A Tale of Swords and Spinning

How would you react if you saw several people, holding two large, pointy swords (one in each hand) dancing energetically to some music? You would most probably: a) assume that several eccentrics who collect antique swords and like dancing have met up together; b) assume that your eyes are getting rather weak and proceed to the nearest optician or c)assume that you are looking at a traditional Pakhtun folk dance and start watching it eagerly.

If you chose option c, you are correct! The Khattak dance is a traditional Pakhtun folk dance performed mainly by the … you guessed it, the Khattak tribe! In this dance, the dancers dance at a fast tempo holding one to three swords in their hands. It originated as a pre-war exercise, but then slowly became part of this tribe’s culture.

As you can see in the video below, instruments like the dhol are used to create energetic and animated music which creates the atmosphere which the dancers need to dance, Even though they are not as noticeable as the dancers, these instruments are equally important in this dance.


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Ustad Allah Rakha and the Tabla

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be so passionate about music that you were ready to leave everything behind you to learn it, your village, your province, your friends, even your family, at the age of only twelve? If you have, then maybe you should look at Ustad Allah Rakha’s story.

Ustad Allah Rakha was born in a Muslim Dogra family in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He was extremely interested in music, and enjoyed listening to it, but his father looked down upon it, and did not wish for his son to become a musician. He then ran away from home at the age of twelve, and managed to reach Lahore all by himself. There he was formally adopted as a son by the head of the Punjab tabla gharana, Mian Qadir Bakhsh, and began to learn how to play the tabla. The rest, as they say, is history.

This was quite unusual for that time, where tabla players were normally born into a gharana, and were taught how to play by their teachers, or ustads. The gharana thus lived up to its name, which means household, as certain families were associated with each gharana. Ustad Allah Rakha broke this tradition. His story shows us that nothing can stand in your way when you dedicate yourself to something, that nothing can stop you from pursuing your passion. Check out this video to see his tabla mastery for yourself:


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Diriliş: Ertuğrul and the Rubab

Remember that we told you that the rubab was widespread across much of Central Asia(you probably don’t, but that’s fine)? Well, now we have further proof; the theme song of Diriliş: Ertuğrul (also known as Ertugrul Ghazi in Pakistan in its Urdu-dubbed version), the wildly popular Turkish television series, features the rubab prominently. It is quite fascinating, as we had no idea that the rubab could even be found in Turkey, on the far side of Central Asia. Though, then again, one of the intriguing facts of Pakistani music that many of the instruments which are integral to it are often found across the world, like the harmonium, for instance.


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The Tabla Strokes in Detail

A Comprehensive Video Tutorial

Upon popular request, we have released a tabla tutorial in which we elaborate on the basic tabla strokes briefly highlighted in the first segment of In the Footsteps of the Masters, Episode 1: The Basic Strokes. This includes the strokes of dha, ta, ghe, te, te (de), tu, kat and ke, which have all been explained in detail in this video, along with demonstrations. Remember that comments and queries are always welcomed at Save the Sitar!

This article is not an episode in our series In the Footsteps of the Masters, but rather a detailed lesson which you can refer to while following the series.


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 blog 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 1

The Basic Strokes

It is now that our journey “In the Footsteps of the Masters” truly begins, with the our first episode in the series published! In Episode 1: The Basic Strokes, we get to learn the basics of the tabla which will form the backbone of the rest of the booklet “42 Lessons for the Tabla”. Remember that comments and queries are always welcomed at Save the Sitar! So here is our first segment of Episode 1:

And here is a comments segment where we comment on this episode!

If you want to learn the strokes in detail, here is our tutorial.


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 blog dedicated to preserving Pakisan’s classical music. Join our growing community to help further our cause.

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We’re on social media!