanness of collaborating on a live performance, and the deep traditional roots from which Kathak and Tabla come from. 

When the performers were receiving feedback, it was provoking to hear them reflect, specifically about self-awareness, collaboration, growing as individuals through the process of putting together the performance and risks that they were taking trying something so new. 

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