Maestros make history with their instruments, while the craftsmen remain unsung. A tribute to tabla maker Sadanand Kashikar.
USTAD AHMEDJAN THIRAKWA
Dhin dhin DHA! A ringing, open-hearted thaap roared from his sturdy fingers and bolted into the air, a thunder of aha! Kyaa baat hai from the packed mehfil followed as the tall, majestic maestro with an elegant, tasselled fez and a stately sherwani continued to make sheer magic out of finely tempered goatskin through the night. But little did one know what was the secret of Shahanshah-e-Tabla, Ustad Ahmedjan Thirakwa’s tablas, besides years of gruelling training and a lifetime of relentless riyaaz.
With sounds that would exhilarate the spirit, the colossal maestro’s drums were what a listener would ideally deem, in the words of Persian poet Farroghi Bistami, Tabl-e-aasheqi (drum of love). However, it is not often that one would delve into what it would take to breathe life into animal hide, wood and metal to make one of the world’s most evolved percussion instruments come alive. Instrument makers are truly the unsung heroes of Indian classical music. While ustads, pandits and their patrons come into limelight, these ingenious craftsmen have known to live in utter poverty and obscurity.
"Years of practice, training and the relentless passion for the craft, and a part of your soul begins to resound in these drums, says Ramakant. No wonder his bayans are considered among the best in the country."
Kashikar’s son, Ramakant, is today both torchbearer and a treasure house of his father’s legacy and its nuances. A man of few words, Ramakant’s drums stun tabla players as they immerse their spirits in the sublime dhwani, the language of his silence. Despite being one of the world’s finest tabla makers, his understated disposition has kept him in the background as compared to his less-talented, but market-savvy contemporaries.
One of history’s greatest tabla makers, the late Sadanand Kashikar, was the soul behind the sound. Some of India’s greatest tabla maestros have made history on his passionately crafted drums. “Sadabhau (as he was fondly known), under the patronage of late Pandit Pandharinath Nageshkar, made tablas for several generations of tabla players. While towering legends, from Thirakwa Khansaheb, Ustad Amir Hussain Khansaheb, my father Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, Pandit Samta Prasad and Ustad Allarakha, made history on his drums, he has been a favourite even among my contemporaries like Zakirbhai and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee,” says internationally-acclaimed tabla and sitar player Pandit Nayan Ghosh. While he fondly reminisces about Sadabhau’s open, ringing tones of the dayan (right-hand treble drum) and the deep and basal bayan (left-hand bass drum), Ghosh regrets that craftsmen of his calibre and humility have disappeared.
USTAD AMIR HUSSAIN KHAN