Dholak is a very popular folk drum of northern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as well. It is barrel shaped, at times a cylindrical drum, with skins on both sides. Dholak has one side which has a high pitch and another side which has a lower pitch and is very popular in folk music. Images of dhol players appear to be present in the bas relief carvings on Indian temple walls from the earliest times.
As one moves around North India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, there is considerable variation in the technique to play dholak. There is variation in use of hands, sticks, and various combinations of both. The most well known style is the bhangra style which uses sticks. The dhol in Punjab plays a very crucial part in the local culture and has emerged as an instrument that Punjabis use as a symbol of their ethnic identity. Such strong attachment is evident among the expatriate Punjabi communities dispersed across the earth.
The Bengali kanthi dhol is commonly used on many occasions and is used to accompany a variety of folk music and dance, such as Bengali folksongs and the "lathi" (bamboo) dance. Dholak is used to provide an environment for non-musical events such as the annual procession of Muharrom, boat races, marriages, and a variety of festive occasions. The dhol has much significant presence in the North Western state of Gujarat. It is the dance forms of raas and garba which are inextricably linked to the Gujarati sense of self identity, but the dhol is an important accompaniment to this dance. The dhol has a very limited presence in Southern India. This is because the social and musical role that it plays in the North is solidly occupied by other instruments; the most notable being the tavil.
The dhol is well represented in the music of the Indian tribals. Dholak has many variations in technique and construction that entire books could be written on the subject. Unfortunately there is no such single culture or single entity that can be defined as tribal India, for it is a collection of largely unrelated smaller cultures. Therefore, it is pointless to try and make any definitive statements about the use of the dhol in tribal societies. The most that we can say is that it is fairly common.
The Dholak made of wood. Size: length 16 inches, oneside-8 inches, other side-6 inches. It is handmade by wood craftsmen. The dholak is nothing more than the smaller, feminine version of the dhol. Dholak is usually approximately about 35 cm long, with its heads measuring 20 cm in diameter. It weighs about 11.02 pounds.
Musical Styles that use Dholak are Bhajans, Indian Light Classical Music, Film Songs, Folk Music, Geet, Qawalli, Kirtan Dhun and Shabad.
A dholak might either have a traditional lacing or turnbuckle tuning. While the Dholak has a simple membrane and a handle on its right side, its left-hand membrane has a special coating on the inner surface. This coating is made up of a mixture of sand, tar, and clay also popularly known as the dholak masala, which not only helps in lowering the pitch but also provides a fine tuned and well-defined pitch.
How to play a Dholak
A person playing dholak should sit cross-legged on the floor and place the dholak either in the lap or on the floor in front, whichever is more comfortable to reach the sides of the drum. Position the dholak so that the smaller side is on the right and the larger side is on the left if you are right-handed or vice versa if you are left-handed. Strike the larger end of the dholak closely to the middle with the flat of your middle and ring fingers. Strike quickly and do not leave your fingers on the drum which would produce a low bass note. Then later strike the larger side of dholak again, this time using the heel of your hand closer to the rim and this would produce a more muted bass note. Then after that quickly strike the smaller side of the dholak between the center of the drum and the rim with the tip of your middle finger. This produces a sharp, staccato note.
Care and Caution
Dholak should be kept out of moisture as it can degrade the skin of the heads. Avoid any sharp objects near the skins on the heads which could puncture/tear them. Cover your dholak when not in use. Place a cloth on floor and stand it upright with the base head down and treble head up. Put a piece of cloth on treble head and do not put anything on it. Always loosen the rope after playing otherwise the rope lace gets ruined by overstretching.
The Dholak is a very popular drum in northern India with double skins from Indian folk music. The dholak’s difference in diameter of the high skin and the bass skin is relatively small. On the contrary to many other Indian drums, the Dholak has simple smooth skins on both sides and it makes playable not only by using the differentiating finger techniques common in India. Both skins of the dholak are tightened by a cotton cord that runs through movable metal rings.
The Dholak has been built since about 1300 AD and has been used in folklore, opera, and kawoali, for simple songs and also in film music. For instance it is used in the Punjab villages that is well-known in India, in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in folksongs; in Bengal in the opera and in poetic songs. There are many different Dholaks on the Indian market.
Where to learn to play a Dholak
TARANG School for Classical Indian Dance and Music
Manager: Marie-Luise Siebenkaes
Johannisstrasse 14D-90763 Fuerth
Germany Telephone: +49-(0)911-6708040
Fax: +49 (0)1212-512616701 USt-IdNr.: DE228189973
Where to buy a Dholak
Contact: Mr Ashish Shrivastava
Sathyadeep Musical Palace
Beside Vysya Bank
Andhra Pradesh Pin- 515134