Over the last three weeks, Pandit Divyang Vakil (fondly known as Guruji) has been teaching masterclasses for Taalim students from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The workshops have been full of lessons, stories, and inspiration.  Here one attendee shares her experience at one of his masterclasses.

Last week, I had the privilege to attend one of Guruji’s masterclasses, held at Taalim’s Cedar Grove location.

I was greeted by the kind host who led me to the workshop. While I chatted with the enthusiastic crowd comprising of students and parents alike, the room was filling up fast. Shortly after 2:30pm, Guruji entered the room with a charismatic flair.

He began the workshop by asking each student, starting from youngest, to play some tabla. Besides what was requested by Guruji, students also played their favorite composition. Thus, each student got individual attention and tips from Guruji. These tips included improvements on tabla stroke techniques, body posture, facial expressions (the importance of smiling faces), and so on.

Then, Guruji went on to explain about the ‘indian drum’. The range of experience and training of the students varied greatly, from two months to several years, yet Guruji made it interesting enough to get full attention from all present, including the parents. His talk was sprinkled with humor and philosophy (“everything is rhythm”) as he inspired students to practice and do things with more awareness. Kaumil Shah, one of the faculty members at Taalim, demonstrated during Guruji’s narrative, making the masterclass even more interactive, while helping to give the students a clear understanding.

Topics covered were:

  1. How tabla came into existence;

  2. How does tabla gets its resonance and how that differentiates it from other percussion instruments;

  3. The parts of a tabla and its construction;

  4. The different techniques of playing tabla and how to improvise on any given taal;

  5. How to practice correctly; and

  6. How to maintain tabla.

In the end, Guruji gifted a couple of tabla bols to his students. Thus, a meaningful and well-rounded tabla masterclass of 1.5 hours concluded.

About the Blogger: Avani Parikh is a real estate entrepreneur who learnt Hindustani classical vocal and sugam sangeet in Ahmedabad before moving to the United States. She taught vocal music for a few years in Maryland and New Jersey after the move. After a few slow years in music, she is reconnecting to music, while raising her baby along with her work.