Of the existing books regarding tabla, many have dealt with the history of the drums, the traditional system of notation and an explanation of the required playing techniques. Whilst informative and educational, few publications have addressed the modern day problems faced by musicians when attempting to translate the notation used by their cultural counterparts. By combining the language of boles with the European and American system of rhythm notation, ‘Tabla – East to West’ acts as a translation tool and enables both Eastern and Western musicians to more easily understand the musical notation of each other’s cultures.
‘This spiral-bound book is a short introduction to playing classical Indian Tabla drums. It uses standard western notation as well as an introduction to eastern music theory and this helps when trying to understand how this bewildering but beautifully rich drumming style functions. With a forward by Tabla great Talvin Singh, the book has a uncluttered feel and features well explained terms and descriptions, along with helpful photos. An examination of the different parts of the Tabla is covered as well as a chapter on tuning, then you tackle various boles, which are the strokes and the sounds they should produce! You can then apply these boles in learning various tals, measured rhythmic patterns in 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4.
Albeit a fairly brief introduction, this book will certainly get you through the basics.’
4/5 Charlie Price, Rhythm magazine
‘The tabla, a pair of small, round, tuned drums, is the principal percussion instrument in Indian classical music, and it has increasingly found its place in various forms of jazz and world music. For centuries, instruction on the tabla has traditionally been in a mentor-student setting, and the complexities of the instrument itself and its role in Indian classical music requires literally years of study. With this excellent little book, Harjit Singh and Alex Mott have made the rudiments of tabla playing accessible to those with back grounds in Euro-American musical notation and styles through clear, labelled instructions, extensive glossaries, and step-by step lessons. It also provides the rudiments of Western musical notation and introduces a system of notation that accommodates the tabla’s musical arsenal.
In addition to delineating the set of boles (notes) that make up the tabla scale and showing how they are executed, the book delves into such useful subjects as selecting, maintaining, and tuning the delicate tabla drums. Although certainly no substitute for a traditional tutor-pupil arrangement, this book can go a long way toward introducing a novice tabla player to the instrument.’
Michael Parrish, Dirty Linen magazine
‘Also building musical bridges across the cultural divides is Tabla East to West. The versatility that expert players show is a delight – how can a pair of hand drums demonstrate such complexity of musical expression? – and Harjit Singh and Alex Mott’s book takes us into that arcane world with explanations of Indian metric divisions, notation, hand positions and so on together with clear photographs and descriptions. If there was an instruction book in need of a CD this is it – but despite the economies of production this is an excellently lucid introduction, and I was taken by the books honesty and the author’s enthusiasm. How delightful to be told that at major downbeats singers and musicians meet to create bliss; and I make no apologies for quoting in full something that should appear in all percussion publications: A good quality sound with a proper playing technique creates the beauty of rhythm.’
David Corkhill, Teacher magazine
‘Many musicians raised in the well-tempered western traditions have developed a fascination with eastern music – but, its system of notation and the traditional structures and geographically specific styles can be impenetrable to even the most intrepid investigator, so its nice to see that Tabla: East to West attempts to provide a beginner’s guide to tabla playing using both the Eastern and Western notation – offering a Rosetta Stone to any drummer or percussionist wanting to make the leap to a whole new continent of musical exploration.
Harjit Singh Shah – of Indian musical instrument specialist, Jas musicals – and Alex Mott take a step-by-step approach to introducing the instrument and the method of playing. This is much needed as the kind of finger work and strength required to play the tabla well is far more than you would need to illicit the kind of patterns youd expect from, say, a conga or bongo.
The book moves on to then giving example of tablature, in both western stave format and traditional Indian style, that outlines the fundamentals of the instruments classical style – establishing its relationship with other instruments and the larger tradition of Indian music. It’s all very simply and clearly laid out in very clear terms so that anbody with a knowledge of drum notation can quickly get started on learning these rhythms without being intimidated in the slightest. From this point on the quality of the notation and the passages simply talk for themselves.
For drummers interested in branching out musically – either in terms of learning a new skill, or integrating some of the ideas of eastern music into their own playing then Tabla: East to West is the perfect start, explaining the intricacies of one of the most commonly used Indian instruments – and the foundation to many of the traditional eastern forms. This is a fascinating subject, and one that well be covering with the help of Mr Shah over the next year in music mart, so stay tuned.’
Music Mart magazine