About Pakhawaj - an Indian Percussion Instrument
Pakhawaj The Indian Percussion Instrument
The pakhawaj is known by many names, like the mardal, pakuaj, pakhvaj and mardala.
Pakhawaj is an Ancient percussion instrument shaped like a barrel, that
greatly resembles the mridangam. Mrudangam is another Indian Percussion instrument, famous in North India. It is widely used for
udisi dancers and occasionally for kathak too. Pakhawaj is the regularly used standard percussion instrument in dhrupad.
Just like in Tabla, the pakhawaj rhythms are also taught by a series of mnemonic
syllables known called bol. Like mentioned earlier, in one of the most difficult North
Indian classical raga or music called the Dhrupad, Pakhawaj is a standard accompaniment
percussion instrument. The sound of Pakhawaj is very deep and dense and is
very appealing to ears.
Pakhawaj is set or positioned horizontally on a cushion in front of a crossed-leg pakhawaj player called the pakhavaji, and the larger bass-skin is played with the left hand, and the treble skin by the right hand of the pakhawaj player. The goatskin membranes are looped along with leather thongs around the hollowed out barrel, which is narrow at both ends as compared to its center, being widest in the middle. Eight pieces of two inch wooden round stock are then tied between thongs & barrel and are tightly hammered. The treble skin then with the help of three concentric rings of dense black hardened paste they are fitted which helps to create a sound resonant with harmonics.
By holding the instrument in a vertical position, the treble skin is tuned with a tuning-hammer, and then they are struck or beaten gently along the rim over the barrel which results in creating a raised pitch. By turning the pakhavaj vertically it is tuned all along the circumference of the skin. The sound reproduced by a particular stroke should merge with that of the accompanying tanpura flawlessly and completely .
By applying a ball of dough from aata,(atta is wheat ground into powder form) the bass skin is tuned. And not by adjusting the tension like is is normally seen with various other drums. The fundamental tone of teh pakhawaj will always be the lower tonic. Traditionally, the pakhavaj remains the favored percussion instrument during high level performances of the Dhrupad-style. Whether it be vocal, on Rudra-Veena or on Surbahar.
Pakhawaj was an integral part in ancient Indian devotional song concerts and to date every time a composition is made on ancient Indian spirituality, pakhawaj takes the top spot and remains one of the most famous and preferred instruments. There is no denying the fact that the Pakhawaj emits a passion in the audience Everyone who hears this ancient instrument and its melodious and enchanting sound they can't help but wanting to listen to it again and again.
The low, mellow tone is one of the leading characteristics of Pakhawaj. The sound of the Pakhavaj is very rich in harmonics. While learning the traditional pakhavaj-styles the disciple would be introduced to a number of different strokes which produce a variety of distinct sounds.
The pakhavaj closely resembles the Carnatic mridangam which like mentioned earlier is smaller in diameter and has a lighter timbre. Some famous and accomplished Indian Pakhawaj players are Ayodhya Prasad, Taranath Rao, Manik Munde, Chatrapati Singh, Arjun Shejwal, Ramji Upadhyay, Mohan Shyam Sharma.
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