Mohd. Najmuddin Quadri Javed: A remarkable journey in tabla

Senior tabla player, composer and teacher Mohd. Najmuddin Quadri Javed from Hyderabad talks about turning his passion into a profession and gives tips on being a good accompanist

April 10, 2023 02:26 pm | Updated April 11, 2023 10:14 am IST

Mohd. Najmuddin Quadri Javed

Mohd. Najmuddin Quadri Javed | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Hyderabad-based senior tabla player, composer and teacher, Najmuddin Quadri Javed, is a much sought-after accompanist for music concerts. “A good accompanist is one who uplifts the performance of the vocalist,” says Najmuddin, who has carved a niche among connoisseurs with his versatile performances.

Sitting in a recording studio at All India Radio in Lakdikapul, the senior artiste describes his more than three decades of musical journey as blessed and wonderful. “I was fortunate to make my passion into a profession.”

Musical environment

Performing at a concert with (late) M Balamuralikrishna

Performing at a concert with (late) M Balamuralikrishna | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Growing up in Hyderabad, in a home that resonated with Hindustani classical music, Najmuddin recalls his father (late) Mohd. Vazeer being fond of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s voice. “When Khan sahab came to Hyderabad on the invitation of Nawab Zahir Yar Jung, my father became his disciple; after training, my father was a rare artist from the city who could also sing the semi-classical thumri and dadra,” he recalls.

While the house was a hub for classical music, eight-year-old Najmuddin was inclined towards rhythm. His experiments of creating different sounds on the dining table, plates and the wooden bench at school, caught the attention of his father and friends and they fondly called him Javed bhai during baithaks.

Performing at a concert with pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

Performing at a concert with pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

His father supported his decision to learn the tabla but only after learning vocals. The reason: “In earlier times, to be a good accompanist, musicians who played the sitar, tabla, sarangi or shehnai learnt vocals and vocalists learnt the basics of tabla; that way, the musicians could synchronise better with each other’s performance and create good music.”

Najmuddin was 10 when he began travelling with his father for concerts. Renowned tabla artiste (late) Ustad Sheikh Dawood — his father’s friend — became his teacher. In the late 80s, Najmuddin shifted to Mumbai on singer Talat Aziz’s invitation to be part of his troupe, but returned to Hyderabad seven years later when his father suffered a heart attack.

Inspired by Kalyanji

Awards galore

Awards galore | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In Mumbai, Najmuddin made good connections and worked with Usha Amonkar, Sudha Malhotra, Hariharan and Anup Jalota. It was, however, his ‘good friend’ (late) Kalyanji (of music directors Kalyanji-Anandji duo) who inspired him to become a composer. The 50+ artiste recalls, “Sadhana Sargam, Sonali Vajpayee and Javed Ali (a small boy then) learnt music from him. The legendary music director was full of warmth; whenever we met at studios, he would invite us home and we used to spend days singing and playing music. “

An approved artiste for AIR Hyderabad, Najmuddin turned composer with his first album Dilbar in ’95 and there was no looking back after that. Having composed music for more than 20 private albums and Hyderabadi movie Gullu Dada Returns, he is also an approved composer for AIR Hyderabad for festivals and special occasions.

Endurance, modesty and patience are his key attributes that were shaped by his experience of playing the tabla for vocalists with different styles and temperaments. He is good at ‘reading facial expressions’ to know if vocalists are happy with his performance or want change. “During a concert, the spotlight is on singers and accompanists and tabla players are expected to play simple beats without improvisations like dinna dinna din din.. If I play variations as if it is my solo performance, it disturbs the flow of their singing; naturally, they would not like that. When they say Javed bhai, abhi aap bajaayiye (you play tabla solo); I play with improvisations.”

Does he regret that his three children, a son and two daughters, are more interested in singing than tabla? “ I am not disappointed; I only want them to follow their passion; I learnt to give this parental support from my singer-father who never forced me to become a vocalist.”

His desire to learn continues to this day as he carries on as a composer and tabla guru for more than two decades and travels across the globe with his tabla performances.

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