The Tabla is the most famous percussion instrument of Hindustani classical music due to its versatility in all musical styles. It is the instrument most frequently used to accompany vocal, instrumental music and dance. Though majorly performed by men, there are females who have broken the barrier. One such exponent of this percussion instrument is Mitali Vinchurkar. In this article from our segment, The Gen Next of Indian Classical Music, we take a look at her musical journey.
Born in a musical family, Mitali received her first lesson of rhythm from her father, renowned tabla player Shri Vilas Khargonkar. A Masters Degree holder in tabla from Raja Mansingh Tomar University Gwalior, Mitali’s skills personify the essence of all gharanas of the percussion instrument. She started off by learning Hindustani vocals as her father was reluctant to her taking up the tabla.
“My father thought it would be a struggle for me to carry the heavy tabla around with me. So he wanted me to learn singing. But I was amazed by the instrument and of course it is in my blood,” smiled Mitali.
Learning the percussion instrument from her father
Musicians with a guru from their family are lucky than the rest because of their proximity to their teachers. The education is not time bound like in music schools or classes. Mitali learnt many nuances while on a walk with her father or even over dinner. Learning is not just about knowing the technicalities involved but also about developing a thought process. The weakness in a student has to be polished and his strong points have to be honed. The hands and the mind have to be conditioned to be in sync.
“Earlier there were Gurukuls where students lived with their teachers. Now that tradition is almost extinct. So I am fortunate to have my father as my guru. But there is also a lot more pressure to succeed,” feels Mitali.
During her early days of learning, she would try and emulate her father and get annoyed when she failed. It was not due to lack of skills but because of her physical development at that age. The tabla players require more physical strength than most other percussion instrument’s.
“In tabla parlay there is a term called ‘Hatte Panje’. It is basically the difference in the hand strength between a male and a female. A female is usually more petite but this strength can be developed through riyaaz,” asserted Mitali.
After a few years of training, Mitali started to explore other genres of music. To be a complete musician one has to be acquainted with as many genres of music as possible. This helps develop the individual’s thought process as a musician. Once you turn professional you have to be versatile enough to play alongside artists with varying styles and genres. A percussion instrument forms the rhythmic environment during the performance. Tabla players are often given lengthy solos during a ‘sangat’ and one has to be focused to not spoil the flow of the show.
“The key is to be a complimentary player without disturbing the solo artist. No one can teach you this skill. A musician has to self-learn it,” quipped Mitali.
Indian classical music and fusion
Indian classical music is at an age where the exponents have almost overcome the divide about fusion music. Many exponents find fusion as a healthy growth for the music while it is looked down at by others. A musician needs to be versatile to incorporate a foreign percussion instrument alongside his own. The ones who favour fusion feel it enhances the growth of a musician.
“Fusion and all is the next step. The base of any genre is classical and it has to be solid. While on stage with other artists you have to be very focus. That focus develops only if your classical training is good,” said Mitali adding,
“Fusion is a trend right now. People are attracted to it but it just like any other cycle of life. Classical music will still exists when this cycle is complete.”
The most popular form of music in India is from the Bollywood industry. For the people from non- musical families or background, Bollywood is the major source of music entertainment. Indian classical music has been incorporated by Bollywood music composers since the early days of the industry. But the trends have changed with times and classical music is now scarce in Bollywood. The genre could get a big boost if the Bollywood industry takes responsibility and incorporates classical instruments and style in their music.
“This will attract the non-classical music crowd. But it should be promoted the right way. Don’t scare the people by telling them about the number of ragas and styles first up. They should be told to enjoy the music like any other genre they listen to,” feels Mitali.