Tabla maestro Suresh Talwalkar on the importance of “sadhana” and “sanskaar” in music.

Tala-yogi Pandit Suresh Talwalkar was in the Capital recently to participate in the ITC SRA. Sangeet Sammelan. One of the greatest tabla exponents of present times, Talwalkar is an equally reputed guru, a creative composer and an authority on Tala Shastra. Being trained under both Hindustani and Carnatic sangeet gurus, he has imbibed the subtleties of Laya-Shastra (the science of rhythm) of both the music systems.

Introducing for the first time vocal music as an accompaniment for tabla solo, he has added a new dimension to solo percussion concerts. It was a delight to watch him mirroring the bhava and mood of Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar's music while accompanying him on the tabla by just maintaining the simple theka to mark time at the Sangeet Sammelan.

When asked the secret of the musicality of his tabla, his answer was astonishing. He said, “The audience must get the feel that my “theka” is listening to and enjoying the vocalist's music. You normally see a pair of tanpuras accompanying the musician. The tabla should sound like the third taanpura.”

A firm believer in the guru-shishya parampara, Talwalkar emphasises the grooming given by sanskaars that you imbibe without even being taught. He says the shastra or the theory is told, the tantra or the technique is taught, vidya or knowledge is given, but kala or the art is refined by sanskaars. “kala sanskaarit ki jaati hai” which is not possible without a guru.

Born into the family of the illustrious kirtankar Dholebua, initiated into the art of tabla by his father Dattatrey Talwalkar and further groomed by gurus like Pandit Pandharinath Nageshkar, Pandit Vinayakrao Ghangrekar, Nivrutti Bua Sarnaik and Gajanan Bua Joshi, Talwalkar kept assimilating sanskaars from early childhood.

A thinking musician

He is a thinking musician who says you get information from outside but true knowledge comes through your saadhana. It is a common saying, “sikhya, dekhya, parkhya” that means first learn, then observe and then contemplate on it. You can learn theory and practice but you have to add your own aesthetics to reach somewhere. You can become a “shastrajna” by intellect, but to become an artiste you need to put your heart and soul into it.

The chhanda of the tala should be internalised completely so that it becomes a part of your subconscious. Talking about the significance of tala, he says, “Tala has given three things to Indian music. First is the space, the compound where you play. Second is

‘anushasan' — the discipline — and the third is ‘avartan' or the rhythmic cycle, which is the ethos of Indian culture. The tala kriya needs the accuracy of measurement. You can enjoy raga directly, but to enjoy tala you reach the ‘ananda' or enjoyment through the intellectual understanding of the tala.”

He states three categories of ‘talajna' (one who knows the subtlety of tala): First is laya-daar. Second is laya-kaar and the third is taaliya. “Bandhan mein rah kar B bandhan-Mmukta hona hi L laya-T tala ka U uddeshya hai,” he says. Tala enables you to go beyond the bondage of restrictions even while following strict discipline.