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SOUTH ASIAN ARTS CHANGING LIVES

In the photo above, Layla is playing electric guitar. She loves tabla, as do the other members of her band. Note the Indian harmonium in the background. She had composed a song in Indian Kirtan style with tabla in mind and sought me out to play with her at the Oxford Cellar. Influenced also by Led ZeppeIin and Jimmy Page, Layla had a richly inter cultural collection of songs to present at this gig.

Why North Indian Tabla? I fell in love with its very musical and irresistible sounds when I heard it being played together with another beautiful Indian instrument, the Sarangi. I was studying Western music at the time and after hearing tabla, I enthusiastically took up Indian music as a special study to learn all I could about these Indian hand drums.

Oxford Tabla grew out of my desire to establish in Oxford the teaching of the Benares style of tabla playing. Together with my guru, the renowned Pandit Sharda Sahai, I started tabla classes in a closed down pub in Oxford every Wednesday, usually in term time, and then, because they were so successful, we moved to an established place in the Balfour Building, the annex of the Pitt Rivers Museum. Over time the group tabla classes turned into jamming sessions and finally... I hosted them at my house in Jericho. 

What's on our website? Well, for one thing you'll see the various tabla activities that have been going on in Oxford for the last few years. Also, on it you can see how this small pair of hand drums has drawn in people of all kinds and especially young people to try them out or use them within their own projects. 

Before COVID-19 we were at both the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum running hands-on tabla workshops and demonstration performances for all ages. These are always popular and we aim and hope to continue these in the museums and in other beautiful cultural venues when they open up again. At the moment tabla tuition is popular as one to one tuition on line or one to one personally in Jericho by arrangement.

Indian tabla crosses musical boundaries. Apart from being the main support for Raga and Kathak, it has a place in Western jazz, improvisation, percussion, classical western music, cross-cultural and modern popular genres. It can provide accompaniment to story-telling and poetry and puppet shows. This list continually expands. Despite its large repertoire, there are no tabla music scores to follow so it is listening, eye to eye contact, watching each other, and repetition of phrases for learning, playing together and sharing fun and tabla communication has its own poetic language – every tabla stroke has a word to identify it.

We visit, review and publicize events in Oxford connected with Asian Music and especially those involving tabla. Sometimes we go further afield – even to India. Look at our website content to read stories about gigs and concerts, many of which we have attended or participated in and of other activities.

Please take a look around our website and please do to get in touch through our "contact us" page.

To see more photos of Layla and her band check out our 2016 News & Events page (https://www.oxfordtabla.org.uk/2016) and scroll to

"At the Psychedelic Circus, one night in September"

Caroline Tapp

December 2021