The Pakhawaj

The Forgotten Forefather

When it comes to Pakistani classical music, few mention the pakhavaj. Now, of course, all of you must be clamouring to know what exactly a pakhawaj is, but, patience, please. We need to rant first. So, coming back to our original topic, the tabla, the dhol, even the dholak; all of these are much more popular and famous than this poor, neglected instrument. Few play it, and it is often confused with the similiar-looking dhol. However, this oft-ignored, humble instrument is more than it appears.

Descended from the South Indian drum, the mridangam (quite a strange name, if we may say so ourselves, though we might be rather biased) , the pakhawaj, which is a double-sided drum, greatly resembles the tabla, which appears to be descended from it. In fact, according to legend, the tabla was first made when an enterprising musician cut a pakhawaj in half! Not only is it tuned like the tabla, it is also constructed very much like it, with its sides being made out of goat skin, while its body is made out of wood, which gives it a rather mellow sound.

The resemblance to the tabla is really uncanny, as it even shares most of the tabla’s bols (which resemble tabla strokes) with it! On the other hand, the pakhawaj is played in a quite distinct manner as opposed to the tabla, with players normallly keeping the drum in front of them in their lap. It is this strange mix of similiarities and differences which make the pakhawaj so appealing to us, as it is at once new and familiar. You can see a rather good comparison of the two below, if you are interested.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


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In the Footsteps of the Masters: Episode 4

A Beginning Kaida

Welcome back to Save the Sitar with the fourth episode of In the Footsteps of the Masters! In this episode, we will be learning a new tabla composition form, the kaida, as well as how to play it. Remember, your feedback is always valued here at Save the Sitar!


Sites to Check Out

The 42 Lessons for the Tabla (Smithsonian Folkways)

In the Footsteps of the Masters (Our YouTube Playlist)

This article, including the inserted video(s), is not a substitute for the booklet “42 Lessons for the Tabla”. Please read the relevant parts of the booklet along with this article for a fuller understanding of the series “In the Footsteps of the Masters”.


Save the Sitar is a website dedicated to preserving Pakisan’s classical music. Join our growing community to help further our cause.

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In the Footsteps of the Masters: Episode 3

The Time-Cycle Teentaal

Finally! We’re back with the third episode of In the Footsteps of the Masters! In this episode, we’ll dive deeper into the basics of tabla theory, and learn about taals, vibhags and other such terms. If it gets too boring, please remember that we always welcome comments and feedback at Save the Sitar!


Sites to Check Out

The 42 Lessons for the Tabla (Smithsonian Folkways)

In the Footsteps of the Masters (Our YouTube Playlist)

This article, including the inserted video(s), is not a substitute for the booklet “42 Lessons for the Tabla”. Please read the relevant parts of the booklet along with this article for a fuller understanding of the series “In the Footsteps of the Masters”.


Save the Sitar is a website dedicated to preserving Pakisan’s classical music. Join our growing community to help further our cause.

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Who’s Your Favourite Pakistani Sitar-Player?

Ustad Nafees Khan

After the release of Ali Ayub’s amazing interviews, we thought it only natural to check which sitar-player was the favourite of our readers. Be sure to choose wisely!


Save the Sitar is a website dedicated to preserving Pakisan’s classical music. Join our growing community to help further our cause.

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The Sarangi

The Instrument with a Hundred Voices

No-one is quite sure what the sarangi’s name is meant to mean. Some argue that it comes from the Persian for ‘three strings’, while others claim that it means ‘a hundred colours’, a reference to its incredible musical range. Whatever it means, one cannot deny that that very name is now synonymous with Pakistani classical music, despite the instrument’s starting out as a simple folk instrument, very much like the humble ektara.

The sarangi first achieved fame in the Mughal era, when classical music was flourishing due to the patronage of the Mughals. Even though no-one is not quite sure of when exactly this happened, we do know that the sarangi soon became a staple of classical music performances, filling in the very role the violin filled in Western classical music.

However, the sarangi’s popularity began to fade soon after the arrival of the harmonium. This new arrival was both easier to learn and play, leading to the sarangi’s being neglected in its favour, even though the harmonium cannot render the ‘meend’ (slide between notes) which is so essential to classical music, unlike the sarangi. Although we at Save the Sitar recognize the harmonium as an incredibly versatile and convenient instrument, we firmly believe that it should not take the sarangi’s rightful place. It is urgently required that the sarangi be preserved in Pakistan so that generations to come may enjoy and appreciate it.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Save the Sitar is a website dedicated to preserving Pakisan’s classical music. Join our growing community to help further our cause.

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