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Crafting the Beats of Pakistan’s Dhol and Tabla

Discovering the artistry behind the country’s most cherished musical instruments, Kamran, a Dhol maker crafting this unique instrument in the streets of Rawalpindi’s vibrant culture, traditional music plays a rhythm that echoes through the souls of its people. The name ‘tabla’ likely comes from ‘tabl,’ the Arabic word for drum. The ultimate origin of the musical instrument is contested by scholars, though some discover its evolution from indigenous musical instruments of the Indian subcontinent. Commenced in the busy markets where craftsmen choose the finest woods like mango and sheesham and strong skins of goats and cows, later these materials turn into the build-up of the Dhol and Tabla – instruments that are art pieces in themselves or musical devices. While having a word with us, Kamran said, ‘I have been making tabla for the past 19 years. It is a very difficult process, but it all depends on the making of the instrument. We put a lot of effort into making the Dhol so that the artists playing these instruments can easily use all their techniques and make the listeners enjoy. Tuning is an art itself, requiring years of experience to master. The tension of the skins can be adjusted, affecting the tone and vibrancy of the drum.’


The art of drumming is very old in the subcontinent, especially in Pakistan, where many drum masters are practicing their art all over the world. Crafted with precision and care, the Dhol is a double-sided barrel drum. These materials are sourced locally, supporting community trades and preserving ancient crafting techniques. Today, the Dhol is commonly used in Sindh and Punjab. The Dhol also plays an important role in a popular area of Punjabi music called bhangra.


The process begins with the huge log being hollowed out and shaped into a cylindrical barrel, as the shape influences the sound quality. Once the wooden shell is ready, the skins, which have been treated and softened, are stretched across each end. They are fastened tightly with woven ropes or steel rings, ensuring they produce the perfect pitch when struck. This whole crafting process is time-consuming and is done with extra precautions and care. The Dhol is indispensable in Pakistani celebrations, from weddings to religious festivals, driving the dance and spirit of the festivities. The sound of the Dhol, powerful and vibrant, fascinates the hearts of those who hear it. Asif, a student, said, ‘My father is my teacher, and now I am learning how to tune the instrument. As you see, the sound it produces, so it is all about how the craftsmen make and tune the Dhol. I have a few customers/clients outside of Pakistan, so we also export the instrument, which is sold at a higher price compared to prices here in Pakistan.’


Dhol Players: Entertainers and Tradition Bearers

There is a special group of 5-6 people who use this instrument as a hobby and earn money from it by playing it at different events like weddings or any musical festival happening in the country. They get paid to play and have a very unique style of using these instruments. Dhol players are actual entertainers who are a must for weddings. Nowadays, dance has become so popular and an integral part of the wedding which is incomplete without Dhol players. Nawaz, a Dhol professional artist, added, ‘We play this instrument as a hobby. I have a group of 5 people, and mostly we are called to play the Dhol at weddings and different other events like the opening of a new place or building by the owner himself, and we make good money by attending such events.’ Musicians and craftsmen alike speak of a deep connection with these instruments, embodying the soul of Pakistani culture. Their hands not only play but also preserve the legacy of sounds passed down through generations. The Dhol is all handmade with utmost care. The explicitness of making them guarantees the uniqueness of their sound, and it should be noted that this is one of the main features of the musical heritage of Pakistan. The process of tuning, a complicated task in which experienced craftsmen ensure the tone and volume are fine-tuned, determines whether the drum can be considered as ‘the voice of a human being.’


Exporting Pakistani Musical Heritage

Not only on the local level but also internationally, these methods become favorites among traditional instrument lovers. Pakistani culture has been in the spotlight globally through exports that brought the country precious foreign exchange and cultural diplomacy solutions since these instruments are exported to world markets beyond Pakistan, which helps in the economic growth of the country. As new generations learn the traditional ways, the rhythms of the Dhol and Tabla continue to resonate, ensuring that the beat of Pakistan’s heritage will never fade

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