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This article is only an intoduction.  If you would like more information please check out "Manufacture and Repair of Tabla"

THE TABLA PUDI (page 2 of 4)

by David Courtney working tools

This article previously appeared in the December 1988 issue of Experimental Musical Instruments, Nicasio Ca:EMI pg.12-16



Making the pudi for both drums is about the same. It begins by taking the rawhide of a goat and soaking it in water. Once the rawhide is wet, excess hair and tissue is removed and the whole is allowed to dry.

Templates, known as jal are used to mark off circles of various sizes for use on various drums. Great care is taken so that the small scars the goat acquired from ticks and other sources are avoided. The area of the neck and spine is avoided in the case of the dayan, but it is considered acceptable for the bayan.

The circles are then cut and the unused sections (chiller) are cut into trapezoids of varying sizes. These trapezoids will be used later.

The circular pieces of skin are now graded as to quality. The lowest grade will have the centers removed and be used for making the outer covering of the pudi (the chat). The medium grade is used for low cost, student grade tablas, while the highest grade is used for professional quality pudis.

The skins are again soaked in water and removed.

The chat must now be made. The lower quality skins are utilized by folding them in half several times to form a triangle. The tip is cut off, so that when it is unfolded, there will be a circle of about two to three inches in diameter that has been removed. This is very much like the paper "snowflakes" we used to make in elementary school.

The chat now has to be fixed to the main playing skin (maidan). The chat is laid on top of an intact skin so that the outer surfaces of both skins face up. Insertions are made parallel to the edge of the skins with a small chisel. Care should be taken so that the chat is slightly bunched up, so that on the drum all of the tension will be exerted against the maidan (figure 2). A piece of cord is inserted with a large needle and threaded back and forth through the two skins as the insertions are made. Finally the two ends of the cord are tied together.


Figure 2. Chat and Maidan
Figure 2. Chat and Maidan

The chat serves several very interesting functions. One of the jobs is to give strength and durability to the pudi. The main resonating membrane undergoes a tremendous amount of abuse where it passes over the sharp edge of the drumshell. This extra layer of skin increases the life span of the head. Under normal use a pudi may last anywhere from 2 to 10 years. The chat also effects the tone of the instrument. If the chat is very broad and extends inwards to a great extent, it will decrease the sustain of the instrument.

The effects of the chat upon the tone may be illustrated in several ways. The most obvious is the manner in which the craftsman trims the chat to give the right tone upon completion of the tabla. Another is a trick used by many musicians to enhance the tone of their instruments; a string is place around the drum between the chat and the maidan. This may have an effect which is sometimes subtle and sometimes great. There is another trick which is used to make the tabla sound like a mridangam (a south Indian barrel shaped drum). For this, small wooden pieces are inserted between the chat and the maidan such that the wood extends until it just touches the syahi. These are all tricks which utilize the acoustic interactions between the chat and the maidan, thus demonstrating the effect of the chat upon the tone of the tabla.

The bharti will now be made. The previously mentioned trapezoids are soaked in water, and laid around the rim of the drumshell. The shorter edges face inside (figure 3a).


Figure 3. Intermediate stage
Figure 3. Intermediate stage

The chat and maidan, joined previously, are now stretched over the bharti and drumshell and tied securely (figure 3b).

There is no real attachment between the pieces of bharti, maidan, and chat at the present stage of construction. The attachment will com with the weaving of the gajara.

The weaving of there gajara begins by making vertical slits around the edge of the tabla (figure. 4). The bayan requires 64 slits while the dayan requires only 48. Care must be taken that all layers of the skin have been penetrated.


Figure 4. Making the insertion slits
Figure 4. Making the insertion slits


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© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at [email protected]