Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pandit Samta Prasad: Tabla Recital, 1974

This one comes from the Gramophone Company of India Limited, an EMI subsidiary, and although there is violin and tanpura accompaniment, the focus in unquestionably Prasad's tabla playing. He has a very intricate style, establishing patterns and then quickly moving on to other ones. Prasad comes out of the Benares gharana, achieved significant recognition for his skills in his lifetime and had a relatively prolific recording career. On this album he played the first side in tritaal, or tintal, the 16 beat cycle, and the second in roopaktal, the 7 beat cycle.

Since Prasad plays in the Benares style, I became curious about how he compared to the other great Benares tabla player I've heard, Lachchu Maharaj. As soon as I saw Maharaj playing tabla on this video, I was struck by the way that his rhythmic genius appealed to a jazz standard of beauty. Prasad's music has a different kind of rough elegance. Unlike some performers who only hit the drum heads with sharp, definitive strikes, Prasad is not afraid to use the sound of his palm brushing against the skin of the tabla.

While both of these men were educated in versions of the Benares gharana (apparently the gharana's true style is disputed) Maharaj also studied under a variety of masters from all different parts of India and created a unique style by combining techniques. There are considerable differences between the playing on the Maharaj video and the Prasad album, but the performance contexts were also very different. Prasad's was a formal studio recording session and Maharaj's an intimate concert in which he could let his personality shine through a little bit more. I have no idea about the relationship between these two men if there ever was one, but both of them play remarkably different music with similar levels of creativity. Plus both recordings feature the tabla as the solo instrument. I'd be interested to hear more Benares tabla if anyone has any recommendations.

Tritaal by Easy Jams



  2. Wow, that's an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Thanks a lot for this treasure.

  3. Glad you liked it, more Indian music coming soon.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this...Would you happen to know how I can get a download of this in mp3? This is simply nowhere to be found on the net. Thank you :)