Pandit Sharda Sahai & Vishnu Sahia | Gurukul

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by Pandit Sharda Sahai & Vishnu Sahia

"The lineage of the Benares gharana flows through Pandit Sharda Sahai in this exciting live performance with Sanju Sahai, who has developed into one of the finest tabla players. A real treat for students and lovers of tabla ".
Genre: World: Asian
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
1:02 album only
2. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
6:30 album only
3. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
9:35 album only
4. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
8:19 album only
5. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
1:55 album only
6. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
7:23 album only
7. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
12:26 album only
8. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
2:01 album only
9. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
4:00 album only
10. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
2:58 album only
11. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
5:37 album only
12. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
5:48 album only
13. Teen Taal Tabla Compositions
2:27 album only


Album Notes
The concept of Gurukul lies at the heart of the tradition of North Indian Classical music. It embodies the living and learning relationship between teacher and pupil, signifying the complete emotional, intellectual and spiritual surrender of the aspiring disciple (shishya) to the guru. Gu" means dark and "Ru" means light, the "Guru" being the one who leads from darkness to light. Guru is a teacher of life or a spiritual mentor who leads the shishya from ignorance to wisdom and enlightenment. 'Kul' (lit. house) refers to the home of the Guru where, the disciple resides until the rigorous learning process is complete.
The tradition of Benares tabla playing which was conceived by Ram Sahai in the eighteenth century today lives through his great great grandson Sharda Sahai, and is in the process of being handed over to his son, Vishnu Sahai. Over five generations a vast repertoire of treasured compositions have been created and passed on through the gurukul tradition. There are six recognised styles of tabla playing in North India, known as gharanas, each with its own distinctive technique and repertoire. Through years of practice and dedication, Sharda Sahai has ensured that at least one of these styles is alive and well in the twenty first century.
This recording captures the essence of the Benares tabla tuition just as we might have heard it two hundred years ago, through a rare live recording of Sharda Sahai accompanied by his son Vishnu Sahai. The performance took place on 7th January 2004 to celebrate the 25th Saptak Festival held at Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

Sharda Sahai began his study of tabla at an early age from his father, the late Pandit Bhagvati Sahai. Following his father's demise in 1946, he became a disciple of the inimitable Pandit Kanthe Maharaj, himself a disciple of Sharda Sahai's grandfather, Pandit Baldeo Sahai.
Sharda Sahai started his professional career at the age of nine, performing both as a soloist and as an accompanist. Throughout his career he has performed in over one thousand concerts worldwide
He has accompanied almost every major artist of North Indian classical music including sitarists Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, and Nikhil Banerjee; sarodists Ali Akbar Khan and Amjad Ali Khan; and dancers Gopi Krishna and Birju Maharaj. He is one of the most highly respected musicians in India and since the 1970 when he first toured Europe and North America with Amjad Ali Khan that respect for him has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. He is looked on by all Indian musicians and students as an authoritive model of the Benares tradition.

There are more than twenty forms of composition in use in the Benares gharana, many of them unique to this tradition. Some are theme and variation forms like theka and rela which require spontaneous composition by the performer while others like gat and tukra are pre-composed pieces handed down from generation to generation. In addition, there is a well defined procedure for joining the various types of compositions to form a logical and pleasing performance.
The solo is set to teentaal, a rhythmic cycle of sixteen beats. For tabla players this is the most familiar taal. The sixteen beat cycle is re-enforced by the accompaniment of Sarangi, beautifully played by Ramesh Misra. The role of the Sarangi player is crucial in maintaining a melodic framework, known as lehera, which outlines the sixteen beat structure.

The performance
Track 1
Introducation by Sharda Sahai
'First of all we would like to present our greetings to you all. I have played many times at Saptak but this time I am performing here after 8 years, thanks to Nandan-bhia's invitation. It isn't important for me to tell you exactly what we are going to play, only that we are from Benares, and we will present the style of the Benares Gharana. There are so many artists sitting here that we are nervous but still please give us your blessings so that we can begin our performance.'
Track 2
The performance begins with bhumika, an introductory passage preceding the uthan as is traditional in the Benares gharana. The bhumika is improvised using phrases made from the open resonant as well as closed sounds of the higher pitched right hand drum (dahina) and the closed sounds of the bass drum (bayan). The uthan is faster, giving an effect of acceleration with an increase in the number of bols (tabla sounds) employed in each beat.
Track 3
Banarasi theka is a prominent feature of the traditional Benares solo, and mirrors the alap-jor-jhalla progression employed by Sitarists. The sequence is started by the guru and then passed over to son and disciple Vishnu Sahai for him to create further improvised variations on the theme. Sharda Sahai explains that this is creation of Ram Sahai. The theka evolves into kayida, a theme and variation form which can be the basis of countless variations (paltas) depending the imagination and inventiveness of the player.
Track 4
Features 'Bant' played by Vishnu Sahai, a form unique to Benares style. Bant is the equivalent of kayida in other gharanas.
Track 5
Features gat, a purely composed form. The gat played here is first recited by Vishnu Sahai; the second gat is played in duet.
Track 6
Features tukra (lit. piece), which is usually composed but in Benares gharana can be improvised. A tukra always finishes with a tehai, a phrase repeated three times. After three tukras Vishnu Sahai plays a kayida from the Ajrara gharana, a display of youthful exuberance demonstrating how Benares tabla players are equally articulate of other playing styles. Sharda Sahai comments that he does not peform compositions outside of his tradition.
Track 7
A second kayida is played with variations alternating between the two players. The kayida is played employing a variety of cross rhythms (layakari) including seven against four, concluding with variations using nine beats against four. The kayida is followed by a rela (lit. flood) which is always played in a fast speed. The sound of tabla is likened to that of an express train, at one point passing through a tunnel.
Track 8
Features a gat with variations played in unison with dramatic effect. Gats are often technically difficult and are a highly prized part of a gharanas repertoire.
Track 9
Fard is similar to gat with the difference that it uses a distinctive phrase to finish (usually ka dhere dhere dha). Chaupalli gats consist of four different layakari each phrase repeated in four speeds. Here Sharda Sahai points out that a tabla solo is not complete without this kind of composition, and that one must practice these gats at least one thousand times before performing.
Track 10
A dupalli gat (in two speeds) first recited by Vishnu then played as duet.
The speed is increased to medium tempo (madhyalay), followed by tukras and chakkradaar (lit.spiral) tukras which have three distinct portions
Track 11
There are many types of tukras, here Sharda Sahai recited a 'meend ka tukra', meend is a kind glissando commonly used in vocal and instrumental music but not usually associated with tabla.
Track 12
Features one of Sharda Sahai's great great grandfather's compositions, this is followed by several tukras with improvisations
Track 13
The last composition, Sharda Sahai explains with typical humility, 'For us this composition is like doing a prayer because my teacher Kanthe Maharaj my guru my Baba, went to hear a famous tabla player Biru Mishra who played this tukra as an uthan. On hearing this tukra Baba said 'that is enough and went and got a gift for Biru Mishra, and said the concert was finished. When everyone asked why he said because he was going to contemplate this composition. Biru Mishra had the capacity to perform this tukra at the beginning of his performance and follow with a solo. We do not have that kind of capacity so will end our solo here'

Notes by: John Ball
Additional material and translation provided by Frances Shepherd



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