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Fusion and women empowerment through the tabla with Anuradha Pal



Anuradha Pal always had the passion of pursuing Indian classical music. Her family supported her dream and she was initiated into classical vocal training. To develop a strong foundation in ‘laya’ and ‘sur’, Anuradha expressed a desire to learn the tabla but was flatly dismissed, as tabla was considered a male preserve due to the physical demands of the instrument.

“I persisted, learnt on my own and finally convinced the teacher. I would follow an intense practice schedule called ‘Chilla’, 10 hours of practice daily for 40 days,”

recalled Anuradha.

“Later, with support from my parents, I could embrace the Guru Shishya Parampara and train under tabla legends like Ustad Alla Rakha & Ustad Zakir Hussain,”

Anuradha has been performing on stage since she was 10 years old. She has toured the world with the greats of Indian classical music and imbibed the learning she received from them. Though she considers these greats as her Gurus, the major inspirational figure for her is Ila Pal, her mother. A well-known painter, her mother had also released an LP of her ghazals.

“The greats of Indian classical music have been my greatest inspiration. Their in depth knowledge and incredible contribution towards the tabla  and percussion is incredible. But it was my parents who inspired me to practice with dedication, passion and not to give up,”

said Anuradha.

Anuradha Pal

Beating the odds

During her early days, the tabla player was dominated by the main musician. The percussionist had to remain content with a short opportunity to play despite all his hard work and support. Over the years, many great tabla masters succeeded in elevating the tabla as a solo instrument with repertoire and versatility. Ustad Zakir Hussain went international with his path breaking collaborations to completely redefine the value and status of a tabla player.

“Legendary musicians like Pt. Ravi Shankar and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan gave tabla exponents equal opportunity to play in their concerts. Today, the percussionist is as important as the main artist. The audience recognises the contribution that a good tabla player brings to enhancing the overall concert experience,”

asserted Anuradha.


Anuradha Pal and her bands

In her quest to innovate within tradition, Anuradha has recently introduced a different sound combination. She has developed a unique sound by fusing the Carnatic mandolin with Hindustani sarod along with vocals. She also created, ‘Anuradha Pal in tabla jugalbandi with herself’. A one of its kind jugalbandi where she presents a rhythmic dialogue, between the traditional and the contemporary. She interweaves a repertoire of six tabla gharanas with interactive stories. Her world fusion band, Recharge, combines Indian and Jazz music with Latin, African and Indian percussion. In 2016, she formed SuFoRe- a unique Indian Folk and Sufi band recharged by Classical music.

“I believe that fusion requires careful thought and introspection. It needs an ability to adapt and adopt other cultures with openness and love. Each of my bands have a unique thought and ideology. All of them differ in their musical experience and emphasis,”

quipped Anuradha.


Her all female band, ‘Anuradha Pal’s Stree Shakti’, is a platform of equality for all women instrumentalists, vocalists and percussionists from Carnatic & Hindustani music. The band helps the women to show their talent, uninhibited by society’s dogma and traditions. The band had the honour of performing at the prestigious WOMAD festival for 150,000 fans in 1999.

“While I continue to present Stree Shakti concerts, I have recently released an anthem on female empowerment. It gives a clarion call to women to rise and empower themselves with education and unity. To fight against discrimination and evils. So that justice, love and inner strength become the cornerstones of a new strong and progressive India,”

smiled Anuradha.


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