The Tabla

A memobranophone percussion instrument originated in India

The Tabla, the Bayan, and the Dayan

The Tabla is made of two drums. A big bass, drum which is called the Bayan, and the second one named the Dayan. Both drums in a pair or just the Dayan alone are called the Tabla. Both have a closed bottom and open tops covered by goat leather skin. Then, a second skin with in the center of the first is the so-called Gab.It is a black area which gives the instrument a special sound and makes the variety of sounds and modulations or the transition of one key to another. The task of putting on skins should be generally done by an expert. The Bayan is made of a copper bowl and is played with more pressure than the Dayan and hit with placement of the hand on top of the drum. It is lower in pitch than the Dayan. The word dayan literally mean "right", just as the drum is on the musician's right side. It is made of teak and rosewood.

A Tabla player in an orchestra

Its clear to see that the Tabla is a percussion instrument used worldwide. Even to North America where this picture takes place.

Origination of the Tabla

There is no proven facts whether thirteenth century Indian poet Amir Khusrau was the inventor of the Tabla, but common myths say he was. It's said he supposedly split the mridangam or the pakhawaj in two, which are also both Indian percussion instruments, and made the Tabla. It has much resemblance to a mridangam divided into 2 drums. However, this explanation on how the Tabla was created is unlikely because there are Hindu temple carvings of double hand drums resembling the Tabla that date back to five hundred B.C. There is no one that is claimed to be the first inventor of the Tabla, but it itself has been modified and influenced by diverse cultures over the ages in its existence, from inside of India and outside. There are other similar instruments even with similar names. Such as the tabal jung and the tabal sami. None the less, the Tabla has greatly influenced Indian music, orchestra, and culture, and has attracted music lovers and scholars from around the world.

The average Tabla (below)

The Bayan (right side) and the Dayan (left side). You can see the Gab on top of the drums which look like grey circles.

The Tabla in Indian Culture

The Tabla is one of the most popular percussion instruments in India. It is also popular among other Asian countries. There is a large amount of famous Tabla players in the Indian sub continent. You can find Tabla music being performed from orchestras and being played solo to recorded CD's and modified Tablas turned into Tabal Tarangs with many Dayans. These pair of drums have represented Indian classical music for centuries and still are used commonly as the drums here in the U.S. We can expect to continue hearing music from the Tabla for the years to come.

Did you know? Interesting facts about the tabla.

  • In Indian culture the tabla is known as the queen of drum and percussion instruments and is the most popular Indian rhythm instrument.
  • There is a variation of the Tabla called the Tabla Tarang. Instead of one Dayan it has many, all set at different pitches to make melodies.


Tabla: An Overview by Aneesh Pradhan 2010 Bobby Singh

Tarang: Information on the tabla (no date specified)

Images from The Beede Gallery: Pair of Drums (Tabla), Northern India, Late 19th Century April 13 2010

Concerto for Tabla & Orchestra 2011